The Hoptroff No. 10 is powered by a Symmetricom Chip Scale Atomic Clock

First atomic pocket watch starts ticking

The world’s first atomic watch has started ticking with the luxury device due to go on sale later in the year.

London-based watch manufacturer Hoptroff claims the watch, which relies on a Symmetricom Chip Scale Atomic Clock, is the most accurate personal timepiece ever created.

The Hoptroff No. 10 contains a caesium gas chamber inside a temperature controlled oven, a laser to excite the caesium atoms and a microwave resonator to measure their atomic transitions in order to measure time.

The project is the brainchild of physicist turned watchmaker and managing the director of the firm, Richard Hoptroff.

“Everything I’ve done in my life has ended up being related to time. My first company was a forecasting software company and watch making slowly became a fascination,” he says.

“It’s not finished but we took the decision to make the announcement as soon as it started ticking.”

The technology behind the watch was first developed by Symmetricom in collaboration with the US Department of Defense for use in cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles where it is needed to continue navigating in the presence of GPS radio jamming, and the firm claims it has an accuracy of one and a half seconds per thousand years.

"It would be nice to strive for even greater accuracy, but relativistic effects start to kick in and time becomes subjective; in the eye of the beholder, so to speak," said Richard Hoptroff.

“As far as we know it is the first time an atomic time source has been used in a pocket watch movement, and it delights me that it was achieved right here in London, not Le Locle (in Switzerland) or Tokyo."

The front dial of the watch will be designed for marine navigation and the firm claim that, with the aid only of a sextant, the watch can determine longitude to within a nautical mile.

However, the watch does not take into account the effect of leap seconds – a requirement for maintaining alignment with solar time, which is a requirement for accurate longitude measurements -  and Hoptroff concedes this does mean the accuracy some of the watch’s instruments may degrade with time.

Measuring 82mm in diameter and 25mm thick, the watch is expected to be completed later this year, and only twelve examples costing "well into five figures" are due to be manufactured initially.

Customers will also be subject to security clearances due to the nature of the technology within the device.

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