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September 1999

Timepieces: News

The Beat Goes On

Satellites and radio frequencies provide precise timekeeping for certain electronic devices but might seem far removed from your showcases. If your watchmaker doesn't already have a radio-controlled clock, however, it's only a matter of time until he or she does.

At Naples House of Clocks in Naples, FL, for example, all clockmakers and watchmakers use Junghans radio-controlled clocks to reset and regulate a store full of timepieces. Owner Greg Woodrell expects radio-controlled clocks to become the norm for setting quartz clock movements in five years. For watches, the outlook depends on more introductions into the market, he says.

Clocks to Watches

Radio-controlled clocks have been sold in myriad outlets, including catalogs and electronics stores, for several years. They reset to the correct nanosecond each morning at 1 a.m. to the beat of the official U.S. atomic clock operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Fort Collins, CO.

The technology has been used for years in clocks and navigational equipment. But analog watches required a bulky antenna to receive the radio signals until the technology was adapted about three years ago. That's when German giant Junghans started to sell a watch in the U.S. through Wittnauer (which no longer sells them) and LaCrosse-McCormick, La Crescent, MN.

Most recently, Living Technologies, a division of Chaney Instruments Co., began to offer a line of watches set each night via the atomic clock in Colorado. The company sells radio-controlled clocks made by Arcron-Zeit of Germany and now has branched out with 15 analog watch models. "At $150-$250 retail and with the watches' styling, we feel they complement what jewelers sell," says Patrick Devlin, director of sales and marketing.

At LaCrosse-McCormick, sales manager Lee Hafemann says the company's higher-priced steel-and-goldplated watch line also fills a niche at the jewelry counter. "It's a big hit with retired engineers, doctors, timepiece collectors and news reporters," he says. "We have a few on some movie star wrists as well." (Note: For aficionados who knew radio-controlled watches occasionally missed a signal in remote or distant areas, Hafemann says the National Institute of Standards and Technology increased the signal power last month, making such occurrences rare or non-existent.)

  • LaCrosse-McCormick, La Crescent, MN; (800) 346-9544,
  • Living Technologies, Lake Geneva, WI; (800) 777-0565,

After the user sets the time zone, these radio-controlled watches adjust automatically each night to the official U.S. atomic clock in Colorado. The resetting accounts for daylight time, leap years, even leap seconds. The Junghans models (left) from LaCrosse-McCormick are $895 suggested retail in steel, $975 in goldplate. Living Technologies (right) offers 15 analog styles made by Arcron-Zeit. They are $150 to $250 retail.

– by Michael Thompson

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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