Precision timekeeping-II: Beyond simple quartz technology

Atomic accuracy aside, we take a brief look at some that give quartz a run for its money.

 

Digressing from the main topic to return soon

Bit out of context, but still can’t escape the magic of the CALIBRE 360. It’s an automatic, mechanical CHRONOGRAPH movement that went into the 2006 Sports Watch of the Year – the TAG HEUER CARRERA 360 dubbed as the 2006! The name was chosen by an independent international jury cognizant of horological affairs at the 6th Annual Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix or the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). This was TAG Heuer’s fourth award earned in just six years – previous categories were Design (2002, 2004) and Ladies watch (2005).

Oh, it’s precision that we’re talking about! The Carrera Calibre 360 chronograph movement is the world’s most accurate mechanical chronograph that sometimes puts quartz to shame. Guess its beat count? A whopping 360,000vph!

The first Swiss quartz chronograph to reach an accuracy of 1/1000th of a second was also from the house of TAG Heuer.  It was called Mikrotimer F1 and was designed to time F1 races.

Why then, the Radio-controlled?

  • Even a simple Radio-Controlled watch does away with all that anxiety and fuss of time, odd and even dates and months and leap year adjustments. At night when smart phone noises are at the minimum, it automatically synchronizes to the time-signal received from an atomic clock. This fine-tuning is an everyday thing for the RC watch. The signal, however; is affected by local topography, buildings and weather, sometimes making a RC watch take longer to respond.
  • For Citizen RC watches, you’ll receive signals from the Mount Otakadoya Standard Time Transmitter, Fukushima and the Mount Hagane Standard Time Transmitter, Kyushu. When in Japan, you’ll be covered anywhere you go to in the country. Outside Japan, you’ll get signal support from 3 other different geographic regions: Europe, US and China.

A battle among clan members

RC watches are highly accurate, fluctuating by a second from the actual time once between every 1, 00,000 and 300,000 years. This is where the battle starts. Every brand tries to overcome the other by eliminating signal receptivity lag and increasing signal response; increasing the probability of that 1 second fluctuation to maybe by another few thousand years or more! And accuracy keeps getting better.

Additionally, assisting features like power storage and power reserve create better pictures. So does functions that let the watch do more than just timekeeping.

Finally, how accurate is a RC watch?

To understand that completely, you need to understand how a second is scientifically defined. A second is determined by the frequency (9,192,631,770 periods) of electrons moving back and forth between energy states around a Cesium-133 (a particular isotope of the metal) atom at Absolute Zero/Cold (0oK/−273.15°C).

The one-second of a RC watch will accommodate just that many times of electron movement.

Next day, we will see how GPS does it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following are the links to a few of the RC watches from different brands. Click to see and buy them.