blog

21August
2018
Posted By: Mitch Sweeting
Atomic Clocks and Keeping your Watches Super-Precise

So I just read a Business Week article about a gorgeous $263,800 Buben & Zorweg watch safe that includes an in-house built worldtimer clock with a flying tourbillon, ostensibly either for show or to help you set your watches.
For the rest of us, here is an infinitely less expensive, simple and surprisingly useful mod for your BlumSafe, which, most importantly, will provide much more accurate time for your watches than B&Z’s “in-house flying tourbillon”. This mod will require you to go to one of America’s finer retail establishments — Walmart, Target or perhaps online at Amazon– to buy a clock to put on the wall or a shelf near your BlumSafe. The clock uses radio signals to update its time from an atomic clock – way more accurate than anything mechanical or quartz that is out there today.

It may sound too simple to be worthy of mention, but an atomic clock near your BlumSafe is a remarkably simple and inexpensive way to really enhance your mechanical watch experience by allowing you to always keep your mechanical watches as close to perfect time as possible. A couple of seconds of inaccuracy here or there bothers few of us, and your IWC’s losing five seconds a day might not sound like much, but after two weeks, it’s lost more than a minute in accuracy (and THAT is noticeable). And of course, every time I put on one of my manual watches, it seems like I am setting the time from scratch because I wear them so infrequently that I don’t keep them wound.

An atomic clock is the be-all and end-all in absolute time accuracy. According to Wikipedia, an atomic clock uses an electron transition frequency in the microwave, optical or ultraviolet wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum of atoms as a frequency standard for its timekeeping element. Basically, an atomic oscillator. Atomic clocks indirectly control the time of everything in our society that is time-critical, and are crucial to GPS satellites, which guide our lives today in so many ways.

In the US, we ultimately rely for our “reference time” upon signals transmitted from the atomic clock at Fort Collins, Colorado by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) radio station WWVB, at 60 kHz.
How does that time get to you, the watch aficionado? Basically, your inexpensive, usually deceptively mislabeled “atomic clock” (it is actually a “radio-controlled” clock) has a radio embedded into it that is permanently tuned to the NIST station to keep the clock’s digital display of time dead accurate. How accurate? One second every several hundred million years. Not bad for a $30 clock from Walmart!
That being said, our NIST atomic clock IS a bit of a slouch — the most accurate atomic clock ever built keeps time to one second every 15 BILLION YEARS!
So hang that cheap radio-controlled “atomic” clock near your BlumSafe, and next time you dust off a watch you haven’t worn in a while, synchronize it to perfect time to the second. It will feel SO good!