Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Loony time (still) comes but twice a year

Crazy clockIt’s funny how the twice-yearly insanity of shuffling clocks back and forth by an hour in response to a wartime plan intended to boost the hours of productive labour during daylight hours has managed to stick, and how irritating I have come to find it.

Having waffle about it in here the past (here and here and elsewhere), I had rather come to the conclusion that I should stop, since merely repeating the same thing isn’t really very helpful.

But it seems I can’t, as each year seems to bring about some daft claim or revelation about the practice, or result in some further nuisance following the change.

And I do change my own clocks etc, despite having various radio-controlled and GPS based timing devices, I am in no hurry to give up the hardware that has worked reliably for years – and only protests when I interfere with it every six months.

But this year’s problem came from an unexpected source – the lump of rather expensive titanium I wrap around my wrist to help prevent me staying out of doors too long.

In theory, having told it where I live (this toy was made just before the managed to create a GPS version that did not eat batteries), my watch should not need to be touched for at least 25 years (so will probably last longer than me). Thanks to radio-control from Germany, it should look after itself, including any changes to accommodate what is now referred to as DST or daylight saving time – better known here as BST or British silly time. It should need nothing else except a dash of sunshine to keep it powered, or a few minutes under a cloudy sky. In the worst case of being forgotten in a drawer somewhere, it will shut itself down (displays off and hands stopped) and keep time internally for at least five years, springing into life automatically when light falls on it.

But this year has seen something go wrong, and so far, thanks to an instruction manual as thick as a finger and in micro-type (I can’t be bothered loading the CD that came with it), I still haven’t been able to track down the source of the problem.

Although it shows perfect UTC, local time has suffered some sort of nervous breakdown, partly due to DST (which it did not reset itself for), and partly down to me pressing some button or function, which has added another hour to the apparent DST error.

So far, I have succeeded in getting it show local time that is two hours ahead of the actual time, and have also managed to convince the time signal receiver that it should be using the Japanese time reference – despite the programming showing the watch as being located in London, the representative city for the UK

So, once again, BST has given rise to yet another blog entry here… and it’s an ongoing one until I find out what button I pressed when I shouldn’t.

Assuming I do plough through the manual and find out where the anomaly is, I will come back and add an ‘Update’ below.


I did eventually haul out the watch manual and plough through the various ‘fault’ offerings, and even found out what was wrong.

The watch has a ‘check’ function, which sets all the hands to a known reference point at which they should all correspond to 00:00:00 for time, or their default indication if they show a setting.

When I set this off… when the hands stopped moving, they were pointing in all sorts of directions, suggesting that the last BST/DST signal had been scrambled, and screwed the whole thing up.

I reset all the hands to their correct reference points, and then waited for a few nights to see if the DCF77 signal set the watch correctly… it didn’t.

Although disappointed by this, I also was not surprised.

Over the past year or so, seven of the ten clocks I have which use DCF77 to maintain their timekeeping have gradually failed to pick up this signal, and this has now fallen to only two successfully maintaining themselves.

I recently took the watch out for a long walk, out into the open and several miles from home, but repeated attempts to sniff the signal from Frankfurt failed completely, with the signal meter not even registering at the lowest level.

Even in Central Scotland, the range is only some 600 km from the Frankfurt transmitter, which should be well within the reliable operating range for a 77 kHz LF signal, especially when it is reported to work reasonably well all the way out to 2,000 km from the source.

Sure, I could set it using the manual option… but that’s not the idea, and it still leaves me with the mystery of the disappearing DCF77 signal, which might be seasonal (but has not been a problem over past winters), or down to maintenance, but I can find no service notices, and doubt if this would last for months anyway.


November 8, 2012 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , ,

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