How to Make Your Own Smartwatch With the Open-Source Smartwatch Project

The wearable tech market is blowing up like crazy. There are all kinds of wearables hitting the market from smartwatches, to fitness trackers and more. Some of them look great, and others… well, not so much. There are some pretty affordable options out there too with prices ranging from about $50 all the way to $300 or more. The better the watch looks and more powerful the hardware, the higher the price — for the most part anyway.

It can certainly be overwhelming when you come to the decision that you actually want a wearable. You have to sort through the seemingly endless list of available options and find one that’s ideal for you. Slow going is certainly an understatement in this regard. What if we told you it’s possible to make your own smartwatch, though? Sure, the resulting device is not ever going to look as great as the Moto 360, Apple Watch or otherwise. Does that really matter though, especially considering it will be your own blood, sweat and tears backing the thing?

We’re not proposing that you start a full-fledged smartwatch company and pump these things out. Hell, we’d be surprised if the finished product sold even a few units. Instead, we’re proposing that various tinkerers, gadgeteers and engineers — maybe you included — would love to have something they made with their own two hands. Personally, we would love to get our hands dirty and make our own smartwatch. What about you?

Keep in mind, this is not for the faint of heart. If you’d prefer to own a fully working device it’s probably not worth your time to even consider making a gadget like this from scratch.

Introducing the Open-Source Smartwatch Project: Make Your Own Smartwatch

If you’re not into tinkering and just want a watch that works out-of-the-box you might be better off going with something like the recently unveiled Noodoe Watch. It has a long list of customization and personalization options, while still offering the kind of features and hardware you’d expect from a modern wearable. Plus, you don’t have to assemble it from scratch. There’s also the Pebble lineup which includes the original Pebble, the Pebble Steel and the recently unveiled Pebble Time models. They offer a wide variety of customization and personalization options, yet have the full support of a real development team when it comes to software.

Open-Source Smartwatch make your own smartwatchOn the other hand, if you’re okay with doing a little soldering and programming you should take a look at the Open-Source Smartwatch.

A resourceful tinkerer named Johnathan Cook created the first watch from the project tutorials. He set out to use existing Arduino breakout boards, some careful soldering and construction and 3D-printing (for the frame). In other words, he wanted to develop a cheap, viable smartwatch that anyone could build with the correct knowitall. He describes it as “a one-of-a-kind timepiece that displays notifications from your smartphone and is easily customizable in function and appearance.”

As a result, he was crowned the winner of 2014’s Arduino Challenge, and he also earned the “Maker of Merit” ribbon at the Maker Faires. His project was also featured in MAKE: Magazine.

Enough about his credentials though, you probably want to hear more about the Open-Source Smartwatch project. Cook documented his work, and wrote-up a pretty in-depth walkthrough that takes you through the entire build process. In addition, to being featured in MAKE: Magazine Cook also uploaded the tutorial to a dedicated website.

How to Make Your Own Smartwatch

Once you have all the necessary parts, tools and equipment the entire build process takes about 20 to 40 minutes tops. Since it has a total price tag of about $75 – $125 — not including labor — it’s a relatively inexpensive DIY project.

The device is comprised of four major elements — all of which will need to be built from scratch by you: a battery charging circuit, a vibrating motor for notifications and silent alerts, a fully programmable Arduino-compatible core with power regulation and Bluetooth LE support, and finally an OLED display with physical buttons.

All of the circuit diagrams and installation steps are offered through the official site, so you should be able to assemble the thing with a bit of skill. He also has a full list of tools, hardware and parts you’ll need to make your own smartwatch. Don’t worry about tracking them down, there are direct links to a supplier for these parts. You can always track them down on your own if you so desire, or substitute parts as you see fit.

You’ll need access to a 3D-printer to create the watch face, back, logic frame holder, hardware padding, connection port, and strap brace. In case you didn’t already know, 3D-printers allow you to create plastic pieces, parts and projects with by feeding the appropriate diagrams into the printer. All of those diagrams — offered in an .stl file format — are available on the Open-Source Smartwatch website.

Cook has successfully installed and tried a variety of different displays for his own smartwatch builds and he explains his experience in full. You have the option to use an OLED MonoCromatic display, Sharp brand MonoCromatic display, or OLED color display. What they have to offer — including price — will vary depending on what you want when you make your own smartwatch. Check out Cook’s post on the screens to help decide which one to use.

From beginning to end you can follow Cook’s instructions to assemble the device. With a bit of patience you can have something working in no time. As for the finished product, it can display a wide variety of notifications from smartwatch messages, alerts and more. It also displays the time — as you’d expect — and can be programmed to show alerts as needed. Since the software is open-source, you can do pretty much anything with the device, provided you know how to code. If you don’t know how to code yourself, you’ll be a bit more limited in terms of what you can accomplish with the finished project but you should still be able to assemble the thing. Cook has made all the necessary tools publically available, including the software on the dedicated site.

Open Source Smartwatch completedAt the time of this writing, the Open-Source Smartwatch is compatible with iOS devices but Cook will soon be releasing/working-on an Android app. He did make the source code available online which means if you have some programming skill you can publish your own Android app for the device.

There Are Other Ways to Make Your Own Smartwatch

Open Source Smartwatch assemblyWhen all is said and done, the Open-Source Smartwatch Project is a pretty great and inexpensive way to make your own smartwatch, but it’s definitely not the only option. Here, are a few other projects out there that are worth exploring.

What do you think about the Open-Source Smartwatch? Are you going to try and make your own smartwatch, or are you going to stick with buying one? What about some of the other projects we listed? Do you know a project that we haven’t mentioned?


About The Author

Briley Kenney

Briley Kenney is a young tech enthusiast who enjoys all things electronic and gadget related. Currently, Briley writes for a plethora of professional websites including Vulgamer, SmartWatches, and a prominent SEO company. Recently, he served as a valuable member of the Little Killerz dev team writing in-game content and generating a web portal for the indie gem Tales of Illyria and it's two sequels Beyond the Iron Wall, and Destinies. The team is currently working on additional content for the third title.

  • Giovanni Bunny

    what type of smart watches work with nokia lumia 521

  • sarahnavidad

    in this DIY, does the watch vibrate ? would it be possible to program a certain vibration time ?

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