Surely enough, everybody loves the Nixie Watch. I mean, it’s only the coolest gadget ever made, the big boy toy by excellence and a signature conversation starter for Steve Wozniak. Who wouldn’t drool over such a beauty? You understand, right? You, too, would love to proudly display this amazing tube timepiece on your geeky wrist. In fact, you’d die to get your hands on one of them. You want it so bad that you even convinced your wife to spend hundreds of dollars on it for your upcoming birthday. Well, too bad. You still can’t have it.
This really brings back those childhood memories, doesn’t it? You know, when you used to ask your mommy for a luscious lollipop and she would crudely refuse you, even when you cried? This is sort of like that, but different.
It’s like that because the Nixie Watch will certainly bring tears to your nerdy eyes, but it’s different because unlike lollipops, tube watches are very rare. Aww, did you think that when you’d finally grow up and get a job, you’d be able to buy everything you ever wanted? I guess you were wrong. As it turns out, you can’t buy kisses from those pretty girls… and you can’t just buy a Nixie watch either.
A Tricky Design
We’d all love to wear a Nixie Watch, but we can’t all have one, and the reason for this heartbreaking tragedy is twofold. Well, maybe threefold if you’re too poor to afford one anyway.
But just in case you do have the money or you’ve convinced your special other to spend it for you, you have to consider that there are only a handful of Nixie watches in the world. A sad truth!
On the one hand, you have to think of the tube watch like a vacuum tube clock made tiny enough to fit your wrist. In other words, a Nixie Watch requires very small Nixie tubes, which were originally designed for small appliances, such as laboratory equipment or medical devices.
Unfortunately, they are no longer in production, and the ones that have survived are difficult to come across. Of course, this only makes you want it more, doesn’t it?
We know the feeling.
Only a couple of geeks ever tried to make Nixie tubes after they stopped being manufactured, but in order to come up with successful units, they needed expensive equipment and some brilliant knowledge of chemistry. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t easy. No, nobody died in the process… But nevertheless, Nixie tubes that are small enough to incorporate in a watch are incredibly expensive and not readily available.
In addition, because of the limited quantity of these tiny, magical tubes, specific circuits had to be designed for them.
Which brings us to the second reason why you still don’t have a Nixie Watch. Circuit design. Since we live at a time when electronic components are becoming astonishingly small, it isn’t a big deal to manufacture small PCBs for a Nixie watch. The real challenge doesn’t reside in the size of the components, but rather in the high voltage required to light the tubes up. That’s right – Just like any other Nixie tube, Nixie watch tubes require some dangerously high voltage to work.
And since a fried Nixie Watch wearer would be bad for publicity, watch manufacturers must respect many clearance and creepage distances in their circuit designs. To handle more than 150V in an uncannily close proximity to the wrist, these designs have to be really clever.
Oh, you think you’ve got the wits to come up with one on your own? Well, we seriously doubt that… But even if you do, you’d still have to worry about the not-very-commercial, hard-to-come-about, worth-about-a-fortune-a-piece electronic parts that you’d need to materialize your design. Let’s just say that the Nixie watch is not something one can assemble at home.
Thus, it’s a sad time for us geeks drooling over the Nixie Watch. We can’t make one ourselves and we might not even be able to buy one! Still, you have to be patient. One day, you might be the lucky guy who gets to buy this badass retro gadget from Cathode Corner.
Of course, if you don’t feel like waiting, you could try to convince Steve Wozniak to give you one of his ten Nixie watches. Or maybe not…