Fantasy watches

John Stringer

John Stringer takes inspiration from the James Bond movies and a shopping catalogue to create a primary design and technology project

If your watch only tells the time, then you're missing out big-time. Modern watches can tell you how deep you are underwater, take your photograph and even keep tabs on you thanks to satellite technology.

There are even watches that can be used as electronic keys to open your doors. And have you noticed that your class would rather look at their wristwatches than at you? A glance through the pages of a high street store catalogue shows that they may be playing games, texting one other, watching movies or checking their heart rate.

Now a Midlands businessman has come up with a watch that may actually help children to work. Self-styled inventor Phil Taylor - nicknamed "Gadge" - has designed a watch that conceals a pen on an elastic cord. He thought of the idea after he dropped a pen while up a ladder. His watch even contains notelets (useful for recording homework tasks) and ink refills, and it has already proved popular at his son's school. Whatever next? A mobile phone in a watch is not far away.


Children enjoy designing fantasy gadgets, especially if these meet a need or challenge. What could a watch do if the sky was the limit? (See, for example, our choice of the ingenious watches provided by "Q" for secret agent James Bond below.) They could design a timepiece that might walk the dog, collect the newspaper, do the washing-up or provide the answers to SATs questions. Or a watch that could help them swim underwater, fly or become a film star.

Time to design

A supermodel and a referee will have different ideas about what they want from a watch. While one wears a fashion accessory, the other uses a tool. So what would the watch be like that would meet the needs of some of the people the children know? Conducting research into people's jobs and pastimes, followed by a little planning, could lead to a tailor-made watch for a teacher, a dinner supervisor, a doctor, a firefighter, a busy parent or a reception-class child.

The dinner supervisor's watch might include an alarm to ensure they start their duty on time; a communicator for summoning more mushy peas from the kitchen; an amplifier for quietening the dinner queue; and a voice recorder for noting misdemeanours. (It would help if it could mop down tables and refill water jugs.) What about a watch for the crossing patrol warden? Or the school librarian? On the other hand, watches don't have to be wrist-bound. They could be clipped to a belt, a school bag or someone's ear. They might render your class invisible, or double a pupil's size to deal with playground bullies. They might come when called, put themselves on or just never need batteries or winding up. (The self-winding watch, powered by the wearer's movements, has been around for a long time, and you can also buy solar-powered watches.) Time to make

Life-size, scale-model watches would be hard to make - but you can create over-size demonstration models from your pupils' plans. Convert a box by adding a "wrist strap" made from ribbons and make a large model to show just what the watches can do. (Maybe some of the basic technology could actually work. Put in a pen - like "Gadge" did - or a place for a door key.) Lessons in clock watching

Ask pupils to:

* Compare and read digital and analogue clock and watch faces.

* Carry out simple experiments in estimating the passing of time using watches or clocks; "How long will it take you to walk to the hall and back?" "How long does it take you to travel to school?"

* Compare the various clocks and watches in the school (including stop watches). What are they used for? What principles do they work on? Do you have a clock governed by radio?

* Carry out a survey of the accuracy of teachers' watches, using either the speaking clock or radio "pips".

* Make a falling weight drive - a weight on a string which is wrapped round a simple rod with a pointer on the end. As the weight falls it rotates the rod and spins the pointer. It's too quick to be a clock. So how do you control the fall of the weight? (Discuss the "escapement" mechanism, which holds up the fall of the weight, allowing it to fall - "escape"- a little at a time. This is at the heart of all mechanical clocks and makes a good Damp;T subject.)

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John Stringer

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