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Nixie Clocks and the Nixie Watch

I first became aware of Nixie Tubes in 2002. I've always had an interest in unusual watches and clocks and so when I saw the Karlsson Nixie Clock, a clock that appeared to display it's time using glass valves,  I was intrigued.

The Karlsson Clock

After reading up on Nixie Tubes and discovering the vast network of Nixie Clock designers I decided that I needed one of my own. A number of kits were available at the time - but these involved soldering hundreds of components onto pre-printed circuit boards, something that I didn't feel confident doing. My search for a Nixie clock eventually lead me to a ready made clock, made by a company in the Netherlands.

My IN-14 clock

This was my first clock - it uses IN-14 tubes. It has been on display in my lounge for 6 or 7 years now and has worked flawlessly. The display is perfectly viewable from way across the room and yet doesn't catch the eye or disrupt the my TV or Projector viewing, even in a totally blacked out room. I think this has something to do with it's soft orange glow or the fact the digits are organic shapes rather than angular digits. It keeps good time and has a nice standby schedule feature Mine goes dark 11pm-6am to save the tubes. It was a good first clock, - but I wanted more.

Is it a 2 or a 5 ?

I preferred the look of the Nixie clocks that displayed all the circuit boards and the entire body of the tubes, rather than hiding them away inside a case. Also my tubes utilise a flipped '2' to form the '5' - something that probably saved a few Kopeks when the tubes were originally manufactured in Russia in the 1970s - but which looks a little bit odd.

I decided that my next clock should use the Rolls Royce of Nixie tubes - the IN-18.

The IN-18 tube was one of the largest tubes made and was probably used in installations that needed to be read from a considerable distance - like a railway station departure board. The digits in an IN-18 tube are 40mm tall - the digits in my IN-14 clock are just 18mm. My main obstacle was that IN-18 clocks were just much too expensive. After months of searching - I found a Hong Kong company on Ebay who sold an pre-assembled but unpopulated IN-18 socketed circuit board and case. I then eventually found another seller in Kazakstan selling NOS (new old stock) IN18 tubes - presumably appropriated from an abandoned Russian facility. All together the components for the clock cost a couple of hundred pounds.

My IN-18 Nixie Clock

Oddly enough - when assembled, I found the large digits and the continually changing seconds to be too distracting in the lounge and it was relegated to another room in the house. So bear this in mind if you are buying a Nixie clock - sometimes bigger and more elaborate isn't necessarily better.

Throughout all this Nixie hunting and research, I became aware of David Forbes at Cathode corner's attempts to make a Nixie watch. I couldn't afford one at the time - but kept checking in on his site from time to time.

The initial small batch sold out and David's site went quiet - with no new updates or news, it seemed like the era of the Nixie watch had been and gone. Then in October 2008 I read an BBC Interview with Steve Wozniak - where he said that the one gadget he wished he had invented was the Nixie Watch that he proudly sported on his wrist. I emailed a link to the article to David and to my surprise he was kind enough to respond and thank me for making him aware of the article and said that he felt honoured by Woz's comments .

Woz proudly displaying his Nixie Watch

A few months later, David updated his site to say that he was working on producing an updated version of the watch (possibly buoyed by Woz's comments) - and then about a month ago he relaunched the site and invited orders for the watch. This time around I didn't hesitate and immediately ordered one for myself.

After getting held up in UK customs for about a week - a delay for which I was charged £53 - I eventually got my watch.

The Nixie watch

So as usual, I've put together a video which you can see below - or click through for the HD stream.

The watch isn't cheap - but it's also not overpriced, given the exclusivity and the hard work that has gone into it's development and production. In reality, it probably costs more for David to make one of these watches than it does for Rolex to churn out another one of theirs. It's also good to know that all the money you pay is going directly to the inventor designer and manufacturer of this unique wristwatch.

If you too, want to wear the same timepiece chosen by the Multi-millionaire co-founder of Apple, you can do so - by visiting

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Reader Comments (7)

That is an amazingly cool watch you have got there! I'd be lying if I said I didn't want one :)

I think it's a great clock that Karlsson have made but the watch blows me away!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClock Discount

Dear Sir, on this page you are showing your IN-18 nixie clock. Could you please let me know where you bought this clock ?
Thanks in advance & best regards.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

No need to be so formal - we're all friends here.
Unfortunately I can't be much help - the IN18 clock was bought from a HK seller on Ebay a couple of years ago (I forget the dealers name). The Tubes came from another Ebayer from the Ukraine (I said Kazakhstan on the video in error). I suggest you keep looking at Ebay - the sellers come and go, but you should find someone selling one eventually.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTechmoan

I have a Karlsson Nixie Clock that we bought when we lived in Amsterdam (about 7 years ago). In transit back to the States, we lost the cord & haven't replaced it til now. Went to Radio Shack to get a 9VAC/300mA cord to work with it. The connector that seemed to fit was the "M" (?). It doesn't work when plugged in. Not sure now if it's the clock or the cord.... any suggestions??

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDShands

@DShands..sorry but this is a bit outside my area of knowledge (a lot of things are).

May 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Thanks for posting this info. I just found out about Nixies, I bought a clock from a Peter Jensen and I just bought my Nixie Watch from David Forbes the other day! :)

It has been shipped out and I should receive it this week!

Not sure if you know but there is a guy on Facebook that is building another Nixie watch.

It's called the Kopriso Cold War Nixie Watch

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLasareath

Hi, i love your 4 digit clock! It would be awesome if you could give me the name of the company selling them.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjørgen

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