The 7th Doctor’s Pocket Watch – Replica Build.
Right off the bat here, I’m going to admit that this was a half arsed build that I hadn’t even planned to do at all as I’d given up on it several years ago. It just so happened that the other day I was going through some boxes whilst looking for something to loan to Mooncrest Models for moulding and I stumbled across the box of bits that I’d gathered to recreate this prop. I just thought, ‘What the hell, I’ve got a free afternoon’.
I began collecting the parts for this replica while I was at university, so that places the date somewhere between 2002 and 2005, then at some point while I was the Admin of the TARDIS building forum, I was helping out a member called Exilea with his replica as I knew what the main parts were, so we ended up chatting rather a lot about it. He completed his, but I didn’t complete mine – and for a pretty good reason that I’ll come to later.
This is a terribly simple build. Let’s look at the original as it appeared fleetingly in the 25th anniversary story, Silver Nemesis, first shown in the November of 1988.
As you can see, there’s not much to it and it certainly looks a little rough around the edges. I think that it was Mike Tucker who put this together and if I had to guess, I’d say that he probably did it rather quickly seeing as it was only needed for a couple of quick shots, so a lengthy build process for something of this nature would probably not have been sanctioned… If only they’d known back then that within a few years of this story being broadcast that we’d have fantastic new software technology that would enable us to freeze frame and grab reference images from their footage, then they probably would have given Mike more time to make this prop really pretty and much, much neater. Hindsight is great, isn’t it?
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by noting down how to build this as it’s perfectly obvious just by looking at it, and besides, I built mine so quickly that I didn’t even think that it was worth taking photographs of the process. Instead, I’ll just give you an overview.
The above items are the two core elements that you’ll be needing to make your own replica; a gold pocket watch (not silver as shown, I only bought that one for its chain) and a vintage Casio Twin Graph II digital wrist watch, the AE-21W model and not to be confused with the AE-22W version – which is also known as the Twin Graph II. You’ll also require some epoxy putty, I used black Milliput, three small ball bearings and some scraps of styrene plastic – oh, and a toothpick, plus various paints and glues, just as you’d normally require for any build project.
Now, here’s why I gave up trying to make mine into an accurate replica all those years ago. When I bought the pocket watch, I quickly realised that it was a modern replica of a vintage time piece and not only that, but it was also slightly different to the original model. For a start, the image on the lid lacked certain details, which I could live with, but the main problem was its over all size, it’s 6mm (1/4″) too small. This may not seem like very much to you now, but when you place the Casio inside of it, it becomes very apparent that it’ll not quite fit in as it would with the larger original model. The main casualty is the face plate.
On the original prop, all the detailing on the face plate has a fair bit of room to be spaced out nicely, not so on the modern re-release. To make it work, you have to make a couple of sacrifices, namely the bevelled edge to the display aperture window and also the placement of the extra detailing – everything has to bunch up slightly. If you can live with this compromise, then all power to you then – what are you waiting for? Get cracking!
For a very long time, the compromise was too much for me to accept. My own personal mantra is that I either make things as accurately as I can or just not at all, so I ditched my current watch and went looking for an authentic vintage model. Luckily I found one. Unluckily, it cost well over £200 and it just didn’t sit right with me to spend that amount of money on something that I will ultimately have to destroy just to replicate a rather crappy looking prop from the 1980s.
The project was dead and buried up until fairly recently when I rediscovered the parts, as I mentioned earlier in this posting. I thought that I no-longer had them as I could have sworn that I gave them to a friend of mine a few years ago when it became obvious to me that I couldn’t do the project in the accurate manner that I desired. Maybe I had intended to, but didn’t – who knows?
Please feel free to swipe my image of the Casio if you cannot get a hold of the actual wrist watch. I got mine a long time ago for a couple of pounds as it was sold as not working, but when I popped a battery in, it was working perfectly well.
Anyway, what you could do is take the above image, import it into something like Photoshop and distort the picture back to being face on and square, then all you have to do is print it out, laminate the front with clear fablon (sticky plastic) and insert it into your own custom made face plate. And, if you’re being really clever, you could always scale it down slightly so that it’s proportional to the undersized re-release pocket watch. At least doing it this way, all you’re compromising on here is the scale, but not the detail placement. Just for your scaling reference, the grey window that the time is displayed within is 19mm, or 3/4″, wide.
Alternatively, if you don’t like the print out idea, then why not try this out? If you know how to do it that is, because I certainly don’t. Go to the animation in the link above here, copy it as a gif and then maybe you could run the animation on one of those tiny photo frames and use that instead if you cannot get a hold of the original Casio watch. I’ve just been told by a mate that they’ve now become as rare as hen’s teeth. Who knew, eh?
As I’ve said a few times now, making this is very easy and doesn’t take very long at all. Stripping everything down, cutting the face plate, making and placing the detail add ons and painting it up was done during the course of two episodes worth of “Horrid Henry”, most of an episode of “Almost Naked Animals” and half an episode of the fantastic “Mythbusters” – whatever that equates to in actual time, I haven’t a clue and can’t be bothered to work it out for you. At least you get an idea of the time factor as well as the knowledge that it is possible to build this whilst sat with your kids, if you have any…
I really did make this up as I went along, using whatever scrap I had around the house (literally) or in my bits box, though I did sacrifice a drawer and its runner so that I could harvest it for the ball bearings, but shhh – don’t tell anyone. If they ask, we’ll just deny all knowledge of it and say it must have been broken already.
Having settled on getting it as close as possible, given the constraints of what I had to work with (an undersized pocket watch), I simply eyeballed everything and wasn’t too fussed with neatness because of the crude construction of the original screen used example, and if it’s good enough for that, then it’s good enough for this.
One thing that did come as a blessed relief was that it became quite clear that I wouldn’t have to build a cradle to house the Casio watch in place behind the face plate because quite by chance, it only just fits in there. If anything, it’s slightly too big by a fraction of a millimeter. Snapping the back shut, pins the face plate and the Casio together. The only concession that I made to this was that I glued the Casio to the plate with silicone rubber, just to hold the pair in alignment with one another while I closed everything up. The added bonus of doing it this way is that as and when you come to eventually replace the battery, all you have to do is just peel off the silicone to free the watch, then re-silicone it once you’re done… no messing here with rigid glues that may end up causing you to inadvertently damage the face plate during the swap over procedure.
Painting the detail on this prop was tedious in the extreme. The original had a very glossy quality to it and bearing in mind that it’d no doubt get handled and put in and retrieved from a pocket rather a lot, it would need quite a hard wearing finish. The only choice therefore was enamel. Thankfully I still had loads of tins left over from while I was still at school and giving them a quick once over with a trial test run showed that they were still viable. Result.
The only issue with these paints is that they require six hours of curing time between coats – and I’d decided to use four or five different colours that had to be applied one at a time before the next colour could be done, and all of them needed two coats. See where I’m going with this? So, the actual paint application was done with a “0000″ fine brush and each pass probably took no more that a few minutes to achieve, it was the incessant waiting that drove me potty and I really had to curb my impatience to start applying the next coat too soon. Luckily I could waste time elsewhere on the project that I was working on before this thing muscled in on the proceedings.
Once all the enamel work was done and fully cured to a nice resistant finish, the final job was to spray the inside of the lid with a matt black rattle can of automotive paint and thusly, with the addition of a silver snake chain from another pocket watch, the prop was completed. It was around here that I felt a little deflated with the piece – I loathe the painted lid frontage! It just looks incomplete, despite the fact that I’ve copied what can be seen, but even looking at the original, that too doesn’t look quite finished either. Oh well, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, or so they say… And if I get really hacked off with it, I can always repaint it or strip the stuff off again as I did once or twice during the application of the fine detail work where I painted the tree trunks and the dogs, then thought that it looked wrong and so removed the paint pretty swiftly. It just goes to prove that you should stick to what’s really there and try not to embellish things.
Anyhow, you can judge its success for yourself. I give it a 6/10. Not quite right, but I can live with it, especially as this prop is nothing more than a sort of stocking filler piece to bulk the collection out a bit. Or so I try convincing myself.
Hmm. Looking at the two images here, it would appear that I may have to address a couple of paint issues where I’ve missed the odd spot here and there. You can’t tell by looking at it in hand, but in a photograph (that ends up showing the prop in a much larger scale than it physically is), you can really see it. I think that I’m going to have to get myself a magnifying glass.
The more that I look at it, the more I am convinced that at some stage in the future I may well end up replacing the pocket watch. Mine has faded with age and is no-longer as gold as it was. This isn’t a problem and for now, it’ll do… but I will come back to it as I’m sure that it’s this that’s displeasing me about the final result. I could just say that for now, it’s nicely weathered and aged. Yeah, I don’t buy that either…
UPDATE: (21/07/2012) Mike Tucker has been in touch after reading this page (gosh, that was quick) and has graciously confirmed that the original watch was in deed a quick build, carried out the night before the recording, using whatever junk was available to him.
Apparently, an external contractor was charged with making the watch, but what they provided was… um, how shall I put this? Not very good, so Mike leapt in to the rescue and whipped up what we saw on screen!
Cheers for the extra info, Mike!
UPDATE: (27/07/2012) Right then, I couldn’t live with the outer pocket watch case being so damned wrong, the detailing on the engraving, as I’ve mentioned previously, is too bare – missing many details. I’ve now found a suitable replacement and as soon as the funds to cover the costs can be met, expect to see an upgrade.