It probably started on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where buying knockoff watches is a sport enjoyed by three generations of my family.
Over time, Helaine has bought me some really nice watches too, including the one pictured. Made in Germany, it is identified on the face as Synctime. Whether that’s really the manufacturer or the name of the model has not been established.
This watch has a tiny radio inside. Every morning at 1:00 AM, it listens for a signal from WWVB in Boulder, CO (My friend Peter has made up a slogan for the station: “WWVB, all time, all the time”), and then resets itself to the correct time.
I’m not sure how a little wristwatch can hear this very low frequency station, but it does. It doesn’t catch it every night, but I’ve still never seen it drift off even a second. Because the station is on a frequency well below the AM broadcast band, the antenna should be extremely long. Obviously, that’s no impediment.
It has had its band repaired twice and the stem replaced once. The crystal has a few deep gouges. It does not take a licking and keep on ticking.
When I first got the watch, I’d send it to Chicago every year or so to get the little button battery changed. The process was described by the importer as difficult. It is. I know, because tonight, I changed the battery.
You know it’s time to replace the cell inside because when the second hand points to the “12”, it stops for five seconds, then races to the “1.” That’s disconcerting the first time you see it. Watches aren’t supposed to do that.
There are four tiny screws on the back of the case and another tinier one that holds the battery inside. A rubber grommet, probably meant to keep it watertight, immediately pops off as soon as the case is dismantled.
Wearing a set of magnifying lenses, I made the change in about 15 minutes. Then, pushing the stem in a staccato fashion, I electromechanically lined the hands up at 12:00:00. From there, it was placed it on a windowsill.
I waited. The instructions say recalibration can take five days! Until the clock ‘hears’ WWVB, the hands don’t move at all.
Tonight, it only took around 10 minutes. Once the signal is heard, the hands race around the face, stopping at the correct time… in California. A pull of the stem and twist of its knob, moves the hour hand, one hour at a time, until EDT is reached.
I love this watch. It’s thin and stylish (though its band has sometimes wreaked havoc on my shirt cuffs) and still 100% geek approved.