How Does A Radio Clock Work?


Radio Clocks work through a power source mostly in shape of a battery and a connection with one of the Atomic clocks, we will be looking into this more deeply, further in the article. Radio clocks are clocks that are connected and take time from the atomic clocks that are located in different institutions and places. 

Atomic clocks are what tell the actual time that our world runs on as of now. And Radio clocks are directly linked to one of these Atomic clocks when it comes to telling time, and this is the reason that they too along with the actual atomic clocks are considered super accurate. Radio clocks come in Analog as well as digital form, you don’t need to set their time, once you set in a battery in them, as they are directly connected to the atomic clocks nearby and would be getting signals directly from there. How do these clocks function you ask? well, these radio controlled clocks have radios inside along with the ordinary parts of being a clock and it receives signals directly from an atomic clock just as we said.

  1. So basically what happens is that the battery or the power source provides current to the microchip circuit within the clock
  2. Then this current makes the quartz crystals that are precisely cut and placed within the clock to vibrate at a speed of 32768 times a second.
  3. The Microchip circuit detects the crystal’s vibrations and turns them into regular electric pulses, at a speed of one per second, because as we know that is what is needed for the accuracy and normal functioning of the clock
  4. These electric pulses then turn to mechanical power and move the gears
  5. The radio inside aligns the movement and the mechanical energy that would be moving the hands or digits of the clocks, depending on whether its digital or analog
  6. The one gear that moves makes the other gear move. Hence, making the clock tick every second. Til the appliance of the power remains intact, which means the clock will keep running until the battery eventually gives up

These signals receiving clocks are also referred to as atomic clocks sometimes though they aren’t technically atomic clocks and are just merely receiving signals from actual atomic clocks. In case you are wondering, these signals aren’t detrimental to humans who are wearing a radio watch or are near a radio clock so you don’t have to worry on that aspect either

Components Of A Radio Clock

  • A TimeKeeping Mechanism: This is a way that the clock keeps an accurate account of the time passing by
  • An energy source: This is the way to provide energy to the motion of the clock, this could be a battery, solar power, an electric appliance, springs, or anything of that sort. But nowadays batteries are the most common example of how clocks are run
  • Display: Finally, this is the part that everyone sees. This can come in quite various designs. It could be a cartoon character or an antique-looking wooden lady, entirely depends on the maker and what he wants his/her work to look like

How Do You Set A Radio Controlled Clock?

Some radio clocks connect to the atomic clock as soon as you put the battery in but others take some time. For them specifically, all you need to do is to put in the battery in the clock, press your time zone which most of the radio clocks come with. Moreove,r you go on to hold the flap a bit above of the battery and keep holding it unltil it sets on the real time of that moment. This would make the clock somewhat accurate and it would adjust itself later automatically when it recieves the signal

A picture of a miniature atomic clock to better answer "How Does A Radio Clock Work?"

How Accurate is a Radio Controlled Clock?

Radio Controlled clocks are very accurate, as they are directly connected to the atomic clocks, which as you know are the most accurate types of clocks that we have as of now

Where Does the signal come from for radio controlled clocks?

Mostly the nearest Atomic clocks, within United States, the signal comes from the NIST radio station WWVB that is located near Fort Collins Colorado. Another interesting thing about this is that the frequency is broadcasted at a frequency of 60 kHz

Why Is My Radio Clock Spinning?

The hands of a radio clock might be spinning due to the battery of the clock having low power. Another reason for this might be due to DST for those of you who don’t know DST stands for Dayligh saving time, this is a phenomenon where people change the times in their clocks by an hour. So, if you live in a non-DST region, you should swhitch the DST switch off otherwise most of the radio clocks by themselves shift to DST

Does a radio-controlled watch/clock keep receiving standard electric wave all day?

No, a radio-controllled clock or watch doesn’t keep on recieving signals all day. But does this at a few specific times in a day.

Will your radio-controlled watch/clock stop when it fails to receive a standard electric wave?

No, even if there is a disruptance whilst recieving a signal from the atomic clock, your clock will not stop its normal way of functioning and would just act like an ordinary analog clock for the time being, unless it recives the Atomic signal again and check its accuracy and adapt if need be

Places Where Radio Clocks Recive The Least Signals

  • Near Electrical Appliances like the TV, Fax, Oven, e.t.c. But this doesn’t usually effect the radio clocks too radically
  • Inside a vehicle, train or an airplane: This is somewhat to be expected as you would be moving at a high speed, and it would be hard for a radio clock to adjust accordingly.
  • In or near a construction site or even heavy traffic
  • In and around a steel frame building like Condominium. But in this case, your radio clock would receive signals better if you are near a window
  • On mountains
  • Around high-voltage cables and wires

Are Radio Clocks Safe?

Yes, Radio clocks and watches are completely safe, To elaborate, they do not rely on atomic decay for their accuracy and have oscillating mass and springs just like the same old analog clocks that we use everywhere. They do, however, have a radio within them to receive signals from an actual atomic clock. This does mean that they would be receiving signals from the atomic clocks but this isn’t detrimental to the human who is wearing an atomic watch or near an atomic clock. So, to conclude this means that they are in no way harmful to humans. For those of you who don’t know the atomic class is actually the clocks are all the source of the accuracy like we explained a bit above in the article.

Hopefully, this article was helpful in answering some of your questions about radio clocks. If you have any clock-related questions, feel free to use the comment section below. And if you want to know why clocks don’t appear in dreams, we have a great article on just that so do give it a click if you are interested “Why don’t clocks appear in dreams? Clocks and dreams!Opens in a new tab.“. Here is also a link about the history of clocks if you want to give that a look “History of timekeeping devicesOpens in a new tab.

AK Iqbal

A University of London’ student with a passion for writing. Clocks have always intrigued me and the importance that they have in our lives is way beyond phenomenal. So, on this site, I write everything about clocks, everything from answering any clock-related queries that you might have along with recommending some of my favorite clocks accordingly. Moreover, I will also be conducting some researches on clock related topics and sharing the things that I learn. So stay tuned to ohmyclock for all the fun clocks related content

Recent Content