It literally makes zero sense from a marketing standpoint that Hawaiian surfer lifestyle watch brand Bathys Hawaii would suddenly work on developing an atomic clock wristwatch (what you see in this post is a working prototype). While a few others are currently in production, Bathys may have beat the rest in terms of actually releasing a working prototype of the world’s first atomic clock powered wristwatch, and that is pretty cool. So yes, the upcoming Bathys Cesium 133 timepiece doesn’t fit in with the theme of the brand, but it will be designed to “fit in”. However, most people don’t know that Bathys founder Dr. John Patterson was first and foremost a scientist. Now things begin to make sense a bit more sense.

Bathys tracked the development of the atomic timekeeping chips that are novel, miniaturized versions of the much larger cesium-based atomic clocks developed in the 1950s. Patterson and engineer George Talbot have succeeded in producing the first watch natively accurate to one second each 1000 years likely using the “chip sized” atomic clock produced by Symmetricon. In 2012 the company released the SA.45s CASC (chip scale atomic clock) which was the first ever device of its type. Inside the chip are the complete components necessary for an atomic clock including cesium gas, a laser, heater, microwave filter, and a photodiode detector. The chips are actually available for everyone to purchase at about $1,500 each. In terms of the watch world that makes for a very expensive movement base. The chip itself has no output or power source and is meant to be used for larger applications than a watch.

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There are other “atomic clock watches,” but they merely receive radio signals from local government controlled atomic clocks around the world – of which there are six. And if you don’t live near one, then your “atomic” wristwatch isn’t receiving any signals so it is basically just a normal quartz watch. The Bathys Cesium 133 actually contains its own atomic clock as you can see and does not need to collect information from any external source to remain this accurate. The problem however is probably initially setting the thing! But Bathys has that covered too as the watch should be able to connect to the internet and update itself with the correct time when/if the battery dies.

atomic clock chip diagram

Further, the final version of the Cesium 133 watch will have some LED status lights and a more attractive case. The prototype is 60mm wide by 50mm tall, and 23mm thick. The final version will have a light-weight carbon fiber case, be smaller, and retain the classic Bathys moon phase dial. Patterson intentionally did not want to give the Cesium 133 a digital face as “that would have been what everyone else did.” So despite the intense accuracy of the watch, all the information is displayed on a traditional analog watch dial. The final version will also have improved battery life in the internal rechargeable lithium ion battery.

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What is important is that the watch works and is beyond just a proof-of-concept. Bathys promises that the Cesium 133 will be produced first as a limited edition of 20 watches in 2014, with more watches to perhaps come later. The projected price of each Bathys Cesium 133 atomic clock watch is $12,000. Which of course is expensive in the scheme of electronic watches, but not much at all in the scheme of the larger luxury watch market. Kudos to Bathys for the ultra accurate Cesium 133.

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