by Anmol AhujaMay 17, 2022
"It's fantastic and classic at the same time," shares a team of passionate Ukrainian engineers as they get ready to open their latest innovation to markets and hundreds of hopeful customers. It is in fact Nixoid Lab’s and its founders’ fascination with illumination through nixie tubes, also known as cold cathode displays, a technology that the world wrote off long ago in favour of digital, that has kept the project alive through years of iterations and design processes. Coalescing the complex mechanics of watch design and engineering, the elegance and usability of product design, and the sheer radiance of its enchanting visual and light design, the Nixoid Next is a wearable device that may not be smart but has oodles of old-world charm, an unsubtle blend of an industrial aesthetic and eye catching neon.
Perhaps the most significant challenge for the team would have to be the acquisition of the apparatus at the core of these watches, given that nixie lamps haven’t been manufactured for over three decades now. To add to that, finding such lamps that worked with enough sensitivity to display fully formed digits to tell time proved a tough simulation to crack. The discovery of a warehouse of untouched lamps from the times of the USSR was what made the project feasible in the first place, with the company’s very first Nixoid watch coming out three years ago, in 2018.
Since then, and through a series of user feedback loops and design iterations, the team behind Nixoid Lab believes they have pushed their previous design prototype to the edge of innovation. The technology used in these watches for illumination, ingenious to its time and equally impressive today, uses glass tubes filled with compressed neon gas that reacts with the metal wires present within these tiny chambers, in this case shaped like numbers, used to emit a warm, ember-like glow. Using only new lamps for Next guarantees at least 20 years of lamp life, coupled with a new optimised system for synchronous ignition of the lamps, while nearly fully ensuring that the cathodes aren’t poisoned in the process. In line with the current trends in smart wearables, the watch also receives a tilt sensor, scrambling to display the time in dual digits, near lag-less, along with an accelerometer that eliminates the need for constantly pressing the button for gas discharge that would essentially lead to the time being displayed. Also accompanying the already impressive features are a higher battery capacity and a magnetic charging connector.
As opposed to its previous rectangular form, the watch design becomes adaptive to ergonomic design principles to a much greater degree in its current circular casing, a factor that has also influenced the size of the watch to become less bulky. As is nearly imperative in the design process of a product-line, the Nixoid Next also sees significant betterment in its aesthetic communication, introducing options of customisation for strap and casing for its wearers. At only 16.9 mm thick, and unbelievably light for housing the complex assembly, the watch is impressively housed in a casing of durable weapons-grade aluminium by milling from one piece of metal using high-precision CNC, a fluorine rubber strap , and sapphire crystal top with a 9H hardness grade, translating to being unscratchable. The powerhouse within this durable shell consists of two cores, making Nixoid Next the first dual-core tube wristwatch, the separate core being responsible for processing only the accelerometer data, thus proving a greater degree of autonomy and control for the accelerometer.
This tool of immense personality is set to be available in four exciting colours: Deep Black, Polished Classic, Mars Red and Military Green, at the start of its campaign. Every watch comes with a unique laser engraved serial and backer number from its extensive kickstarter campaign, on the reverse of the casing. The back also accommodates a tiny magnetic connector for charging, with the watch emanating a neon blue when connected to power.
The button on the diametrical end of the watch is knurled, almost flushed with the surface of the watch, aiming to provide a pleasant tactile and visual experience. Along with the tilt function guided by the accelerometer, the button rounds up the two ways that the watch can be “woken up” to tell the time. Since the accelerometer data is processed by a separate core altogether, the gesture does not respond to accidental hand movements, and is activated only by the specific movement of turning the user’s wrist away from oneself, and then back. With the gesture programmed in the watch several times, false actuations are reduced leaving a lasting alteration on the device’s battery life: 10 days with the accelerometer on, 25-30 days when switched off, and two months in sleep mode with the accelerometer disabled. This can be attained by a special milled keychain that can be used to enable or disable the tilt function.
Nixoid Next is currently live on Kickstarter with nearly 800 backers having raised over $300,000, much more than its original, intended goal, with 20 days still left to go. Shipping commences post September 2021 with a range of retail options and modifications, ranging from $299 for the basic model to $399 for the fully loaded model, with the accelerometer integrated.