Time is the one part of life totally beyond our control. So, we try to keep track of it as well as we can. We, Gadgeteers, can be especially frustrated in this endeavor because even our computers, PDA’s, and mobile phones don’t keep time very well. CPU-lag, you know. Well, I’ve found a solution that is the subject of this review: an atomic watch.
No, it doesn’t play MP3’s, take pictures, or make phone calls. What an atomic watch does is keep extremely accurate time, all the time. How accurate? How does 1 second in 1 million
years sound? I thought so.
While there may be several different brands available, the ones I’m talking about are made by
Junghans of Germany. They’ve been producing time pieces since 1861. They make watches that are solar powered, keep track of rail passes, or even open your front door, electronically. But some of their most impressive watches are the atomic models.
It all goes back to what is called an atomic clock. Rather than use a wound spring and gears or, even, the vibrations of a quartz crystal, an atomic clock bases its time on the vibrations of the cesium atom. In 1967 the 13th General Conference of Weights and Measures redefined the second as “9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyper fine levels of the grounds state of the cesium-133 atom.” Doesn’t that sound impressive?
Unlike quartz crystals, the cesium atoms don’t wear out and they can oscillate forever without any distortion. Furthermore, each atom of cesium oscillates at exactly the same frequency as all others so they make great little time keepers. Now the US Government (other countries have a similar setup) operates an “atomic clock” located in Colorado. This atomic clock keeps precise time, to put it very simply, by dropping cesium atoms. This is
official US time
right now. The clock is hooked up to a huge radio antenna which sends out a strong signal across the US.
Atomic clocks and watches, such as those made my Junghans, tune into that radio signal’s frequency, decode the signal, and set the time to the US atomic clock. They even adjust for time zones and Daylight Savings Time. Recently, the government upgraded the signal strength of this station from 27,000 watts to 50,000 watts so that it covers the entire continental US (plus Mexico and part of the
So much for all the scientific stuff. What matters is that my Junghans Carbon watch keeps extremely accurate time all the time. It automatically resets itself, here in Southern Alabama, at 11:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. During the rest of the 24 hours it keeps time via a quartz crystal. I can reset it manually at any time during the day. Should I travel to another US time zone, all I have to do it set the small digital display at the bottom of the clock dial to that zone and the watch will automatically reset to the correct time, after synchronizing itself with the radio signal from Colorado. Neat, huh!
Besides all that, these watches look great as well. The case is made from carbon fibers, such as are used in the
Stealth Fighters. In addition to the clock face and digital display (for month and day), the watch has two buttons. The large one on the right switches between the Month/Day display and the time zone display (mine currently reads C (for Central) HH (01-12 hours) and a small AM or PM). It also will synchronize with the Colorado signal if you hold that button in for 3 seconds or more. The smaller button on the left allows you to change the time zone (if that display is chosen) or, if necessary, to set the watch to a manual time (the display will go blank and there will be no Month/Day displayed).
The watch has a very nice embossed leather band, a carbon-fiber case with a screwed-on back, a metal topring, illuminated hands and very nice accents on a black face. The band also includes a carbon fiber insert that looks like it is moving under the light. The underside of the band is embossed with the Junghans’ logo. Both the style and geek factors are pretty high with these watches. Other styles are available as well. Junghans uses different distributors in the US. The one I chose was
Atomic Time in Oak Brook, Il. They were very helpful in explaining the function and setting of their watch and offer a 30-day return policy if your watch won’t sync. The watch lists for $299.99 and includes a two-year battery.
If you want to kick it up another notch, you might also check out the Junghans ceramic atomic watches. These watch cases are made of titanium and high-tech ceramics (like the tiles on the space shuttle.) They also cost in the $800-$1000 range. But they don’t keep time any more accurately.
So, if you’ve been looking for a more accurate way to keep your clocks or your computers at the right time, look no more. What you need is a Junghans atomic watch.
Very stylish watch
A must-have for technophiles and geeks (as well as watch aficionados).
Expensive in the higher models
Not shock-proof or water-proof for swimming or diving
May not be able to receive signal in some areas such as high-metal content