Picture of Mechanical Pocket Watch for 3D Print
A quick note to say that these are only preliminary images! I will be uploading a video of the watch in action, as well as better renders and more descriptions next week but unfortunately I'm out of time this week. Watch this space to see how it all works!

In this instructable I'm going to show you how to print your own pocket watch! The thought of trying to make one is probably quite daunting, and in fact, it is quite the challenge, but lucky for you, I've already suffered through it so you won't have to!

Basic Pocket Watch Movement from Matthew "Rick" Shaw on Vimeo.

We'll need to look at how a mechanical pocket watch works so we know what we're getting ourselves in for. There are a few good videos online, this one is short and explains it very well, though it is just a demonstration and doesn't quite explain everything, while this one is considerably longer, but is still completely accurate and extremely useful for figuring out what we need to make. In case you don't want to watch them, or don't have the time, I'll give a quick explanation here:

The Balance Wheel is the key to the watch. It is attached to a spring, and is pushed by the Fork Pin. When pushed, it spins a little before the spring pulls it back, knocking the fork pin on it's way past, which gives it an extra little push to continue the momentum. By doing this, the fork pin is able to quickly move from side to side, allowing two paddles to catch and release a wheel with long pointed teeth called the escape wheel. This is the ticking sound you hear from watches, and is what controls the speed of the watch. A series of gears are attached which pass the motion on in a way that gives the correct rate for each hand. The power for the watch comes from a second spring inside the barrel of another gear. When you wind the top, the spring is tighetened, and releases slowly, pushing the chain of gears.

So, now that we have an idea of how the watch works, we can begin to look at how we're going to make it and some important facts to keep in mind.

Note: It is of course, impossible to entirely print a watch as there are two springs required which cannot be 3d printed as then they would not have tension. The spring for the balance wheel must be careful made to ensure the correct motion of the balance wheel. Similarly, if you want a glass front, you'll obviously need to get the separately, although with the rise in 3d printing, many companies are offering a clear material.

Balance Wheel.STL

Barrel Cap.STL

Bottom Plate.STL



Escapement Wheel.STL

First Wheel.STL

First Winding Gear.STL

Fork Pin.STL

Hour Hand.STL

Hour Wheel.STL

Intermediate Wheel.STL


Lid.STL878 KB

Mainspring Gear.STL

Minute Hand.STL

Second Wheel.STL

Seconds Hand.STL

Support Piece 2.STL

Third Wheel.STL

Winding Gear.STL

Winding Handle.STL


Alexander_NN2 months ago

Detail № 22 (Click) can be set in Detail № 3 (Bottom Plate).

No fixing and openings (see the difference in the video and presented in detail format STL)

Furthermore, Detail №13 (Intermediate Wheel) hangs in the air and has balanced rotational axis.

The author complete the work... please. Very interesting work.

MichaelB306 months ago


I tried printing this with my school's makerbot mini with standard plastic filament.

Sure this is not your fault, but the plastic broke off around the teeth quite often. Another thing you might want to consider is changing the layout of the lid on the stl, so that it is horizontal, not vertical.

MattRickS (author)  MichaelB306 months ago

PLA is good for getting a surface you can easily sand and finish, but not so great for strength. ABS is much better for moving parts, but it smells pretty bad while printing, and is a lot harder to finish.

What software does your printer use? You should be able to flip the stl flat before printing (although you're right, I should save it out already flat). An important thing to note though is that sometimes it is better to print vertically as FDM printers will give a better finish to vertical surfaces.
alcurb10 months ago

Remarkable work. I would like to print a large one, laid out like a line and printed out of wood filament. Yes--the wood filaments do exist and print in detail.

Do you have a video of the real thing printed and working?

Also, I noticed that some of the STLs don't render correctly on Chrome on this page. Those are the gears mostly. When you look at them statically and especially when you manipulate the 3D images, the walls and planes of the pieces don't make sense. It is like I'm looking at an Escher-esque incomplete solid.

TheGoofy1 year ago

Great! Would like to see your print running. I've designed and printed the same type of escapement. Not for the wrist but for the wall:


This is awesome!

I was wondering what was wrong with all of the parts you didn't end up using? Was it the initial measurements or the printer, and if so, what kind of printer did you use?

wiltors421 year ago

Have you ever printed this watch? What kind of springs should I use for the winding and balance spring?

I finally got the parts downloaded but now I'm having problems with the measurements of each part. I really would like to make this a wrist watch. Please help!?
Please help!! This looks amazing! I want to try sending it to a 3d print shop but i cant open the files! I have an ipad, is there a special program i need to do this?
A.m.A.2 years ago