back to article Atomic clocks come to your wrist

Smartwatches? Who'd bother now that personal atomic clocks are on the agenda? The timepiece in question is called the Cesium 133 and has been announced by high-end Hawaiian watch outfit Bathys Hawaii. The watch is said to contain “a single chip” wherein resides “a laser, a heater, a sealed cavity of cesium gas, a microwave …

COMMENTS

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  1. jake Silver badge

    Expensive toy, at best.

    My network time-keeper checks in on ntp.org once a week (and is accurate to under a quarter of a second every six months). The rest of the kit take clock from that box daily. It's close enough for government work, so it's close enough for me. My weather gear also checks ntp.org regularly, as does the telco kit that keeps my cell phone's clock accurate.

    I don't wear a watch. I can see the time from nearly everywhere, these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm assuming that the size of the watch is down to the lead lining to prevent the wearer suffering radiation sickness.......

      Does it come with a dosimeter?

      1. Skizz

        "I'm assuming that the size of the watch is down to the lead lining to prevent the wearer suffering radiation sickness.......

        "Does it come with a dosimeter?"

        Why would you need one of those. Caesium 133 is a stable isotope and doesn't emit any radiation.

        Oh, you didn't think that 'atomic' meant 'radioactive'?

        1. Adam 1

          > Caesium 133 is a stable isotope and doesn't emit any radiation.

          That's what they want you to think. Now I'm off to eat my banana.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Expensive toy, at best.

      Hey, if they can pack this thing down to a chip that fits on a watch, what's stopping someone using the same chip design as a time source on a server. It may be overkill for most businesses who can just turn to the NTP time pools, but perhaps this can diversify the time source pool, make it more reliable. And any firms that need highly-accurate time could consider such a device if they don't have a similar source already. If the watch only costs $12,000, then something else using the same chip would probably stay safely within five figures and be something worth considering for a firm that routinely handles seven figures or more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Expensive toy, at best.

        Isn't that the point? The cost of timekeeping technology declines with time in the same way that computing does generally. If there are laptops in 10 years time, they'll probably contain one.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Expensive toy, at best.

        Or buy a GPS based NTP server for £1000-2000 (perhaps less).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Expensive toy, at best.

          "Or buy a GPS based NTP server for £1000-2000 (perhaps less)."

          Err, or just buy a satnav. They can display the time off the satellites too.

      3. Timo

        Re: Expensive toy, at best.

        I think you'll find that Cesium oscillators are already used as timebases in many "servers", especially for telecom equipment. LTE needs or will need it (especially LTE-Advanced) for very precise timing synchronization (sites that are neighbors must be within 1.5 microseconds for some iterations of LTE-A.)

        NTP is fine for logfiles and timestamps but isn't going to get you that close.

        1. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Re: Expensive toy, at best.

          "...Cesium oscillators are already used as timebases in many "servers", especially for telecom equipment. "

          Cesium, or rubidium? Isn't rubidium the most common choice?

          Posted from (not true) my very own (true) FE-5680A rubidium timebase.

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  2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Love the extended crown

    I guess that's the control rod sticking out of the side there...

    1. Evil Auditor
      Mushroom

      Re: Love the extended crown

      But what happens if (or rather when) you lose the rod?

    2. LarsG

      Re: Love the extended crown

      Push it in and you get a meltdown.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Love the extended crown

        I'd guess that you push it in for the emergency SCRAM for the watch :)

    3. P. Lee
      Coat

      Re: Love the extended crown

      Wouldja believe that's the second biggest control rod I've ever seen?

  3. mIRCat
    Coat

    Does it come with a money back guarantee?

    "Loses a second each millennium."

    Nobody has time for that type of accuracy!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does it come with a money back guarantee?

      I like my auto wind watch, I like the fact that I know it loses 2 minutes a week and I take pleasure in adjusting the time. I fact I like to pre-empt it and set it 8 minutes ahead knowing in a months time it will be spot on and I arrive early for the next four weeks which is an additional bonus.

      Owning a watch like this would take the fun out of life.

      1. Marvin the Martian

        " Owning a watch like this would take the fun out of life."

        And in unrelated news, some people need hobbies. Well played.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Does it come with a money back guarantee?

      Nobody has a battery to put in it that lasts that long either...

  4. croc

    Soooo... When you leave Hawaii and fly off to Europe how do you then adjust for the east-west drift?

    1. Evil Auditor

      The real question is, when you're in Hawaii why would you fly off to Europe?

  5. Chemist

    Even if you needed that accuracy...

    how does a little analogue display let you use it ?

    More to the point - how long does the battery last ?

    1. frank ly

      Re: Even if you needed that accuracy...

      My first questioning thought was about the analogue display, but that is about resolution of the output, not accuracy. The point of the atomic clock is the long term accuracy. Having said that, I still think it's silly.

      1. Chemist

        Re: Even if you needed that accuracy...

        "The point of the atomic clock is the long term accuracy."

        What long-term accuracy ?. How accurately can it be set when you change the battery ?

        The main advantage of an atomic clock is its high resolution NOT its long term ( millennia) stability

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: Even if you needed that accuracy...

          "How accurately can it be set when you change the battery ?"

          Does it automatically adjust for daylight savings/summer time?

    2. Adam 1

      Re: Even if you needed that accuracy...

      > how does a little analogue display let you use it ?

      Well you need to have very good eyes.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even if you needed that accuracy...

      Around 70 hours on a recent smartphone battery

      Assuming 3VDC, 125 Milliwatts and a smartphone battery is 2600 mAh

  6. PhilipN Silver badge

    Extended usage

    Can you please please make it blow the *****r's arm off if he is more than a few minutes late for a meeting.

  7. Paul J Turner

    'Cersium' eh?

    Sounds a bit like witchcraft to me!

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: 'Cersium' eh?

      It's in the same periodic group as Unobtanium.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: 'Cersium' eh?

      Burn the witch!

      1. bonkers

        Re: 'Cersium' eh?

        Cersium? Cesium?

        What's wrong with Caesium? - from the Latin word "caesius" meaning "sky blue"

        Come on Reg, your a British site, and proud of it, adjacent vowels are not errors.

        1. Ed_UK

          Re: 'Cersium' eh?

          "What's wrong with Caesium?"

          ...

          "Come on Reg, your a British site"

          Irony alert! (Yes, I'd always spell it with -ae-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 'Cersium' eh?

          Caesium isn't a British peculiarity. It's also the IUPAC agreed spelling. (Yes, the same even handed, rigoorous, International Union that recommends the spellings 'sulfur' and 'aluminium'.)

  8. MrDamage
    Joke

    But wait, there's more!

    Buy now, and claim a lifetime of free rectal probes from your friendly TSA agents every time you go anywhere near an airport!

  9. Paul J Turner

    Apparently it is a Repeater Watch

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/01/hoptroff_shows_first_atomic_watch_movement/

    Brit horologist hammers out ‘first’ ATOMIC-POWERED watch

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Apparently it is a Repeater Watch

      Or of course here the US version....

      http://www.leapsecond.com/pages/atomic-bill/

      ...which actually was produced in significant quantities an even is digital.

  10. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

    $12,000?

    Dear lord that's not only ugly, it looks bloody childish too. I could forsake a couple of seconds a week for something that looks nice and wearable.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: $12,000?

      Makes as much sense as a Rolex or Breitling. [shrug]

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: $12,000?

      I think this is for the kind of people who can find $12,000 amongst the bits of fluff in an old jeans pocket, and who will probably never wear it but will tell people about it at dinner parties. On their yacht.

      1. thomas k.
        Facepalm

        Re: $12,000?

        Just be careful not to mention the name of the restaurant where you're having lunch when you tweet that you're wearing your "cool new, super expensive" wristwatch. o.O

      2. Michael 28
        Coat

        Re: $12,000?

        Which one? ... Yacht, I mean. Prefer helicopters myself... Leave mine running to keep the pigeons off the roof. Mine's the one with the fluff in the ....oh hey!!!!

  11. Mike Banahan

    Mine cost about £100

    You can get 'em all over the place - radio controlled watches that synchronise to a time signal that is also atomic-locked, without having the bother of a laser on your wrist. My particular G-shock model is solar powered too. Never have to wind it up, no battery to replace and I never have to adjust the time (though if I shift time zones there is a bit of button-pressing to do to tell it).

    Admittedly if I'm out of range of the time signal it supposedly falls back to internal timekeeping and re-adjusts when I'm back home, but though I travel a fair bit in Europe and the Americas, that hasn't happened yet.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Timo

        Re: Mine cost about £100

        Those atomic clocks only check in at night, supposedly when the atmospheric conditions are best for the signal propagation. I assume that as a 10 dollar clock it isn't disciplining the oscillator and is only resetting the time once per day.

        The timing signal itself is blindingly simple, as an analog radio transmission carrying an audio signal. If you have a shortwave radio you can pick them up and decode the ticking with your ears.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWV_(radio_station)

    2. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Mine cost about £100

      It's probably one of the better ones that can pick up multiple time signals, I think as long as you're close enough to 48-state USA, England, Germany, China, or Japan you'll get a usable signal.

    3. Annihilator Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Mine cost about £100

      Your watch isn't atomic-locked though. It's out by however long it takes the radio signal to reach you, which is a varying lag. Unless it has a GPS component to compensate?

  12. Daniel Bower

    Am I the only one

    Who thinks it looks pretty fucking cool?!

    I would love one but think the XYL would be very upset with me when I told her how much I had just spent on it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the only one

      Yes,

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To quote James May

    That is "gopping"...

  14. Grade%

    It be hideous.

    In that truly tasteless fashion that only super rich can possibly hope to get away with. *sigh* _I_ have no taste and I only get laughed at.

  15. returnmyjedi

    If it's not the caesium that blows up in water, I'm not interested.

  16. Velv

    So it loses a second a millennium... if you're counting a linear reference time difference.

    If you want to know the local time it loses or gains a second almost every year depending on the addition or subtraction of a leap second.

    10 out of 10 for technological innovation and miniaturisation.

    Minus several thousand for practicality and usefulness.

  17. rcorrect
    Joke

    hyperfine lines of excited cesium 1337 atoms

    That's cool how many atoms is that exactly?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: hyperfine lines of excited cesium 1337 atoms

      Yes, it's quite an elite isotope.

  18. Fletchulence

    $12000

    And they didn't have a few dollars out of that to pay someone for a design?

  19. JDX Gold badge

    Holes

    What are they for? Wall-fixing?

  20. M7S

    TSA - Spectator sport :)

    "You want to take this radioactive device onto an airplane? Please step out of the line while my colleague unscrews the battery cover to check inside"

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: TSA - Spectator sport :)

      It's not radioactive

      1. M7S

        Re: TSA - Spectator sport :)

        I'm pretty sure that if a passenger said they had an atomic device of any kind, even a wristwatch, a zealous security official (not being "rocket scientists") would interpret it as being something prejudicial to the integrity of the aircraft as the popular link is immediately to radioactive/nuclear/explosive, and the subtle difference would escape them. Perhaps others as well.

  21. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    You thought daylight savings was a pain...

    with this watch, you need to adjust for leap seconds too.

  22. 0laf Silver badge
    FAIL

    Ugh

    $12000 and they're using a 1p crappo plastic winder handle. Dear me it's fugly.

    My Monster might need adjusted every week but could beat that crap to death and still be running in 10yr without a battery.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So... It is going to be precise, but not necessarly accurate?

    If the watch is set 20 minutes ahead of [time_zone], it may well be keeping time to a high degree of precision. It won't be very accurate, though.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Paul J Turner

    Your revisionism missed one of the TWO errors...

    Under the photo (cut and paste) - "The Cersium 133 atomic wristwatch" ;-)

  26. cheekybuddha
    Coat

    Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day

  27. Snar
    Trollface

    Not the first!

    This is a prototype of the first atomic wristwatch....

    http://leapsecond.com/pages/atomic-bill/

  28. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    By the way...

    The Symetricom (who seem to make these chips) bought up the the time reference line from Agilent, who got it from HP,

    HP supplied the hardware for the leapsecond.com gag photo.

    incidentally the impossibility of miniaturizing a Cesium time reference was part of the reason for putting a bunch of them on satellites in stable orbits and transmitting the time and other details out through radio. IOW the GPS system.

    A chip scale atomic clock potentially makes inertial nav systems as accurate and drift free as GPS without any external input.

    And as the unit uses a small "cloud" of metal atoms "atomic" is quite an accurate name for such a timepiece.

    The truth you risk more radiation exposure from a digital clock make from an old oscilloscope.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: By the way...

      'Ebay supplied the HP hardware for the leapsecond.com gag photo.'

      There, I fixed it for you.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1 second per millenium

    An heirloom or investment to leave to your children ('s children's children's children's etc)

  30. Imsimil Berati-Lahn
    Meh

    Chip Scale Atomic Clock.

    I expect they're using Symmetricom's heart-of-gold for this fugly timepiece:

    http://www.symmetricom.com/products/frequency-references/chip-scale-atomic-clock-csac/SA.45s-CSAC/

    module size approx 40.5x35x12mm

    No mention of battery life for this chronometer.

    All very well to have a watch that keeps time to +/- 1 second every thousand years, but if it only runs for 15 minutes at a time...

    In a syllable: MEH.

    1. TheVogon

      Re: Chip Scale Atomic Clock.

      "but if it only runs for 15 minutes at a time..."

      The batteries come in a suitcase you wheel behind you....

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Chip Scale Atomic Clock.

      "I expect they're using Symmetricom's heart-of-gold for this fugly timepiece:"

      That would be my guess, of course it's be the "civilian" version with degrade accuracy.

      I don't know of any other players in this field, although I've seen some research projects for ESA with some Swiss or German companies doing work.

  31. Imsimil Berati-Lahn
    Pint

    Oh yeah, and by the way...

    Symmetricom just came back with a quote for their CSAC:

    $2000 each, (MOQ of 10).

    A rough calculation for the remaining parts:

    machining that fugly f'ckin case: $500

    That fugly f'ckin dial and hands: $100

    Clock mechanics: $10

    The electronics to mount CSAC and interface its 1PPS to mechanics: $10

    Total BOM cost: $2620.

    Down the pub with the remaining $10,000 then?

    Woo-hoo, party on!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh yeah, and by the way...

      They used to be 2,500 , but as you said above this makes all kinds of things possible, Military comms when you enter buildings tend to unsynch/lose trust and take ages to reestablish, not with this. Drones, signal jammers etc all do or can use accurate time.

      Automated grain carts and plows can keep a GPS fix and work when it drops and they have fixed points to locally improve the GPS signal this tech benefits from. Not right now but if it's cheap enough.

      GPS only came about (sort of) through tests requiring accurate clocks in space and realising you could work out the position of the satellite through the doppler effect like with Sputnik. Reversing that and with a load of extra ones you can navigate on earth.

      I like to see anything that makes this kind of tech cheaper, there are most likely big important future things that will need this kind of accuracy probably autonomous vehicles but maybe

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh yeah, and by the way...

        GPS .NE. Doppler.

  32. Duffy Moon

    Oh look, a watch for rich morons.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fun getting through customs...

  34. earl grey
    Joke

    laser inside?

    Not going to bother until i can get lasers for my firkkin' sharks, thank you!

  35. Stevie

    Bah!

    So they went to all that trouble on the innards and then plonked it all in an oversized rectangular brushed stainless steel box a-la 1970 *oriented 90 degrees the wrong way* and used the winder from a cheap clockwork robot of the sort given away by McDonalds in "Happy Meals"?

    Who was designing this thing? The props team from The Prisoner?

  36. Anonymous John

    Cesium-powered timepiece loses just one second a millennium

    Or your money back in 3013.

  37. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    I find it strange ...

    ... that a Hawaiian watch maker would come out with such an accurate time piece.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3185/2563750315_d6d0851a0a.jpg

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do'h!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafele–Keating_experiment

  39. ewozza
    Thumb Down

    Lousy watch, great clock

    This should have been sold as an alarm clock, or a pocket watch, not a wrist watch...

  40. Schultz

    Who will..

    set the time after a battery change?

  41. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    It's almost certainly based on the SA.45S

    CSAC Chip Scale Atomic Clock oscillator.

  42. Thomas_Kent

    I think I'll stick with my Casio Waveceptor. Paid abgout $45.00 for it.

  43. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Lonely is the person who is the only one with the correct time.

  44. jchr

    Radio-controlled clocks & watches

    For 20 years or more I've only used radio-controlled time-pieces, originally from when I was commuting and I sync my arrival time at the railway station to literally the last few seconds. My main watch is also solar-powered so needs no ongoing maintenance. It is marginally bulkier than conventional watches but for me that is no matter. The clocks & watches do an auto reset overnight when the hours change twice yearly.

  45. Gadgety

    The actual atomic watch core is available online for $1500. It's made available through US Defense department funding and produced by Symmetricom.

  46. Gadgety

    I forgot, the advantage of the Atomic module can be for divers or others who need to know where they are, but are out of GPS range.

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