Friday, August 31, 2018

Your Casio G-Shock May Stop Working in 2019

From Ft. Collins, Colorado, WWV broadcasts a time signal that’s synced with an atomic clock, which gives radio-controlled watches and clocks uncanny accuracy.

But that’s no big deal in the internet age where our phones are synced nearly perfectly with our cell phone networks, and where GPS time signals are accurate to 40 nanoseconds.

If the NIST proposed budget is approved,
radio-controlled watches like this Casio G-shock
Sky Cockpit will no longer automatically set
the time in 2019. 
It’s no big deal, too, because accuracy is only a quartz watch away: You can strap a Grand Seiko quartz watch to your wrist — a beautiful creature that’s accurate to within ten seconds a year. Or you can wear a Longines Conquest V.H.P., accurate to within five seconds a year, a Breitling Superquartz, boasting plus or minus ten seconds a year, a Citizen Chronomaster, which doesn’t deviate by more than five seconds a year, or a Bulova Curv, which will keep you on track to within ten seconds a year, and call it a day. There are awesomely accurate quartz watches for the taking.

You can also buy a GPS watch, like the Seiko Astron. The Astron not only keeps perfect time because it’s synchronized with GPS time, but it automatically changes the hour when you change time zones. How clever is that.

But there are drawbacks to these watches. They’re generally expensive. The Bulova Curv costs over $500, and both the Citizen Chronomaster and Grand Seikos can lighten your wallet by thousands of dollars. High accuracy quartz watches and GPS watches also tend to be large.

Since 1990, when Junghans invented the first radio-controlled watch, high accuracy has been both affordable and wearable by way of these atomic watches, as they’re also called. One of Casio’s Waveceptor radio-controlled watches will only set you back $28. Many (but not all) of Casio’s immensely popular G-Shock watches, including those that are powered by the sun, are also radio controlled. Solar, radio-controlled, G-Shocks never need battery replacement and, for as long as WWV operates, never need to be set.

Casio G-Shocks are also nearly indestructible. Many watch enthusiasts wear G-Shocks as their beater watch, because they’re the Superman of the watch world. G-Shocks go mountain climbing, diving, bungee jumping, or play baseball without a worry in the world. G-Shocks have almost a cult status among watch collectors. It’s a funny thing about watch collectors. Many regard quartz as something to be shunned (though I think there are some incredible quartz watches like Grand Seiko’s 9F series and Sinn’s Hydro diver), but G-Shocks are almost universally lauded. Wearing a G-Shock carries no stigma of shame. A Daniel Wellington or Michael Kors, hmm.

WWV's antenna
I don’t know how many radio-controlled watches are sold a year, but if I were to guess, I’d say that there are hundreds of thousands on people’s wrists. And that number doesn’t include radio-controlled clock radios and wall clocks.

Most radio-controlled watches can receive signals and sync to atomic clocks in any country that has a station similar to WWV. They’re multi-band watches, perfect travel companions.

But here’s the sad news: These watches and clocks will no longer be synchronized with an atomic clock if the proposed budget cuts for the National Institute for Standards & Technology, which runs WWV, are enacted. They will become mere mortal watches and have to be set by hand. The White House wants to cut NIST’s 2019 budget by 34 percent.

WWV has been broadcasting since 1920.

Other countries, including Belarus, Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and China also broadcast radio time signals and have no plans to shut down their stations. Unfortunately, the radio signals from those countries don’t reach the continental United States.

The budget cuts aren’t a done deal, so your cool, Casio G-Shock or other atomic watch may continue to perform the magic it always has. There’s a petition to keep WWV in NIST’s budget, which you can add your name to here.

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