Pebble Steel Charging Issues – Creating a Charging Ground Platform for the Pebble Watch

Recently I was bequeathed a Pebble Steel watch.  My godmother’s husband, Larry, had passed and his wife Kathie wanted to make sure that it would go to someone who would actually use it.

Thank you Kathie, and thank you for keeping Larry’s spirit alive.

The watch is a beautiful thing, after all who can pass up an E-Paper display on a watch.  For an electronic watch, it simply blows away any other display technology for sheer flexibility.  Low light, it has a backlight that gives a blue glow once you press a button.  In high light, the numbers show up in a beautiful silver on deep navy blue.  Other Pebble watches have different color schemes, but the E-Paper display is amazing.

 

The watch did not come with the charging cable, initially.  Since I was given it at Larry’s Celebration of Life ceremony, I wasn’t going to ask for it immediately.  I did get it a couple weeks later, but until then I would “find something” to make sure it still worked.

I did find a Reddit link to something someone wrote. Apparently the connectors on the watch, in my case on the side of the watch, were Negative and Positive connections with the case being an extra Negative – the Ground.  For other Pebble Watches, the connectors are on the back of the watch.

This is where I issue the Internet Standard Warning:


Contact Pebble for Service under Warranty if your watch is still warranted.  Much better than hacking around with whatever I say here!

Any information given here within is presented at your own risk.

If you use it and break anything, it is at your own responsibility, and I take no responsibility or give no warranty. 

All Information presented here within “works for me”.  

If you connect something backwards or short out a connection, you could damage any of your electronics.

Make doubly sure you have tested all connections with a multi meter and make sure that you have polarity correct.

 

First – clean all connectors.

Second – get your Pebble up to the latest firmware.


According to this link on Reddit, you will be able to fashion (jury rig) a connector to charge your watch.

I was able to.  I connected a piece of wire to the positive connector on the watch, a second to the negative, and fed 5VDC into it.  The watch vibrated almost immediately, displayed the Pebble start up display, then began charging for as long as I was able to hold all the connectors together.

For the Pebble Steel, the Positive connector is the connector closest to you, assuming you hold the watch as if it is to be read correctly.

Problem One:

Charging Problem NOT Originally solved.  You see, there’s a problem with these watches.  If you charge one up full using the cable on the connectors at the side of the watch, then reconnect it, it will discharge back into the power supply draining the watch.

They need a Diode in line to help fix that.  Ten Cent Part.

Problem Two:

The connectors must be clean.  As in no dirt on the connectors at all.  Clean with Alcohol and a bit of cotton.  This may allow you to charge the watch but not necessarily.  I tried it and it did not help.

Problem Three:

The cable finally arrived.  There was about 70% charge on the watch.  I plugged the cable into the back of my laptop, and walked away.  The watch drained completely of any power.

The Solution presented itself in a Youtube Video that is embedded below.  There is a person in Holland with a Pebble Steel watch.  He had the same problem as I did.  In the video he mentions that his watch would charge sometimes but not others.  When he asked for service from Pebble Support, he was sent back a new watch which worked perfectly under warranty.

 

Great!  Excellent service, Pebble!

Near the end of the video, he tied all the information together without knowing it for me.  He plugged the new watch onto the cable, and connected the old watch to a second cable.  The old “damaged” watch did not begin to charge until he touched the back of the old watch to the new one thereby creating the ground.


 

Therefore my solution was this.  I created a Charging Ground Platform for my Pebble Steel.

Step 1: Obtain parts:

  • Four Thumbtacks
  • Suitable base for the platform – mine was a lid to a treats canister.
  • Length of wire to connect to Ground – specific length is not material, mine is about 18 inches or a half meter
  • Good electrical ground to the negative side of the charging cable

Step 2: Assembly

  • For your watch, positioning of the thumbtacks will vary.
  • I laid a piece of paper on the back of the watch to make a template, then marked it off on the plastic lid.
  • Marks on the lid will match that of the screws on the watch.
  • This placement will lower the probability that the watch will get scratched up.
  • Drive one thumbtack through the lid for each corner of the watch.
  • Connect each thumbtack with wire allowing the wire to extend out past the last connector freely.

Step 3:  Final Connections:

 

  • Plug the Pebble charging cable into your charger and to your watch.
  • In my case, I am using a laptop and that greatly simplified my connections.
  • The case of the laptop is a ground, and functions as a ground for USB and for the entire computer.
  • An external charging “wall wart” plug will require you to take further steps.
  • Connect the ground wire from the Charging Ground Platform to a metal ground on the laptop.
  • Place the Pebble Watch onto the assembled platform making sure that one or more of the thumbtack will touch the bare metal case of the watch, preferably on the screws in the back of the watch.
  • You may or may not get confirmation from the watch that it is now charging – I have seen it immediately go into charge mode, and I have seen it not and both work.

The way I see it, in my uneducated opinion, this is a design flaw.  I do not know where the fault lies.  It is acting like a firmware issue.  However my Pebble Steel is now at the newest firmware.  No software at the charger is required to make the watch charge.  The watch is only looking for 5 Volts DC at USB standard current of 1 Amp, apparently.

 

The Pebble Steel is now a product that has been discontinued.  The memory in it is lower than the newer watches, and the operating system firmware can not be updated past the last of version 3.  Newer watches have version 4 available.

Like I said, it works for me.  Good luck!

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