Ellen Ripley (Alien) Watch prop replica

Ellen Ripley (Alien) Watch prop replica

I was playing Alien: Isolation and noticed Amanda Ripley’s double watch, thought it was pretty cool and decided to see if anyone made a replica.

While I was researching that watch I came across photos of Ripley and Dallas’ double watch from the 1979 film Alien and that lead me to cast photos and other things. Since I was looking for a costume to do for the upcoming con’ I started thinking about putting together a Dallas Costume. I figured it looked fairly easy, and it also meant I’d need to make one of those double watches and I love it when I have more than one reason to do something I wanted to do anyway!

This blog is about that damned watch. Here is the page about the Nostromo Jacket. Here is the post about the Nostromo Shoes. Here is the blog about Amanda Ripley’s watch from Alien: Isolation (yes, I did finally make one).

F-100

The original F-100

The CASIO F-100.

The watch used to make the prop in 1979 was the CASIO F-100. The first plastic cased digital watch that CASIO made, and therefore a little bit of a collectors item for watch collectors. Combine this with the fact that for the past 30 years people have also been buying them to make Ripley watches, you can see why I found it hard to track one down. Once I’d done this research too I also felt bad about destroying something a collector somewhere might want for a collection.

3D printing a watch?

The next step was pretty obvious really given my recent history. I modelled a 1:1 scale watch face using photos and the actual product dimensions from a watch collector’s site. I then created the face graphics complete with fake digital display to fit the face, printed the watch which came out pretty well, and… I had an idea…

I thought; “well, now I have this watch replica that I can make really quickly and use if everything else fails, and two months to the ‘con, so lets see what’s possible.”

I decided to make a fully working watch, complete with time-telling digital display.

Lesson 1: Making a watch casing is harder than I thought.

First up I had to find the internals, my plan was simply to buy a really cheap digital watch, strip out the beating heart and print a new CASIO F-100 style case to fit around it. Simple…

I ordered the cheapest watches I could find from China, which themselves were copies of the more common CASIO style. This meant the overall digital display was a little larger since the 1979 F-100 has a fairly narrow display, but I anticipated that and simply tweaked the dimensions of the face graphic a bit – you can tell side-by-side with the original, but otherwise they still look similar enough to pass.

Once the not-CASIO’s arrived I was really happy to find that the back-plate of the watch was actually screwed on by four tiny screws instead of anything more complex, it made disassembling them incredibly easy, and it also meant that I could re-use that back plate on my new watch too! Bonus.

I measured the compact internals of the watch, which handily came in a small circular unit which again made things pretty easy, and built a basic block-out 3D model of that that I could fit inside the hollow casing model.

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3D printed F-100 straight off the printer.

3D printing considerations.

Because of the way 3D printing works (FDM anway) I couldn’t print the watch in one piece. I did a couple of test runs but because the face essentially needs to hover over a hole where the internals would go, it caused all sorts of problems and adding supports still didn’t get the desired result and it was too far and too thin to bridge. So I ended up slicing off the face and printing that as a flat section to be later glued to the edges of the body.

I’m my own worst enemy  🙁

The Chinese watch had three side-buttons which did the usual stuff you’d expect on a digital watch. This is where I got too big for my boots really. I decided that it would be a good idea to “somehow” make it possible to press those buttons after the internals were inside the new watch case. My original plan was to “somehow” rig “something” that would allow me to actually make working front-face buttons just like the original F-100. But just to get a prototype going I settled for modelling in holes in the shell sides where the contacts needed to go – essentially replicating the same thing on all the side-buttoned digital watches.

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Replica F-100, you can just see the holes for the post-style buttons in the side of this one.

 

This actually worked pretty well first time. The only issue with this is that the side buttons were quite obvious, and hard to press given the orange rubber surround. Again feeling that I could fall back on this version I abandoned it and moved to the front facing buttons.

I carefully soldered tiny wires from the contacts and using some copper sheeting I found in a bits box I’d almost forgotten about I was able to rig up a new set of contacts under where the buttons on the F-100 should be. After a whole heap of prototypes I was able to make a version of the face with button holes and tiny buttons.

I even managed to get one of these Frankensteinean creations together and the front facing buttons worked to some degree – but unfortunately not reliably and it wasn’t an easy process. The thought of having to make three more of them made me sad, so I reluctantly threw in the towel on this project for now. At some point in the future I plan to revisit this because I think with a little more development it could work.

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Fortunately PLA is a fully biodegradable bioplastic or I’d feel bad about this.

 

Back to side-buttons, Version 2 (really version 23455334689.1 by now).

This time I had a bit of a brainwave and instead of doing the post-style buttons I decided to do flat “inline” buttons that would continue the smooth side walls but still allow me to press the contacts on the side of the circuitry. Back to the modelling software to make some adjustments and then a couple of testing versions later it seemed to work OK.

The orange rubber bit was also more complicated than I thought.

One of the main features of the watch, other than the insanity of having two faces, is the orange rubber surround. My first plan was to 3D print a mould that I could pour orange rubber into. Unfortunately I couldn’t find rubber at a price I was willing to pay for such a small project, especially when I wasn’t sure the process would work. With that on the back-burner I came up with a plan B which involved the same mould but pressing Sugru into it. This didn’t work since the Sugru sticks to things very well and the release agent I used on the mould made it hard to get the Sugru to stay in the mould whilst being pressed at the same time. Also it turned out to be fairly expensive too and when I finally got it to work the result was a bit patchy. Sugru is great stuff, but not for this.

Plan C was a bit of a “can’t believe I didn’t think of it” moment. You can get a brilliant filament called Ninjaflex that’s essentially 3D printable rubber. My favourite filament supplier sells ‘wraps’ which are a great idea since you can buy samples of filaments to try at a good price without committing to an entire spool. When it arrived I had to do some (2 days worth) of research and tinkering, including printing an upgrade feeder block for my printer before I actually got a print from the ninjaflex, but wow it was worth it!

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Pictured: The miracle of 3D printing

After that I had to do some fiddling getting the strap in place, and I’ve since made a thinner version of the orange part which you can see in the photos below. The strap is just the cheapest “CASIO-Style” replacement strap that Ebay could sell me, since I knew I was going to have to cut it up a bit.