Archive for February, 2016

Industry News, February 2016

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

DARPA Vector Logo.eps

DARPA Calls for More Accurate Independent Timekeepers

By Aaron Recksiek, CW21


A Chip-Scale Atomic Clock about the size of a grain of rice.

In our modern world, much of how we communicate and navigate is dependent upon perfectly accurate timekeeping, accurate to the atomic level. So far, much of this is done by synchronization and calibration with a reference signal received by GPS, radio frequency, or cell towers. Even in the clock and watch industry, more and more timepieces are produced each year that receive synchronization with a master clock, especially with the growth and popularity of smartwatches.
    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a division of the United States Department of Defense, is looking for more accurate and stable independent timekeeping devices. There has already been a lot of research and development of Chip-Scale Atomic Clocks (CSAC) since their first introduction in 2004. The current standard of timekeeping in a CSAC is +/- .00000000001 second in a stable, controlled environment. Over the last 10 years, however, there have been constant limitations with these clocks, sometimes the size of a grain of rice. Cost has always been a factor as well as differences in frequency with temperature fluctuations and loss or reduction of power—some of the exact same problems we encounter with
mechanical and quartz timepieces.
    In December, 2015, DARPA announced the plans for the program Atomic Clocks with Enhanced Stability (ACES). The goal is to essentially duplicate what the famous British clockmaker John Harrison did nearly 300 years ago when he unveiled the H1, a marine clock capable of allowing ships to navigate more precisely. This earned Harrison £20,000, or £2.81 million in today’s equivalent. DARPA has designated at least $50 million to initially fund ACES, with the hopes that a more reliable atomic clock can be created. The requirements of the program are to create portable clocks that perform 1,000 times better than the current generation. They must be shock resistant and capable of withstanding extremes in environments and temperatures. The final product must also fit completely within an enclosure not exceeding three cubic inches, including all associated electronics, and run on .25 watt of power or less.
    The need for these devices is multifaceted. The reliance solely on GPS synchronization has become too much of a problem. In the cases of an aircraft, ship, or soldier veering out of GPS signal, the uncertainty of location or orientation becomes exponentially compounded the more time spent out of range. The need for these clocks would become even more critical in the case of a complete loss of the GPS system. Every division of the Defense Department would benefit from the advance of this technology, not to mention the hundreds of industries that could also benefit from its use.
    DARPA is hosting a Proposers Day at their headquarters in Virginia on February 1, 2016, where all interested parties can come together to have questions answered, present ideas, and network with other professionals leading into the beginning of this project. Registration for the event ended on January 25.The Satelite GPS system is an overused and potentially vulnerable infrastructure.


Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

A Message from Our AWCI President, Fred T. White, CMW21, February 2016

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI PresidentLast month my message was “You Hold in Your Hands the Tools to Shape Your Own Destiny.” I would like to explore that concept a little farther. There is a young man here in Clinton, Maryland, who has an interesting story to tell. His name is Brian Pappas and he owns Mama Stella’s Ristorante Italiano. As a young man of 14, he went to work at the restaurant as a bus boy—cleaning the tables, vacuuming the floors, and doing any odd jobs that the owner asked him to do. While doing this job he said to me, “One day I will be a waiter here.” Time passed, and one day we were in the restaurant, and guess who our waiter was—Brian. He worked at this job for a year or two, and then he said, “My next job will be maître d’.” Not too long after he said this, he became the maître d’, and then he went on to be the manager. After several years as manager, he had the opportunity to buy the restaurant, and to this day he operates this fine restaurant.
    So you see, you can be in control of your own destiny; it is entirely up to you. You can believe that good things will happen to you, and they will. It’s not enough just to believe, but you must work at it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It takes a positive attitude, lots of study, and hard work to make good things happen. There are many opportunities for us to improve ourselves, by attending seminars, conventions, and classes at AWCI. One thing we should all strive for is learning more about our profession, whether we are a clockmaker or watchmaker—“It’s what we learn after we know it all that counts.”         
    We can attend an affiliate chapter convention or AWCI’s convention; there are plenty of chances to get an education. We should strive to learn something new each day. If we challenge ourselves each day, doing something on the lathe or working on a complicated timepiece, then we are improving. I cannot think of anything that is more boring than doing the same job day after day. If all parts were readily available and we could go to the magic wall and just pick them up, then where is the challenge? Such is not the case for most independent watchmakers and clockmakers. We have to track them down or alter the part or make it or have it made. We should continue to study micromechanics because that is going to be the way of the future of horology. As parts become more difficult to obtain, we must rely on our own skills.
    Author David L. Olpin says, “Success is doing something you enjoy doing, doing it well, and having people appreciate you for doing it.” So it should be with us who work at the bench. A recent customer wrote me referring to his watch, “Reunited with my old friend Friday. Everything seems to be working fine.” Another customer states, “Have had it on since it arrived, keeping perfect time. Better than ever and looks great.” That is what makes it all worthwhile, doing a job that your customers appreciate. Because CUSTOMERS are the most important part of our business. Without them we have nothing. I believe that we do have in our control THE TOOLS TO SHAPE OUR OWN DESTINY. It is up to you what you do.