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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Radio Clocks in Australia

NMI regularly receives enquiries regarding the operation of radio clocks and watches in Australia. These are often marketed as 'atomic' clocks and watches, and are readily available from distributors in North America, Asia and Europe.

Like virtually all consumer-level time-keeping devices, the time in radio clocks is derived primarily from a quartz crystal oscillator incorporated into the device's electronics. Radio clocks have the additional capability of receiving, and at regular intervals synchronising their time output, to a radio time signal derived from a national time standard. These radio time signals include:

  • WWV operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA
  • DCF77 operated by PTB in Germany
  • MSF, formerly known as The Rugby Time Signal, operated by the National Physical Laboratory in the UK
  • JJY operated by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan

Unfortunately, Australia is geographically beyond the range where any of these radio time signals can be reliably received. Furthermore, there is currently no equivalent time signal broadcast in Australia, and no plans for one to be established in the foreseeable future.

Radio clocks and watches brought into Australia from overseas suppliers should generally operate satisfactorily as free running quartz clocks. Since no synchronising radio time signal is available, they will display no accuracy advantage over quartz clocks and watches of equivalent quality available locally.

Click here for a helpful article with more details about radio clocks.