Watchy - Open Source E-Ink Watch For $55
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 05 March 2021

Watchy is a watch for hackers. Fully open-sourced it is powered by the ESP32 microcontroller which has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and can be programmed via the Arduino IDE. You can currently pre-order it in kit form for just $55, add $40 if you want an anodized aluminum case.

Watchy comes from SQFMI, standing for Squareofumi and has a current launch campaign on Crowd Supply. The fact that it has already reached 538% funding - i.e. more than 5 times more than its admittedly modest $25,000 goal does suggest there is a lively market for an inexpensive programmable Smartwatch.


So far over 1,560 Watchy Kits have been ordered (with a ship date of May 31, 2021. These kits include an injection-moulded plastic case but almost half as many orders have been received for the aluminum case that adds "35 grams of ruggedness".

Many programmers will remember the Pebble Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 when the lure of the smart watch market was strong. It raised over $10 million and as well as shipping masses of its product, priced around $150 attracted a large community of developers. It all seemed very promising as a new platform. Then in June 2014 at Google I/O the Android Wear platform was introduced with watches from LG and Samsung and in April 2015 the Apple Watch launched with a price tag of $400. Throw in competition from fitness tracking specialist, Fitbit, and Pebble began to feel the strain. When it filed for insolvency in 2016 it was acquired by Fitbit in 2016 and Fitbit itself was  taken over by Google three years later.

When Pebble went under devs asked for the Pebble OS to be open sourced - but this didn't happen. Watchy being fully open source will come as a reassuring feature to developers who have uses cases in mind and at just $55 it will appeal to the hobbyist. 

So what exactly is on offer? To quote from its description on CrowdSupply:

Watchy is an E-Ink watch with open source hardware and software. It has a barebones design utilizing the PCB as the watch body, allowing it to be worn as-is, or further customized with different 3D printed cases and watch straps. It is a unique timepiece that is also a wearable development platform, allowing users to create their own experience. 

The features and specifications listed are:

  • Ultra-low-power e-paper 1.54" display with 200 x 200 resolution and wide viewing angle
  • Wi-Fi & Bluetooth LE connectivity
  • 3-axis accelerometer with gesture detection
  • Real-time clock for accurate time keeping with calendar and alarm functions
  • Built-in USB-to-serial adapter for programming on the go
  • Vibration motor for alerts
  • Four tactile buttons
  • Open source hardware & software
  • Tons of examples & cool watch faces
  • 3D case designs (stls) to customize your watchy (and watch straps)
  • New injection-molded plastic case



(click in diagram to enlarge)

It will be supplied as a kit of four components: a fully populated printed circuit board, a 200 milliampere-hour lithium polymer battery, the display, and a fabric wristband. Adhesive tape keeps the screen and battery in place.  A microUSB socket charges the battery and provides the link for uploading programs for new watch faces.


Of course the fun comes via the software. The ESP32 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE connectivity so it's an IoT device from the outset and can also gather realtime data, such as train arrival times or the weather to display - and with a 3D ink display you can see all this information in daylight.  The 3-axis accelerometer with gesture detection opens up possibilities for fitness apps. So brush up your C and see what you can do with it.



More Information

Watchy on Crowd Supply


Related Articles

Pebble Taken Over By Fitbit - Developers & Users Abandoned 

Android Comes To Wearables And Watches 


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Last Updated ( Friday, 05 March 2021 )