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What Are Atomic Watches and How do they Work?

Watches come in all shapes and sizes, with a full range of features meant to satisfy everyone from the avid sports enthusiast to the business executive. An atomic watch is a unique kind of watch, and is a popular choice among people interested in incredibly precise timekeeping.

They are the most accurate watches in the world thanks to the synchronization technology that drives them. Other timepieces are known for their precision, but none can compare to atomic models. If you are looking for a watch that can be accurate to within a second every 100 million years, choose an atomic watch.

How Atomic Watches Work

An atomic watch's accuracy is the result of synchronization with an atomic clock. It is fitted with a radio receiver that picks up a continual broadcasting signal from an atomic clock laboratory. The watch then checks in daily to maintain an accurate record.

This clock measures time based on the oscillation rate of caesium-133, an isotope of the element caesium. Based on International Atomic Time (TAI) standards, the amount of time it takes a single caesium-133 atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times equals one second.

What we have here is essentially a measurement of how electrons move within an atom. By accounting for more than 9 billion of them, we have the ability to produce accurate results to the exact second. As with anything else, a finer measurement produces a finer result.

TAI itself is synchronized by combining the timekeeping output of some-400 atomic clocks located in 69 national laboratories around the world. Those locations maintaining the highest quality of caesium are given priority in terms of their accuracy.

Connecting with a Clock

With this understanding, it becomes apparent that the watch needs to be able to connect to laboratories to properly synchronize. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem. However, not all oscillation rate of caesium-133, and isotope of the element caesium atomic watches work in all regions.

For example, an atomic watch can be regional. This means a timepiece manufactured for the US market might not work in Europe for the simple fact that a US national laboratory broadcasts at an unusual frequency. Likewise, some watches made for the European market might not work in Asia or South America.

Also, radio signals can be interrupted. Just like it's possible to have trouble picking up an over-the-air radio station in some remote environments, there are rare occasions when an atomic watch simply cannot pick up a laboratory signal. Radio signals can be interrupted by interference such as building materials or electromagnetic signals.

A typical atomic watch is designed to synchronize at night. This is to account for the fact that people tend to be home and sleeping. They are not likely to be in buildings that can interfere with radio signals, or to be in remote locations either.

Atomic Watches and Clock Drift

But why do some people insist on wearing these timepieces? There are as many reasons as there are buyers, but a common sentiment among atomic watch owners is that they simply do not like clock drift.

What is clock drift? It is the tendency of a clock to not run in perfect synchronization with a reference timepiece. A simpler way to put it is that every clock, regardless of its accuracy, has a tendency to run slow at some point. Clocks lose time. It is a fact of nature.

As previously mentioned, even atomic clocks drift. But at one second every 100 million years, this writer is sure no one is going to notice. The benefit of the atomic watch is that it avoids clock drift by synchronizing at least once every 24 hours. A person known to be a stickler about accuracy could wear an atomic watch with confidence that it is not subject to noticeable drift.

Buying an Atomic Watch

Atomic watches are made by multiple manufacturers. Ours come from Citizen, one of the most reputable watchmakers in the world. Citizen atomic watches are considered high-end timepieces with higher price points. But they are definitely worth the investment if you are looking for a highly accurate watch from a manufacturer known for quality and integrity.

One example is the AT9038-53E watch for men. It features a stainless-steel case, solar movement, Citizen eco-drive, water resistance to 200 metres, and more. The AT9038-53E is a beautiful chronograph perfect for work and leisure.

The Citizen CB0153-21A is a more budget friendly atomic watch with a range of features our customers tend to enjoy. It features an analogue display, with date, in a very nice presentation that offers just the right balance between classic looks and cutting-edge technology. It is water resistant up to 100 metres and boasts a stainless-steel case and solar movement.

Atomic watches are the most accurate timepieces you can put on your wrist. There is no simpler way to put it. Their accuracy is tied to atomic clocks that maintain TAI standards. What more could you want? If you are a stickler for accurate time down to the second, there is no better option than an atomic watch.