Bathys Hawaii unveils atomic wristwatch
By Ben Coxworth
October 4, 2013
With all the fuss over the recent influx of do-everything smartwatches, you would think that a new wristwatch that simply displays the time on an analog face wouldn't cause much of a stir. However, when that watch is described as "atomic" and is claimed to be "the world's most accurate wristwatch," people perk up and take notice. Kauai-based Bathys Hawaii Watch Company has just revealed its first prototype of such a watch, known as the Cesium 133.
There are already plenty of so-called "atomic watches" available, which maintain accuracy via a radio signal received from a central atomic clock. The Cesium 133, by contrast, has its own miniaturized version of such a clock built right in.
"Within a single chip there is a laser, a heater, a sealed cavity of cesium gas, a microwave filter and a photodiode detector," explains Bathys Hawaii founder Dr. John Patterson, who designed the watch with engineer George Talbot. "Using the 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 one second per thousand years."
As can be seen, the current prototype is pretty big. It uses regular lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and only runs for a few hours per charge. Plans call for a reduction in size and an increase in battery life, however, with hopes for a limited commercial run of 20 US-designed/Swiss-made watches sometime next year.
Needless to say, they won't be cheap – the Cesium 133's estimated retail price is US$12,000. While that's a lot more than your garden-variety Timex, it's actually considerably less than some luxury watches we've covered.
If you really want your own cesium-based timepiece, though, you can pick one up for just $1,500. That's the price of Symmetricom's Chip Scale Atomic Clock, but be warned: it's designed mainly for things like allowing geographically-separated groups of people to stay exactly coordinated over time, and doesn't actually keep track of the time of day.