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How to set the time on a radio controlled watch

How does a radio controlled watch work? 

The time, date, daylight saving time and year on a radio controlled watch are captured from the airwaves via low frequency radio signals, based on which the watch automatically sets or adjusts itself. This is usually done at night to ensure that the watch does not interfere with other household appliances that use radio waves. The watch picks up the signal from the nearest transmitter, within approximately 500-1500 kilometers. There are six channels around the world: in Germany, Great Britain, the US, China and two in Japan. 

When purchasing a radio controlled watch, pay attention to which transmitter locations the watch is suitable for. Not all radio-controlled watches can connect to all time transmitters. So, if you want to purchase a radio controlled watch, pay attention to which part of the world you will be using the watch in. For example, there is no transmitter or range in Australia and New Zealand. 

If the connection to the transmitter is lost, the watch will not stop running. It then continues to run like a normal quartz watch and synchronizes automatically when the correct transmitter is within range again. 

Multi-band 6 radio-controlled watches can tune to all six available stations.

Transmitter locations/frequencies

Mainflingen, Germany DCF77 (77,5 kHz) 
Anthorn, United Kingdom MSF (60 kHz) 
Allouis, Frankrijk TDF (162 kHz)
Fort Collins, United States WWVB (60 kHz) 
Fukushima, Japan JJY (40 kHz)
Fukuoka, Japan JJY (60 kHz)
Shangqiu, China BPC (68,5 kHz)

Setting a radio controlled watch

The reason to purchase a radio controlled watch is that this watch sets itself to the correct time and date for the time zone where the wearer is located. However, it sometimes happens that the watch is not set to the correct time, or the summer/winter time is not set correctly. For example, if the watch has been out of range of the transmitter for a longer period of time or the battery is (almost) empty. It is then necessary for the watch to be resynchronized with the atomic clock. 

1. Make sure the watch has a new battery or is fully charged. Synchronizing with the transmitter takes a lot of energy and if the watch has too little power it can fail. 

2. Check that you are within range of the transmitter your watch is suitable for. 

3. Reception may be poor in concrete buildings or in areas with a lot of metal. Stand near an open window or go outside. 

4. Take your watch's manual and follow all the steps carefully. 


If you have completed the steps above and the watch still does not sync, there may be a fault in the movement. Then visit a watchmaker to have the watch checked. Always take the instructions for use with you. Each radio controlled watch is different, and the watchmaker does not have the manual at hand for every different watch or brand.