How One Crazy YouTuber Built The World’s First “Mechanical Apple Watch” from E-Waste

While tech companies spend more time designing the future rather than reminiscing about the past, YouTuber NanoRobotGeek decided to flip things around by taking a cutting-edge smartwatch and turning it into an analog timepiece. Say hello to the first-ever Apple Watch powered by an automatic movement… or more accurately, the first-ever Apple Watch that works without needing to charge!

Barely a year since Apple launched the Watch Ultra, Jack Spiggle (who goes by NanoRobotGeek on YouTube) decided it was time for the smartwatch to perform a blast from the past too. The project started with sourcing a Gen 1 Apple Watch, which would serve as the perfect outer shell for the project – Apple stopped supporting the Gen 1 Watch in 2020, and most of the first-generation Apple Watches have extremely poor battery life, rendering them useless. Jack bought a handful of second-hand watches off eBay for a couple of hundred bucks, mainly for their stainless steel chassis and sapphire glass. The idea was deceptively simple – to build a mechanical Apple Watch with a functional crown and button.

Designer: NanoRobotGeek

The 25-minute-long video at the beginning details out Jack executes this hefty build. The inside of the watch features a reliable Seiko NH38 movement, but it isn’t as simple as slapping a mechanical movement inside the watch and calling it a day. Analog timepieces are HIGHLY intricate works of art and engineering, and the YouTube video above just makes one appreciate the science of horology even more. The conversion exercise can basically be split into two phases – cleaning out the Apple Watch, and then assembling the mechanical timepiece inside its hollow shell. The former was understandably easy, but required a fair amount of care because Jack didn’t want to risk breaking the glass or any other parts.

Jack’s mechanical Apple Watch features an exhibition back with a visible custom-made oscillating weight with an Apple logo

The mechanical Apple Watch kept beside a functioning Gen 1 Apple Watch

A Seiko NH38 proved to be the perfect mechanical movement for using in the watch. It’s an affordable automatic movement that doesn’t need winding, and relies on an oscillating weight inside the watch to translate hand movements into stored energy that then powers the watch. The NH38 also has a power reserve of 41 hours, which means if you wear it everyday, it should run smoothly for the foreseeable future, making it the only Apple Watch that NEVER needs charging!

Once perfectly optimized and aligned, the Seiko movement was then mounted on a plate and prepared for modifications.

While the entire process involved optimizing and modifying the movement to fit perfectly into the Apple Watch’s stainless steel chassis, perhaps one of the most interesting parts was the creation of a custom oscillating weight for the watch. Visible through the back, this oscillating weight would serve the purpose of charging the watch through minor wrist movements. Jack took an existing weight and modified it by laser-cutting the Apple logo into it as well as etching the movement model number and jewel count onto it.

The movement was then mounted behind a zirconium plate with a small cutout on the front to let you see the watch’s flywheel. As promised, Jack actually made the crown and button functional too – pressing down the button and simultaneously turning the crown would let you set the time. Given the crown’s ability to be turned easily by accident, Jack designed this unique failsafe to prevent the watch from changing the time unintentionally if it brushed against a surface.

Finally, the sapphire glass was mounted onto the front, along with a rear disc-shaped glass unit. Even though the entire process was a sheer pleasure to watch, the fact that Jack attached the stock silicone strap to this magnificent piece took away from its luxurious charm… However, in a later YouTube Short video, Jack shows off the watch with a set of leather straps and I have to say, it does look fantastic. Here’s to hoping someone can make a simple DIY kit so that enthusiasts can recycle old Apple Watches and turn them into fantastic forever-timepieces!