A scientist says he’s created the world’s first true atomic wristwatch, packing a chip-scale atomic clock into a wearable carbon fiber case. And yes, he’s made watches before.
You may have seen so-called atomic wristwatches around, but there’s a caveat: they actually keep atomic time by receiving radio signals from nearby government-owned atomic clocks. If they go out of range of those signals, you’ll be left relying on a plain old quartz movement.
The Cesium 133 by scientist John Patterson’s manufacturer Bathys Hawaii, first unveiled half a year ago in a more industrial-looking form and currently seeking Kickstarter backers, is different. Patterson calls his watch the “world’s first true atomic wristwatch,” and the difference is in the insides: a chip-scale atomic clock (CSAC) hosting a cesium-based oscillator fits right inside the case, dividing each second precisely into the 9,192,631,770 vibrations of the cesium atom.
“The technology found in this watch is something even a decade ago no one could imagine existing in such a small package,” Patterson said on the Bathys Hawaii Web site.
“Within a single chip there [are] a laser, a heater, a sealed cavity of cesium gas, a microwave filter, and a photodiode detector. Using the exact same principle of counting hyperfine lines of excited cesium 133 atoms used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), our watch is able to achieve unprecedented levels of accuracy; on the order of 1 second per thousand years.”
This means that the Bathys Cesium 133 would be the world’s most accurate wristwatch, only losing up to a single second every 1,000 years. This is more accurate by three orders of magnitude than current wristwatch technologies.
The current iteration of the watch is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that will run up to 36 hours between chargers, and the dial displays hours, minutes, seconds, the date, and the moon phase. Under the case, the CSAC is paired with a Ronda 509 Quartz movement so that the timekeeping of the CSAC can be translated to the dial.
All of this is housed in carbon fiber, which keeps the watch lightweight and rust-free.
If you want one, it’s not going to be like picking up a Seiko from your local jeweller. The six prototypes are going for US$6,000 apiece on Kickstarter, while a new watch will cost you US$10,000, and very limited numbers are going to be produced. In haute horlogerie terms, however, this is a pretty great price for something that’s bound to become a collector’s item in years to come.