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Articles > Advanced watches

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The advance of watches

Advanced watches

In 1990 radio controlled wristwatches or as they are sometimes called "atomic watches" reached the market. These wristwatches normally receive a radio signal from one of the national atomic clock facilities around the world, for example the National Institute of Standards and Technology located in Boulder, Colorado in the United States. This radio signal tells the wristwatch exactly what time it is, in theory precise to a fraction of a nanosecond. It will also reset itself when daylight saving time changes. Similar signals are broadcast from Rugby (MSF time signal), England and Frankfurt, Germany. In recent years, mass production has meant that atomic watches have become as cheap as quartz watches, though market share still remains small as interest from big manufacturers is limited.

Similarly watches with GPS time synchronisation use the satellite networks time signals. As GPS receivers are significantly more complex, very few wrist-watches integrating GPS are available and most of which are very large compared to regular watches. Early examples are the Casio PRO TREK GPS Satellite Navi and the Garmin Forerunner 201. Suunto is the only company offering a reasonable-sized watch integrating GPS.

Other technological enhancements to wristwatches have been explored but most of them remained unnoticed. In 2005 for example, a company has put into market an alarm wristwatch with an accelerometer inside that monitors the user's sleep and rings during one of his almost-awake phases.

A number of functionalities non directly related to time have also been inserted into watches. As miniaturized electronics become cheaper, watches have been developed containing calculators, video games, digital cameras, keydrives, GPS receivers and cellular phones. In the early 1980s Seiko marketed a watch with a television receiver in it, although at the time television receivers were too bulky to fit in a wristwatch, and the actual receiver and its power source were in a book-sized box with a cable that ran to the wristwatch. In the early 2000s, a self-contained wristwatch television receiver came on the market, with a strong enough power source to provide one hour of viewing.

These watches have not had sustained long-term sales success. As well as awkward user interfaces due to the tiny screens and buttons possible in a wearable package, and in some cases short battery life, the functionality available has not generally proven sufficiently compelling to attract buyers. Such watches have also had the reputation as ugly and thus mainly geek toys. Now with the ubiquity of the mobile phone in many countries, which have bigger screens, buttons, and batteries, interest in incorporating extra functionality in watches seems to have declined.

Several companies have however attempted to develop a computer contained in a WristWatch (see also wearable computer). As of 2005, the only programmable computer watches to have made it to market are the Seiko Ruputer, the Matsucom onHand, and the Fossil, Inc. Wrist PDA, although many digital watches come with extremely sophisticated data management software built in.


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