About this project
We've come to Kickstarter to present a breakthrough in timekeeping - The Cesium 133 - the world's first wristwatch powered by a cesium-based oscillator . This revolutionary technology uses a chip-scale atomic clock (CSAC) to precisely divide a second into exactly 9,192,631,770 vibrations of the cesium 133 atom - in fact this is the scientific definition of a second by the International System of Units (SI). The goal here is to produce a small, limited edition run of 6-10 watches as a way of bringing this new technology to market. Obviously the Cesium 133 is not for everyone; but we are confident that a small number of individuals will recognize the opportunity to possess such a unique and advanced timekeeping device.
It's not every day one has a chance to own a piece of horological history - but this is the real deal.
A Little Background...
The owner of Bathys Hawaii, Dr. John Patterson, is an avid fan of technology - especially military and scientific research tech. He is constantly searching for new technologies that might be incorporated into timepieces of the future. During conversations with a friend who studies deep sea oil exploration, the existence of the chip scale atomic clock was mentioned and this fascinated him. Could this chip be used to create an atomic wristwatch? Had anyone already done this? What were the technical challenges to making this into the world's most accurate wristwatch? He wanted to begin as soon as possible to answer these questions. John understood the horological side of the question, but to tackle the electronics side, he'd need help. On the small island of Kauai, there's not a lot of electrical engineers walking around, so he turned to Craigslist where the first ad he found led him to George Talbot, a military contractor who not only was willing to help, but who already had experience using the chip scale atomic clock for other projects. It seemed that fate had guided the two collaborators together.
Starting in summer 2013, Talbot and Patterson assembled the breadboard, the rechargeable lithium batteries, the CSAC chip - and "married" these components to a standard RONDA 509 analog quartz movement (which Bathys Hawaii already uses for a production watch, The Lunar Midsize, thus these were readily available). Integrating the atomic clock side to the quartz watch movement was not a simple task, as the voltages and polarities have to be matched, as well as the COM jack that connects the CSAC chip to an external computer needed to be miniaturized to allow connection of the watch to monitor status and time-setting functions. However with many long days of frustration and troubleshooting, in late August 2013 the CSAC began to drive the gear train and the watch came to life - the smallest atomic clock in the world was born.
Once the internal components were functioning on the bench, the design of the case began. The initial case designs were rather simple, as the first goal was not to make the watch beautiful, but rather to have it small enough to wear on the wrist.
The initial case was made from carbon steel and the milling was done by Patterson in his garage.
By September 2013, Patterson and Talbot had managed to squeeze the components into a watch case and announced to the world via Youtube that they had successfully created the world's most accurate wristwatch - accurate to 1 second per thousand years. It is more accurate by ~three orders of magnitude over other technologies currently used in wristwatches (!). This first prototype used the steel case - it was used to perform numerous running tests to check the circuitry. Unfortunately it began rusting within 2 days - such is the climate on Kauai. The second iteration used carbon fiber tubing that would allow the prototype to be much lighter and somewhat more aesthetically-pleasing. This is the watch that has created such a sensation...
The carbon case reduces the weight significantly - down to only 90 grams - comparable to a "regular" wristwatch. We have made further refinements to the case design and one pen and ink rendering can be seen below. The plan now is to 3D print the case from stainless steel using special techniques to reduce the weight to the maximum amount possible. The design concept shown below is likely to be fairly close to the version created exclusively for our Kickstarter project backers.
Here Is Where We Are Now
Powered by a rechargeable lithium battery and capable of running up to 36 hours (depending on operating mode) the prototype uses a traditional analog dial display that features hours, minutes, seconds, date and current moonphase. However behind that traditional dial is where everything "traditional" ends: while the micromotor and gear train is retained, a unique interface between the CSAC chip and the Ronda 509 watch movement was designed in-house, as were the COM port, charging circuitry and micro-connectors. Separate status LEDs indicate power on/off, charging status and CSAC chip "lock". Once powered up, the CSAC chip takes approximately 30 sec to achieve lock - at this point it begins to transmit its highly-accurate 1 pulse per second signal - this is then conveyed to the watch hands via a switchable circuit so one can precisely set the time. Once set, the CSAC chip can operate for years - providing timing accuracy only surpassed by large dedicated atomic clocks.
Details to Geek Out On...
Due to the presence of a COM port, the Cesium 133 prototype is capable of displaying numerous functions beyond simple timekeeping when connected via RS-232 cable (or USB) to a Windows computer running the CSAC control software. For example, via the COM port the watch can be used to provide a 1 PPS signal output to synchronize other timekeepers, so in theory it could be a "mothership" for other devices or watches that had a 1 PPS in capability. The COM port also allows access to real-time timing data; status of the CSAC chip - including temperature inside the cesium chamber, laser output power, photodiode contrast, and other information to the user. One particularly interesting feature is the ability to "train"the CSAC chip to attain even greater accuracy by connecting it via the COM port to an external atomic clock - by leaving the two connected for 12-18 hours, the CSAC chip learns to be even more accurate by as much as 30%. Also via the COM port one has the ability to set the running mode of the atomic clock. In 100% atomic clock mode, the watch consumes a great deal of power and can therefore only run 3-4 hours in this mode. However, via the interface it is possible to set parameters that cycle the full atomic mode on and off based on a schedule, and this allows the watch to run off the charger for up to 36+ hours. For example, using a set of parameters that have the CSAC chip power up and run in full atomic mode for 5 minutes every 2 hours the watch will run for ~28 hours. When the cesium resonator is powered off, the watch switches over to a separate CMOS-based oscillator that maintains the rate until the watch switches back to full atomic mode. Using this type of power cycling does degrade the accuracy somewhat - from the 1 second per 1000 years in full atomic mode to ~1 second in 300 years.
Accolades Before We've Even Begun
In late March 2014, our watch project was featured as "the next big thing" on the Cover of the Baselworld Edition of Wallpaper* Magazine.
Rather than go into further detail, please check out the numerous articles written about the Cesium-133 in prestigious tech blogs such as Tech Crunch, Slash Gear, A Blog to Watch, Physics News, Wallpaper*, and many others. Please search Bathys Hawaii online and look at reviews of our other watches and see what our customers have to say about the brand.
Now that we have a functional prototype and a good idea of the case design, we can begin plans for production. Since we will be making a very small production run of 6-10 pieces, issues of scale should not be a problem. We know we can obtain the CSAC chips in the quantities we need. We will use a custom IC board for the production pieces rather than the breadboard we've used thus far. Custom IC printing services are widely available and we already have the drawing we need to make these. We will switch to a new 500mA/hr AAA lithium battery (3.6v) so the wearer can easily obtain replacement batteries and so they can swap in a charged battery easily and not have to wait one hour for the watch to recharge on the charger.
As for the 3D printing of the cases, we have had direct contact with several metal 3D printing firms in the US and Europe and they have expressed interest and a desire to help make our project a reality. Furthermore we have colleagues locally who have offered their help and experience with 3D printing as we construct the initial plastic models. Our plan will be to share these models with our Kickstarter project supporters to gather feedback before we print the final cases. The design shown in the renderings shown here are likely to be close to the ultimate production piece - we want to keep the lines clean and focus on the timekeeping aspect.
Final assembly will be done at the Bathys Hawaii workshop on Kauai. Here we have access to the specialized tools needed to complete the watches and perform QC checks. Each watch will be "run in" for two weeks prior to delivery to the customer to be sure everything is working as it should.
About Our Other Incentives..
Let's face it - owning a $6000 Atomic wristwatch isn't for everyone - so we have included other cool incentives for our Kickstarter supporters.
As a small US-owned firm trying to compete against the luxury monopolies such a Swatch Group, we can really use the grassroots support that a Kickstarter campaign offers. We would love to see the look on the faces of our friends at the post office when we walk in with 100+ coconuts painted and ready to mail!. If you are a "watch guy" and you want a Swiss-Made watch made in a limited edition of 1000 pieces, with a solid titanium case, a large date with retrograde day complication and a 4mm thick sapphire crystal, pledge $475 and a Benthic Ti will be on the way. Or pledge for a T-shirt, or a postcard..or nab one of the last remaining Lunar Midsize watches - every little bit helps.
If you follow the watch industry, you know that life for the small ateliers like Bathys Hawaii is getting harder: movements are getting scarcer, costs are going up, and the definition of "Swiss Made" is being altered so as to make prices soar. We want to fight back! By making a pledge at the lower end, $5-$100, you can help us do this.
Our firm was founded on the notion that by combining the forward-thinking design of a US company with the craftsmanship found only in Switzerland, we could achieve a unique blend of innovation, quality and value. We've done OK so far, but we've got a lot more to accomplish, and every dollar pledged here will move those goals a little closer.
In Hawaii we have a tradition of the "hukilau" where everyone pulls in their own small part of the net and together we can all feast together. Mahalo nui to everyone who joins in.
Risks and challenges
As with any Kickstarter project ours faces certain risks and challenges: some are known, others will undoubtedly arise.
Because this project is conceived by a watch firm founded in 2005 with a long history of handling customers' concerns and issues, we feel confident that we can overcome any obstacles that come up. In fact we think those supporting our project will have a sense of confidence because Bathys Hawaii is a trusted firm with many happy customers.
While we do our best to make sure every timepiece we send out the door is working 100%, certainly we have sold watches that had problems or developed issues. Thus we have experience with how to handle such problems - and we do so with professionalism and aloha. In today's world where anyone can google your brand and look at what others' are saying, such an honest, transparent approach is tantamount.
As mentioned, we encourage anyone considering supporting our Kickstarter project to vet us in this manner - we can say whatever we want about ourselves here in this text box - so we urge you to see for yourself what people think about Bathys Hawaii and what we stand for.
First - Some FAQs
To address a commonly asked question regarding the atomic technology - it is not radioactive nor does it contain any radioisotopes. The watch poses no safety risk whatsoever. The Cesium 133 is the elemental form of cesium; it exists as a liquid at normal room temperature, and within the CSAC chip there is a heating element to vaporize the gas.
Also this watch can go through both US and International airport security with no problems, though placing it on its own like a laptop is recommended. Dr. Patterson carried it to Basel with no issues whatsoever.
Other Risks and Challenges
Risk of Failing to Meet Our Timeline
All the Kickstarter incentives are already produced except the Cesium 133 watches. Thus there is no risk of these incentives being delayed. Our timeline for the Cesium 133 watches has delivery in October/November of 2014. Due to the small size of production and the fact that the major engineering aspects have been worked out, we feel this is a reasonable time frame to complete these 6-10 watches.
Throughout the process we hope to have the new owners involved: we will send updates, design sketches, and interact with them on forums such as the WatchUSeek High-Accuracy Forum. If delays were to arise, we would be clear as to the nature of the problem and how we are addressing it.
Risks With 3D Printing the Case
Since this is a new technology, we will have a stepp learning curve; however this is part of the reason we are pursuing this Kickstarter project - so we can get experience with 3D printing. Certainly we already have experience with CAD/CAM and making technical drawings for productions watches. We also have people on Kauai with 3D printers and printing experience that should make the design process go smoothly.
Risk Failure to Provide Aftersales Service
Because this is no "ordinary" watch, we will offer personal customer assistance for the first 90 days after receiving the watch, as well as a 1 year warranty on defects. Thus we will be available to answer by phone any and all questions about the operation of the watch for the first 90 days, and thereafter we will offer free service or repair on any issues for up to one year. Of course we will continue to offer our expertise and service after the warranty period, just as we do with all our timepieces.
We like to see our products working flawlessly no matter how old they are.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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