You’ve heard the term ‘atomic watches’, but do you know what it actually means?
An atomic watch is the most accurate watch you can get.
Atomic watches get calibrated using an atomic clock. They maintain this calibration via radio signals received from this clock. So you know exactly what the time is with precision originating from NASA. Literally. NASA uses an atomic clock on their countdowns.
It would take a very long time to discuss the science of an atomic clock. The process is intensely complicated. In as basic an explanation as possible, an atomic clock judges the length of a second by tracking the number of oscillations a caesium-133 atom makes. The number of spins that happen in one solitary second is just over 9 BILLION.
Understanding how this intricate mechanism works would require a PhD in physics, which isn’t why we’re here. Hopefully, you’ll trust what you’ve learned and we can move on…
Are atomic watches truly the most accurate?
If you have a watch that isn’t atomic, the simple answer is that you don’t own the most accurate time-keeper available. Yes, it might be made with the most incredible craftsmanship possible, but there will be a few fractions of a second worth of drifting.
All watches experience this drift. It’s a shift away from its reference clock and therefore synching is less accurate. If you compared that watch to the atomic watch some time after you’d purchased it, you’d realise the difference.
An atomic watch will drift too, but we’re talking a maximum of one second in a 100 million years. So you probably won’t notice.
So, to answer the question, yes, there are no more accurate watches than atomic watches.
How does an atomic watch work?
As THE atomic clock won’t fit on your wrist, you have to wear a device that talks to it via receiving signals. If you’re in the US, this will be the atomic clock that lives in Fort Collins.
American atomic timepieces are developed in such a way to search for the radio signal from Fort Collins. They do this every day.
It will receive the signal and then decode it. Constant contact isn’t needed 24/7 but it does need regular contact to avoid this drift.
Will an atomic clock always be accurate?
An atomic watch is undeniably a feat of engineering and technology. They are not perfect, though. To work as intended, as mentioned, it needs to have a connection to the atomic clock. Two things could disrupt this.
The first factor is distance. If a watch moves away from the range of the atomic clock, simply, the connection will be lost.
Most American watches won’t synch with any other atomic clock around the world. Typically they’re limited within their region.
Secondly, it’s open to disruption to the signal. Radio signals penetrate pretty much any surface but there are things that can block them.
Some metals, like those used in building construction, block the signal. Similarly, signals from other electronic devices can get in the way.
The level of disturbance an atomic watch will experience is really very minimal. With your human eye, you’re not likely to even notice.
Newer atomic watches have technology built in that is so advanced it can block the disruptions. GPS has been added so the watch is able to pick up the signal from satellites or from other geographically located atomic clocks.
Are atomic watches accessible to everyone?
Some atomic timepieces have insane price tags. Some, though, are affordable. Some you can use everyday wear.
Casio, known best for their brand, G-Shock, make a range of atomic watches that run on solar power.
The G-Rescue is only $93.07. It offers 200m water-resistance and features a stopwatch, alarms, a countdown timer and world timezones. For sub-$100 this watch packs a huge punch.
If you’ve got a better budget to play with than $100, this watch offers some exceptional quality like mineral crystal with anti-glare and high-quality Japanese quartz on the inside.
Features-wise it offers a countdown timer up to 99 minutes. It knows the time in 43 different world cities. It has both digital and analogue display.
If you’re not looking to even spend $100, that’s fine. The Casio AQS800WD-1EV for men is under $50.
This knows the time in 48 world cities and 31 timezones. It will allow you to set up to 5 alarms and has a countdown timer. It offers 100m water-resistance too. This really is a sensational price considering everything you get here.
Should I buy an atomic watch?
Atomic watches offer us an insight into the level of intelligence the human species has. Without atomic clocks, everything could crash, Y2K-style.
But does this mean you need to wear an atomic watch on your wrist?
Most modern technology runs on atomic time. If you’re in need of precision, then yes, absolutely. But is your personal life reliant on that level of accuracy? Unlikely. It’s cool though, isn’t it?
Whether you should buy one or not is subjective. If you like them, then go for it. It’s a matter of your own style.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll love our article on the kinds of watches favoured by the military.