Atomic-Age Clocks That Set Themselves

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Life has gotten just a bit easier at home by scattering around a few radio-controlled clocks, also called atomic clocks, that set the time automatically. No more wondering if we've got the right hour and minute, and no more resetting when it comes to daylight saving time or a power outage.

The new clocks get the time via an atomic clock near Fort Collins, Colo., which transmits the exact minute and second via a low-frequency radio signal. Don't worry; there is little that's geeky about the new timekeepers. Put a battery in, punch a button on the back to tell it your time zone, and an hour or two later it has found the signal and set itself correctly.

Atomic clock
COURTESY OF
LACROSSE TECHNOLOGY

These clocks have been around a few years but haven't caught on as quickly here as in Japan and Europe. I ran across them while holiday shopping online and bought several for $10 to $25 made by LaCrosse Technology. I went for the analog look, which I prefer for wall clocks, with hands instead of digits. Analog versions are easier to find now–digital dominated in atomic clocks for several years–and can be seen in everything from watches to clock radios to a stylish, cabinet-style model coming later this year from Seiko Clocks ($220).