Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 5.08
August 1999



How To



Download ATPM 5.08

Choose a format:

Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by Frank Petrie,

A Matter of Time

We’re all aware to what extent computers have changed our day-to-day lives. We can check our bank balances and pay our bills without leaving our desk. We can electronically converse with complete strangers on the other side of the planet on any myriad of topics. And of course, Bill Gates has replaced the Soviet Union in our collective hearts as the object of our national distrust.

But now one global company is proposing a change that may take some adjustment (or getting used to). Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker famous for creating fashionable, hip time pieces, has devised a new method of measuring time.

It’s called Internet Time and, purely by coincidence I’m sure, each unit of measurement is known as a Swatch beat. With Internet Time the day is divided into 1000 beats; each beat is the equivalent of 1 minute 26.4 seconds. So noon, formerly known as 12:00 p.m., will now be known as @ 500 online. Swatch also established a new meridian on Jakob-Staempfli Street in Biel, Switzerland, home of the company’s international headquarters. A day in Internet Time begins at midnight Biel Mean Time, 000 Swatch beats (Central European Wintertime).

Why do we need an alternative method of timekeeping? Knowing what time it is elsewhere in the world can be critically important. Converting scheduled times for online events to your local time can be confusing and prone to error. That’s where Internet Time comes in. If you plan on using your computer for some event at the other end of the world, all you have to do is find out the Internet Time of the event and check your desktop Internet Time clock, Palm Organizer, or Swatch. Internet Time is always the same anywhere in the world at any given moment—@620 in Frankfurt, Germany is @620 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Is this for real? Who knows. Will it give Swatch a lot of free publicity? You bet. Apple, who has long been rumored to be in talks with the Swiss firm about marketing a line of watches to compliment their iMac line, has already devoted a page to the topic with links to Swatch’s site, while integrating Internet Time into its home page’s date and time counter. And Swatch is actively encouraging webmasters to place the clocks on their sites. In fact, Swatch has included Internet Time on its most recent line of wrist watches.

Can the idea catch on? One would imagine that it would have to be a bit more successful than America’s attempted adoption of the metric system. After all, there are very pragmatic reasons for an Internet Time standard. It’s not meant to replace 24-hour timekeeping, but it is to be used as an online tool. There was no pressing niche for the metric system to fill. In fact, the only time that I recall the metric system being used publicly was when they painted field distances on every outfield wall in major league baseball in both meters and feet.

But will Swatch’s push to make Internet Time a new standard for the world meet with success? Only time will tell.

Frank Petrie,, is a renaissance guy on a limited budget. Send your Segments submissions to

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (0)

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article