Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage? - Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum Japanese Watch Reviews, Discussion & Trading
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I'm wondering about how much of North America is covered by the Radio Control signals to keep RC watches accurate. There's a world map in the Seiko calalogue (see p. 8 http://www.seiko-watch.co.jp/purchase/pdf/ALL_2010a.pdf) that has a pretty skimpy amount of coverage over most of the western 2/3 of the USA, but looks like it misses Seattle and San Fransisco, and of course Chicago & New York are wa-a-ay out of range. The only Canadian coverage seems to be southern Alberta/Saskatchewan.

Is coverage really this limited in North America?

Can anyone comment on how far north into western Canada the coverage extends?

Do different models (Citizen?) have better coverage?

I'm contemplating an RC/solar watch in the not-too-distant future, and want to know if I'll actually be getting the radio waves. Thanks in advance ... (edit: I have attached a hard-to-see photo from the 2009-2010 catalogue with the same photo, but you get a better image by clicking on the link above.)
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I live in Miami, Florida more than 2,000 miles away from Ft. Collins, CO WWVB atomic radio signal.


All my RC syncronize every night @ 2AM without fault O:-)


The maps are helpful but not really indicative of the "true" coverage areas. Florida, South Florida that is, is right at the very edge of the WWVB coverage area.


If you look at the map, Alaska is well outside the WWVB broadcast range. When I was up there last year, my RC watch managed to syncronize a couple of nights during the trip ;D ;D


In terms of radio coverage for a very low frequency 60Khz radio signal, North America is one of the most challenging places on earth to do this, due to the sheer size of the land mass (3,000 to 4,000 miles wide). Those of us leaving in the east coast are the ones bound to have the worst or spotty reception just because we are the ones farthest away from the source signal.


If you live in the West coast, rocky mountain area, the midwest, in theory, your reception quality should be better and more steady.


However, due to the low frequency nature of the signal, regardless of location, your watch will not syncronize in these places:


Inside or around tall buildings/structures (People living in NYC have a heck of a time with this)


Inside subways


Aboard airplanes


Inside moving vehicles


Close to power lines


Zones with lots of radio interference


The reason why RC watches are programmed from factory to automatically sync at 2AM is because at that time of the night the signal strength is optimal, there is less solar interference and the "dark path" meaning when it is dark in Ft. Collins it is also dark in your location, ensures optimal signal travel to and from the atmosphere.


People think that watch RC technology is some easy picnic but it is not. Other factors that affect reception are the watches themselves. Citizens, in my experience, have the best and most sensitive antennas (often located in the 9 o'clock side of the case) ensuring steady nightly radio sync. Other watches are not as good. Some people have complained about Casios for example. I find that Seikos tend to be in between Citizen and Casio RC watches.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Where in Western Canada do you live?


Never had a problem catching a signal while in Vancouver. But remember that you have mountain ranges in between you and Ft. Collins (The Cascades and the rockies).


Before spending $800-$1,000 on a new Seiko Brightz Radiowave Solar or a Citizen RC, I would suggest buying an inexpensive Casio Waveceptor RC watch to test and see (Get a feel for) the quality and consistency of the signal in your place of residency.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I live in southern California and simply place my Pro-trek CASIO by a north-facing window to get reliable time-synchs.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Currently, there are only 5 regions in the world covered by Celsium clock radio signals, all in the northern hemisphere:


USA (WWVB call signal)
UK (MSF call signal)
Germany (DCF-77 call signal)
China (BPC call signal)
Japan (JPY 40/60 call signals. Japan has 2 atomic clocks)


I believe there is another atomic clock tower somewhere in Switzerland.


People living down under in Australia and NZ, have reported been able to sync their RC watches to the Japan atomic radio towers. Obviously, Australia and NZ are well beyond the map coverage area for the JPY radio signals.


This is a good place to start with educational material regarding atomic clocks and atomic clock radio broadcasts and how the technology works:


http://www.nist.gov/pml688/


For some reason, NIST is not allowing me to direct link to their web page. If you can't see it, simply Google: "NIST time and frequency division home page".
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Great thread topic! And great information, minidriver! I'd like to see this broken down by watch brand and location if possible, although this may be asking too much. Anyway, I live in Vancouver (1075 miles for Fort Collins, where the transmitter is), and spend quite of bit of time in the Gulf Islands just off the coast of Vancouver. Here's what I've found: (a) Junghans Solar Ceramic: perfect (every night) reception in both locations; (b) Casio Oceanus (I've had two, one now sold): almost perfect reception in both locations (the two locations are only about 30 miles apart). I've not had to put the watch on the window sill or anything like that; it syncs when I'm wearing it at night in bed; (c) Seiko Brightz (SAGZ007): not as frequent reception as the others, maybe 3/4 of the time in both locations. The one brand I haven't been able to test is Citizen. I gather, though, from others that Citizen models yield very good reception, so would expect as good performance in this respect as my Oceanus or better.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

My Junghans Mega 1000 was quite good also.


The Citizens are definitely better than the Seikos for what I have been able to see so far. Citizen really has invested in refining the technology, imho.


I briefly had a Casio Waveceptor and it was mostly OK.
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Old 11-12-2010, 05:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I live on the East Coast US.

I have 2 Citizen RC and 1 Casio RC, but I have had many other Casio RC, G Shock or Waveceptor.

I've done some side by side tests and I have seen that the Casios are very sensitive to location and time of day. The Casios require the searching of a "hotspot". A few inches away from that spot and sync success erodes. The Casios tend not to work outside of the late night/early morning hours.

The Citizens on the other hand are very impressive. They work like you would expect them to without any gymnastics. I've synced them at noon and the early evening which is amazing. Also I can leave them anywhere in the house and they will sync.
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:23 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Northern California and I get reception about 85 to 90% of the time. Can't complain considering the distance and terrain.
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:08 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I'm in southern California.

My Casios all need to be coddled a bit, as they have several very specific parts of my apartment that they need to be in. Having said that, when they're in those "hotspots," they sync every night without fail.

In regards to Citizen, I've noticed that they'll sync anywhere I try them. Doesn't matter if they're dial up, face down, receiver pointing north/south/east/west, in a closet, in my dresser, on the wrist, etc., etc.

I've even had my newest Citizen WP AT sync in the middle of the day. It's pretty incredible, really.
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Old 11-12-2010, 10:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

First of all +1 for Citizen.
I'm on the South shore of Montreal and I get very often good signal for my Atessa, but the Casio's are a bit more finicky.
Some weeks its every night and some other not even once a week..

I'm still waiting for the DST change on all of them. But this week even the citizen did not connect...

All in due time
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Old 11-13-2010, 11:01 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

This page has maps and the coverage at different times of the day. http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/grp40/radioclocks.cfm
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Old 11-13-2010, 11:08 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Wahou!

They all connected yerterday night.

I'm just like a kid when I see them all perfectly in tune with 100% good time
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Old 11-13-2010, 11:12 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bulldog15
This page has maps and the coverage at different times of the day. http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/grp40/radioclocks.cfm
Great info on that page Thanks dude!

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Old 11-13-2010, 07:54 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

My 3rd generation Skyhawk build date Feb '10 synchs EVERY night at 2am even while wearing sleeping.

I'm 50 miles north of Toronto with large trees around the house. I can do a manual synch anytime during the day. In fact I once got a synch driving north at 10 pm with watch held out the window. Tried this 4 or 5 times and finally got a receive signal and confirmation on low.

Day time synchs around factorys and hospitals don't work due to interferance noise.

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Old 11-14-2010, 08:25 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I live in eastern washington state and my casio's sync up 6 nights out of 7.
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Old 11-15-2010, 08:54 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

IMHO, RC is like "icing on the cake". If the signal is not received, most RC's revert to average quartz accuracy which is good enough for most users. Of course reception should be considered when making the extra monetary outlay for a RC watch.
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Old 11-15-2010, 10:58 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by doc4
I'm wondering about how much of North America is covered by the Radio Control signals to keep RC watches accurate. There's a world map in the Seiko calalogue (see p. 8 http://www.seiko-watch.co.jp/purchase/pdf/ALL_2010a.pdf) that has a pretty skimpy amount of coverage over most of the western 2/3 of the USA, but looks like it misses Seattle and San Fransisco, and of course Chicago & New York are wa-a-ay out of range. The only Canadian coverage seems to be southern Alberta/Saskatchewan.

Is coverage really this limited in North America?

Can anyone comment on how far north into western Canada the coverage extends?

Do different models (Citizen?) have better coverage?

I'm contemplating an RC/solar watch in the not-too-distant future, and want to know if I'll actually be getting the radio waves. Thanks in advance ... (edit: I have attached a hard-to-see photo from the 2009-2010 catalogue with the same photo, but you get a better image by clicking on the link above.)
For a more precise sense of atomic clock broadcast coverage take a look at the NIST website. http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/grp40/wwvb.cfm For anyone living in the USA, most of Canada and Mexico there should not be a problem catching the longwave signal. Check out this propogation map. http://tf.nist.gov/timefreq/images/r...ge/0800utc.jpg
Because your tiny watch/receiver/antenna setup is not efficient at catching signals it will need some help. The best time to catch a signal is in the early morning and the watch should be placed near a window.
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Old 11-15-2010, 11:02 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seikojohn

For a more precise sense of atomic clock broadcast coverage take a look at the NIST website. http://www.nist.gov/pml688/grp40/wwvb.cfm For anyone living in the USA, most of Canada and Mexico there should not be a problem catching the longwave signal. http://tf.nist.gov/timefreq/images/r...ge/0800utc.jpg
Because your tiny radio/receiver/antenna setup is not efficient at catching signals it will need some help. The best time to catch a signal is in the early morning and the watch should be placed near a window.

I am 2,000 miles away from Ft. Collins, CO.


All my RC Citizens sync every night @ 2AM without missing a beat.


The watches catch the 60Khz signal ANYWHERE in my house, inside drawers and away from windows. No fiddling with "hot spots", setting it by a window sill or other baby sitting measures required.


Citizen RC watches, RULE!
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Old 11-15-2010, 11:37 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by minidriver

I am 2,000 miles away from Ft. Collins, CO.


All my RC Citizens sync every night @ 2AM without missing a beat.


The watches catch the 60Khz signal ANYWHERE in my house, inside drawers and away from windows. No fiddling with "hot spots", setting it by a window sill or other baby sitting measures required.


Citizen RC watches, RULE!
My experience from my Virginia location the Radio Shack atomic clock catches a signal every night but it can't be in the middle of a 2 story frame house. It's preset to atttempt synchonizing 4 times a day but during daytime the signal gets down into the noise floor. The clock display has a simple signal meter that indicates lots of daytime signal but it's mostly noise.
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Old 11-15-2010, 11:50 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I rarely, if ever, get the ability to syncronize during the daytime. But my Citizens are rock solid getting a signal in the middle of the night
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Old 11-15-2010, 12:18 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I've synced with my CTZ as late as noon and as early as 6pm. East Coast US.
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Old 11-15-2010, 02:02 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

In the mountains of NE PA USA and the Casio's sync just about every night but only during the hours between 12-4AM.
I leave them in an acrylic top watch box. It's been impossible to get a manual sync during the day or any other hours other than what I mention above but I am a happy camper to see them synced when I wake up in the morning.
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Old 11-20-2010, 05:59 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

In Brooklyn NY, it syncs fine at night (no major surrounding buildings)
In the Bronx in a high rise, can't get nuttin'
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:22 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Default Re: Radio-controlled watches ... quality/area of North American coverage?

I came across this post when searching for info on the coverage of the radio signal from the US. Since I live in Barbados I was not sure what to expect. The NIST coverage maps suggest that the signal is strongest in my area in the early AM hours.

I went ahead and purchased the Citizen AT8010-58E. The watch syncs at the 2AM scheduled time Did a successful manual sync successfully just after 12AM. Once the time zone is correct the watch successfully sets itself


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