Nixie tubes, clocks and watches

What is that on your wrist?

The Nixie tube

Nixie tubes have, for years, always fascinated me. The orange glow, the shape of the digits and the depth perception they create when changing from one to the other. Not long ago, I decided to purchase a watch with Nixie tubes for myself.
One of the most notable persons to own one is Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.

Nixie tubes are cold cathodes produced from the 50’s all the way to the 80’s. Nixie tubes are used to display numeral and/or symbolic information by using an electrical charge to let neon gas create a warm-orange glowing plasma.
This means that, contrary to a incandescent light bulb, the filament of a Nixie tube itself actually does not glow or get warm.

Now it looks like a vacuum tube, don’t let that fool you. Its operation doesn’t depend on a heated cathode, therefore making it a cold cathode and making it a close relative to the now ever in popularity growing neon lamp.
Vacuum fluorescent displays from the same era use a different technology which involves a control grid and heated cathode. A nixie tube uses neither of these two. Actually, in order to function, Nixie tubes use a wire mesh and bare metal numbers, all insulated from each other.
Nixie tubes were used primarily in laboratory equipment, but also in very early TV sets and calculators, which then got replaced by LCD displays.

Nixie Tube Internals
Here you see the grid and the separate digits
A GN-4 Nixie cycling through all 10 digits

Nowadays though, Nixie tubes are only used for hobbie projects like clocks and watch. Or devices that have to be purposely look old or themed. Like in cosplay of games, books and movies.
Are they cheap? No… Certainly not, but they won’t cost you the same as a Rolex would for instance and, with proper care, this clocks and watches can last a lifetime.

My own Nixie watch

I myself do own a Nixie watch from David Forbe’s store called ‘Cathode Corner’. His first prototype watch started back in 2002 and after many revisions he started selling them in around 2009 to the public. Now, David is on his third model and that’s the one I currently poses.

Next to that, David also created his square one years ago which is somewhat smaller and rechargeable.

My watch in standby, note all the digits behind one another
My watch showing minutes

David’s main website:
The history behind the creation of his first watch:

November 2020, edited looks

I recently edited the looks, added new straps, some black leather for underneath and a label for the battery. Now it looks like this:

Media with Nixie clocks and watches

Under here are some examples of Nixie clocks and watches.
Nixie clocks and watches come in various shapes and sizes. Most of them are hobby projects from people. But some can actually be purchased as consumer model. Like mine!

YouTuber GreatScott!'s Nixie Clock
One of Niwa's Nixie watches
David Forbe's sqaure Nixie watch
Dalibor Farný's work

Dalibor Farný is one of the few people who create new Nixie tubes. Originally, its craft is long forgotten by the ones who started it. Dalibor managed to create new life into it.
Since 2011 Dalibor started his journy on creating Nixie tubes again. With success as nowadays various models can be bought from his store.

The 'Puri Nixie clock' from Dalibor Farný

His store:
His story:

Under here you can watch a video about the full production process of his Nixie tubes, and well… Nixie tubes in general.

I hope you found reading this post interesting and I hope I have sparked somewhat of the same joy and curiosity in this almost magical piece of electronics as that I had myself when I first saw this.