Introduction: How to Convert a Plain G-Shock DW-5600 to a Negative Display

Picture of How to Convert a Plain G-Shock DW-5600 to a Negative Display

This project was a little more adventurous for me and as you will see quite a bit more complicated than some of the other projects I've done with my G-Shocks. It involves doing some pretty nasty things to the screen of a G-Shock, so if you're faint hearted this is probably not the ideal DIY project for you. If you're still reading this and, like me, desperately want to try reversing the display of one of your digital watches - read on.

I'm going to be taking my plain DW-5600 and 'hopefully' converting the regular display into a negative one with the use of some self-adhesive polarizing film. There have been many questions about where to buy this posted in the various online forums. I bought mine from Polarization.com in Texas. The quality was very good, service excellent, and the shipping was pretty fast (3 days). I ordered the thinnest self-adhesive film they had in a relatively small size, the part name was: Linear Polarizer w/adhesive PFA.

Step 1: Tools Needed

Picture of Tools Needed
Ok, on to the project. First let me show you some of the tools you might like to have ready for this.

  • Plastic tweezers
  • Spring bar removal tool
  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Some Q-Tips
  • A surgical scalpel or sharp modeling knife and fresh blades
  • The all important Husky mini screwdriver (a must have item)

With all the necessary tools in hand it's time to start thinking about how to tackle this. I will be using the DW-5600 that I recently stealthed the bezel on. By reversing the display it should be a pretty fine looking little watch. The next few steps will be obvious to most of you, but I figured I'd snap some pictures anyway.

Step 2: Removing the Watch Straps

Picture of Removing the Watch Straps

Take off the straps so that you can remove the back cover and so that they won't get in the way while you are working on the body of the watch. I like to use my nifty little Bergeon spring bar tool that is designed specifically for this.

Step 3: Removing the Case Back and Linings

Picture of Removing the Case Back and Linings

Next, carefully remove the four small screws that hold on the case back. Always make sure to put these somewhere safe and keep them together. This is where the Husky mini screwdriver comes in very handy.

Remove the metal case back carefully, trying not to disturb the rubber gasket that creates the watertight seal around the module.

You should see the rubber spacer that covers and adds protection to the inner module. Remove the rubber spacer using the tweezers for extra grip. It can sometimes feel like it is deliberately stuck to the module but it isn't, it just gets pressed tightly and sticks a bit - it should come off very easily.

Step 4: Taking Out the Module

Picture of Taking Out the Module

You should now be able to lift out the entire module by one of its edges using your tweezers. Mine actually fell right out when I flipped it over. Be patient, there's really nothing holding it in other than the pressure of the buttons against the spring contacts.

I took off on a bit of a tangent here and decided to remove the black outer rubber protector and the metal inner ring casing. I also removed the glass screen from the module and spent the next three hours shouting and cursing at how hard it was to put the darn glass screen back in. I was also extremely annoyed at my stupidity as I discovered that it was not necessary to remove the glass at all (I learn as I go along..). I have deliberately omitted the next six or so images that I took of me removing the glass and putting it back in because it is not necessary and very nearly screwed up my display and module!

Step 5: Removing the Factory Polarizing Film

Picture of Removing the Factory Polarizing Film

The next thing to do is to remove the polarizing film that is glued to the surface of the glass. The film is slightly smaller than the glass and can be seen easily if you look close up. I am using my scalpel to gently lift up the polarizing film a bit at a time. The trick is to slide the blade between the polarizing film and the glass.

Take your time and work from one edge of the polarizing film across to the other, slowly pushing the blade of your knife under more and more while still moving it from side to side. Eventually you will have the blade under far enough to lift off the polarizing film.

The film is stuck to the glass by a thin layer of tacky glue. It's pretty nasty stuff so be patient and it will come up eventually. Lift off the polarizing film using your plastic tweezers. You can see that the film looks almost transparent while over the display and the digits are only visible on the parts of the display that are covered by the film - it's quite amazing.

Here's where it gets very cool. Simply turn the polarizing film around 90 degrees and as if by magic the digital display becomes reversed! The polarizing film does not need to be in contact with the glass to work.

Step 6: Testing the New Piece of Polarizing Film

Picture of Testing the New Piece of Polarizing Film

At this point I used my Q-Tips and some Goof Off to clean the tacky glue residue from the glass and the old piece of polarizing film. Make sure you get the glass as squeaky clean as you can. It took me several Q-Tips and about 15 minutes to get it perfectly clean. I promise you that the time spent getting the glue off as much as possible will be worth it. If there is any glue residue left on the glass it will show up when you stick on the new piece of polarizing film and you don't want that.

Now let's take a look at the digital module display using the new sheet of polarizing film. Here is the display with the film held in the regular position. The display is shown as normal and we can see the module is still ticking away quite happily.

Rotate the polarizing film 90 degrees just like you did with the piece that was removed from the glass and the display is reversed. Excellent, this ensures that the film is going to work - until this point it was a bit of a gamble on whether or not this particular type of polarizing film would work - looks good.

Step 7: Cutting and Replacing the New Polarizing Film

Picture of Cutting and Replacing the New Polarizing Film

Next you'll need to cut out a piece of the new polarizing film to the exact shape of the original piece. Make sure that you are cutting out the film with it turned in the right direction. Make doubly sure you have the film oriented so that it will make the display look reversed before you place the old piece on top as a cutting guide. Hint: you can tell when the two pieces are the right way because the original piece that you are using as a cutting template should look completely black. Notice in the picture below how the display is invisible without the polarizing film. Also notice the small box on the display in the upper right corner; this will be disappearing when we reverse the display using this 'hack'. The factory reversed modules manage to reverse the box too - interesting distinction.

Hold the original piece of film tightly up to the corner of the new sheet and gently cut around it using your sharp knife. Make several slices using medium pressure rather than trying to cut all the way through on the first pass. By making several slices you will avoid slipping and hopefully avoid the loss of any finger tips! Just take your time.

Once you have cut out the new piece of polarizing film, hold it over the display to make sure that it fits and that it will create the desired negative effect. The film used here (details at top) was self-adhesive on one side and had a protective cover on the other. Remove the cover from the self adhesive side and without touching it carefully place the new piece of polarizing film onto the glass screen. Use your tweezers for better precision. Gently rub the polarizing film with a soft cloth or clean Q-Tip to make sure it is adequately stuck down. Then use your tweezers again to lift of the protective cover from the front of the film. You should be left with a smudge and fingerprint free surface.

Step 8: Reassembling the Watch

Picture of Reassembling the Watch

The final step is to reassemble the whole thing. Carefully put the whole module back into the watch casing making sure it it seated down. I find that I nearly always have to use my tiny screwdriver to hold in the metal connectors where the buttons are in order to get a module back in. Replace the rubber spacer making sure that the protruding metal contacts show through. Then replace the metal case back and four screws. I’m not showing pictures of these steps because most of you know how to do this and if you don’t simply read through the steps above that describe how to take the module out.

When the case back is firmly screwed down, flip the whole thing over and admire your handy work, a beautiful, negative display module. Notice how the small box in the upper right corner of the display is no longer visible. This is one difference between the DIY reverse display and the factory fitted version, but I kind of like the minimal look anyway so no great loss for me.

Well that’s it. The hardest part of this whole project was biting the bullet on the polarizing film and waiting the couple of days it took for it to arrive. The rest was relatively easy.

I hope you found this a little bit useful and I also hope this encourages a few of you to pop open that old G-Shock and hack a negative display. It took me a little over four hours to do this, but nearly three of those were spent trying to replace the glass display that I shouldn’t have removed in the first place. There were also some other distractions along the way.

I’ve done my best to provide as much detail as possible, but if you have any additional questions feel free to post a comment here and I’ll do my best to answer it. Happy hacking!

Comments

Spyname1 (author)2016-05-31

Hey bfgreen,

Thanks for this. I'm planning to do this soon. But I have two questions; Does this remove the "Waterproof to 200m" claim? Also, how does it look on backlight?

Anyone else who can help will be greatly appreciated.

BenjaminJ2 (author)2015-07-23

I use to have a negative display watch and the numbers were blue and when you turned the backlight on, they lit up bright blue, which made it very easy to see even in bright sun light, it was also a lot easier to see in sunlight without the backlight on, then the regular whitish gray or goldish displays. How do you convert the lcd, to show blue numbers?

amuralha (author)2014-10-29

Where can i get polarized film?

bfgreen (author)amuralha2014-10-29

​In the intro I give the name of the type of film you need or that I used and a hyperlink. http://www.polarization.com/polarshop/ (Look for a product called Linear Polarizer w/adhesive PFA). Hope that helps.

amuralha (author)bfgreen2015-01-04

Thanks

KhangDL (author)2014-02-01

Hi bfgreen, how does the light work with the negative display? Will it still display the time clearly? Thanks for the guide.

3366carlos (author)2014-01-31

awesome

jgosselin (author)2011-11-16

where did you get your new sheet of polarized material?

bfgreen (author)jgosselin2011-11-20

There is a link in the third paagraph, right at the tp of this instructable. I bought mine from Polarization.com in Texas. The quality was very good, service excellent, and the shipping was pretty fast (3 days). I ordered the thinnest self-adhesive film they had in a relatively small size, the part name was: Linear Polarizer w/adhesive PFA.

BoogieTrain (author)bfgreen2012-11-29

How was it sticking the new film on there? I'm going to get the same film as you did, thanks for the link, but I'm afraid of getting bubbles/fingerprints/dust under the film.

Do you think I would have any problems/difficulties if I got the non adhesive version?

bfgreen (author)BoogieTrain2012-12-04

Oh and if you do screw up - I have myself - you just repeat the whole process :)

bfgreen (author)BoogieTrain2012-12-04

It takes some time to clean it thoroughly. You have to get ALL of the glue reside off and that usually takes me about 10 Q-tips and a lot of Goof Off (30 mins), but is well worth doing right. Keep it very clean and dust free, the slightest speck under the film will look horrible!

IMHO you have to use the adhesive backing film, otherwise it could slide around a little. That's your call entirely, I've done this several times with sticky film and it's worked perfectly. Most recently I did a conversion of a Casio Frogman for a friend, it came out awesome!

Take your time, do it carefully and you'll be ok. - BG

unbottled19208306 (author)2012-07-25

I wanted to do this back when I had my 95 corvette, since those have a LCD speedometer. My 2012 Chevy Sonic has an LCD speedo as well, doing this is pretty tempting, but also scary because I dont want to destroy anything from taking it apart. Warranty wont cover that part!

wonger18 (author)2012-02-19

I have a dw6900-1v (not sure if the last bit was important) and i've heard that converting it to a negative display makes the numbers harder to see? And i have the same question as tcarr2 about the different colour negative displays!

tcarr2 (author)2012-01-20

now can you change the negative to a different color?

kaidev (author)2011-03-12

very nice..i wonder if this works with my riseman.

bfgreen (author)kaidev2011-11-20

Yup, it'll work with your Riseman :)

kaidev (author)bfgreen2011-11-20

thank you,i was about to buy a suunto only for the inverted screen:)

bfgreen (author)kaidev2011-11-20

I recently converted my Casio G-Shock Mudman GW-9000A to a negative display. Here are the before and after photos.

bfgreen (author)kaidev2011-11-20

You're welcome. There are a few models of Suuntos that I really like (Suunto X-Lander Military), but it blows my mind that none of the Sunnto watches are solar powered or atomically synced for accuracy. G-Shocks and Pathfinders have had these features for years. C'mon Sunnto make it happen!

vinnygx3pimp (author)2008-11-20

Wow great instructable. I just did this to my new g-shock it was so simple i did it in about 10minutes.

bfgreen (author)vinnygx3pimp2011-11-20

Which model G-Shock did you do this too, just curious?

vinnygx3pimp (author)bfgreen2011-11-20

i dont remember the model lol got burnt in a car fire. and i just reversed the polarizing sheet that was already there

pyrocop1 (author)2008-11-17

looks good, makes me want to go buy a watch just to black it out.

bfgreen (author)pyrocop12011-11-20

They're cheap at Walmart :)

jridley (author)2008-11-18

I did this with my first LCD watch back in the 80s. Usually the polarizing material is on a diagonal; if that's the case, you don't need a new piece, just flip it over.

bfgreen (author)jridley2008-11-18

Yeah, probably - it's more an issue with the original piece getting mangled as you try and remove it that you end up needing a new piece :)

tubbychick3n (author)bfgreen2009-05-18

where would one go about getting new polarizing material?

bfgreen (author)tubbychick3n2011-11-20

I bought mine from Polarization.com in Texas. The quality was very good, service excellent, and the shipping was pretty fast (3 days). I ordered the thinnest self-adhesive film they had in a relatively small size, the part name was: Linear Polarizer w/adhesive PFA.

jridley (author)bfgreen2008-11-18

In that particular case, the material was just sitting there, or maybe taped lightly in place. I suspect that newer watches are much more machine made, so the sticky-backed polarizers are probably standard now.

=Morgan= (author)2010-02-20

where to get this glass? 

bfgreen (author)=Morgan=2011-11-20

Glass? Do you mean the polarizing film? I bought mine from Polarization.com in Texas. The quality was very good, service excellent, and the shipping was pretty fast (3 days). I ordered the thinnest self-adhesive film they had in a relatively small size, the part name was: Linear Polarizer w/adhesive PFA.

jleython (author)2011-04-10

BFGREEN,

Awesome... nothing to add about this. I hava a PRT 40C and i would like to turn it in a "stealth" mode. I have an ask:

Is totally necesary remove the factory polarizing film? Or I can just put the new one turned 90 degrees and it'll be in stealth mode?

Also i have a DW6700 Sky Force... i would like to mod it too, but it has a difference so has a bulb light non illuminator. Is possible to install a illuminator module to this watch?

Thanks for your time and best regards,

Juan Leython

bfgreen (author)jleython2011-11-20

Switching out the lighting module is far beyond my capabilities. There's an excellent G-Shock online forum as part of the Watch-U-Seek forums. Great folks who know just about everything about G-Shocks.

bfgreen (author)jleython2011-04-10

Juan, in my case I found that I had to remove the factory polarizing film because when I put a second layer on top it went 100% black, which was no good. If you can test it first then you might be able to avoid this step.

Let me know what you find out!

- Brian

tcarr2 (author)2011-10-19

cant you just flip the original screen over and it will work?

bfgreen (author)tcarr22011-11-20

Not really, you have to remove it first and it's usually glued down. Removing it makes the pristine layer of glue look a real mess. Then you actually need to turn it 90 degrees, so if it's rectangular it's not going to fit. If you flip it over instead it wont make a difference because you won't be rotating the direction of the polarization.

If you want to try it be my guest. I've done this many times with Casio G-shock watches and not one of them would have worked or looked anywhere near decent if I had not used a new piece of film.

htetkyawlwin (author)2010-09-28

I think 3D TVs and projectors are based on this technology. 3D glasses are probably made with these kind of things. One side is set to view one polarity and other side is another for different reflection.

twocvbloke (author)2010-08-16


I used to do this with cheap calculators (also Casio I think), and I even did it to an MP3-alarm clock I have, they look so much cooler with clear letters on a black background, I was lucky in that they had "loose" polarisers, so I just popped them out, flipped them over and popped them back in, and hey presto, a cool looking watch/clock/calculator/anythingLCDbased... :D

Didn't have to do it to my current watch though, Casio got it right first time and put the polariser on the "right" way cos it looks cool... :P

Mavamaarten (author)2010-06-27

Wow, to be honest this looks incredible :D I already have an inverted LCD watch (non-casio though)

gez (author)2010-02-26

i've done this before with my old nokia phone, just  flipping it over wasn't working, it'd needed to rotate 90 degrees., but it was very cool. i got lots of fun time spend with polarized light things.

TheWelfareWarrior (author)2008-11-18

What causes it to not be visible? I guess I don't understand LCD's like I thought I did...

Well I'm probably not the right fella to talk about the technical specifications of a LCD display - but I do know that they are all built in such a way that they require polarization to be visible to the naked eye. This simple hack just exploits that and reverses the polarization to make a neat negative effect. BTW- Casio makes many watches with a factory negative display, but this useful for converting models that don't have that option. If anyone knows the answer to this please post it here :)

3yE (author)bfgreen2009-04-27

The light coming from the mirror behind the screen is polarized. Liquid crystal solution rotates the polarization of light when placed within a charged capacitor. The human eye is not sensitive to polarization. The polarizing film on top of the display blocks the light of certain polarity. Displays with backlight also have another polarizing film between the backlight and the display. If you want more polarized fun, play around with mirrors and polarizer films. You can also observe a fructose sugar solution or invert sugar syrup to rotate the polarization of priorly polarized light. The fact that clear sky emits slightly polarized light has been widely used in photography to make the sky appear darker compared to the scenery. To source polarizing film at no cost, you can simply strip apart a broken laptop screen.

incorrigible packrat (author)2008-11-18

I used to have a Motorola phone with a reverse lcd outer display... Until it got run over one day at work. Phone I have now, has colour lcd inside & out, takes pictures, plays mp3s, keeps track of stuff, does pretty much everything except work decently as a phone. I was just gonna p and m about how much better my old phone was, but then I got to thinking, "What about reversing the polarizing film on a colour lcd?"... Technowags will point out the fact that, "Colour lcds have three polarizing films". So flip one, two, or all three films, for different effects.

"Except work decently as a phone" YUP

jridley (author)2008-11-18

Actually, one fun trick I did was to take the polarizer completely out of my watch and wear it around on sunny days with my polarized sunglasses. Once in a while people would notice that the watch was blank, and it'd be a fun conversation piece.

beerboyone (author)2008-11-17

Did you try just flipping or rotating the original film over? I remember disassemabling a cheap calculator years ago and flipping the film gave a negative effect.

bfgreen (author)beerboyone2008-11-17

The factory fitted polarizing film has a sticky backing and when i took it off it got very messed up so I had to clean it with Goof Off. The problem then was I had no way of sticking it back on. It probably would have worked...

imprez55 (author)bfgreen2008-11-18

You can use a small bit of tape on the edges just to keep it in place until the cover goes on. Most of the time the cover presses enough that the film won't move. Alternatively you could do what I did with my ti-83. I had to cut sections and rotate to make them fit (rectangle, so not all parts were being filtered) so I placed a piece of packaging tape over the entire layer and continued it onto the pcb. It creates a nice internalized screen cover and dust protector. Its nice not having to worry about poking the screen when trying to point something out, and pen marks erase once I am done with them.

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Bio: Brian Green is an avid lightweight backpacker and author of the popular Brian's Backpacking Blog. Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the ... More »
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