Solar Atomic Watches: What Is So Special About Them?

solar atomic watches

The evolution of wristwatches has been astonishing. Not long ago, all the watches needed hand-winding and time correction almost daily to earn the purpose they were intended. Imagining the regularity of attention the simple things required those days is difficult to come by, especially considering the wristwear we have available today. People always strive towards the convenience of use in regards to various technological gadgets, and hand watches are no exception. Out of all of them, solar atomic watches provide the comfort that no other is capable of offering.

solar atomic watches

Why Solar Atomic Watches?

So, what makes them so unique in terms of handiness? 

First of all, you should entirely forget the concerns over the accuracy your solar atomic watch provides because there isn’t any more precise type of wristwear available. 

Secondly, the rechargeable battery it employs is not like any other battery that needs a replacement every two to three years. A typical solar cell wears out after approximately ten years, making its lifetime at least three times longer than regular batteries. 

In a nutshell, you can expect your wristwatch to last at least ten years without any troubles. The maintenance-free nature of solar atomic timepieces makes them the most hassle-free wristwear available on the market. 

If you have already started to wonder about the astronomical sums you would have to pay to get one, rest assured, because the prices are reasonable. A quality solar atomic watch costs in the region of 100$-500$.

The two technologies behind these wristwatches are solar-powered movement and atomic timekeeping. Subsequently, we’ll uncover the principles of these technologies.

Solar Technology

Solar power is quite a new advancement in the industry. Although the first solar-powered timepieces emerged already in the 1970s, the trend gained popularity several decades later. 

What makes solar technology so special is the recharging possibility from not only sunlight but from all sorts of light. If a typical battery runs out of energy upon consumption, the rechargeable cell is capable of receiving and storing it, in that providing a constant charge.

Although the chances that a solar-powered watch runs out of energy are limited, the timepiece is not entirely maintenance-free, with the rechargeable cell needing a replacement after about ten years of use. Nevertheless, when compared to a quartz watch that requires battery replacement every two to three years, the frequency of updating the rechargeable cell is a lot handier.

How Does A Solar-Powered Watch Work?

A solar watch absorbs sunlight and other sorts of lights through a solar panel behind the crystal. Miniature in size, it fits perfectly under the dial. The panel then converts the light into electrical energy, which eventually powers the quartz mechanism. The unused power is stored in a rechargeable cell, and during the night or when covered, the watch uses that energy.

solar charging principle
Casio’s example of solar charging

Most of the solar-powered watches go into hibernation or a power-save mode when not presented to a light source for an extended period. During the hibernation, the watches can last between one to two years without any exposure. The timepieces without the power-save mode usually last approximately six months.

Atomic Technology

The second ingredient in the magnificent solar atomic watches is the atomic timekeeping. As the name already hints, the time keeps an atomic precision in receiving the accuracy via radio waves from an atomic clock. There are around 400 atomic clocks worldwide, contributing to the calculation of international atomic time. The US clock – NIST-F1 – is based in Boulder, Colorado.

The timekeeping is so flawless that the watch will lose or gain only a fraction of a second in thousands of years, meaning it will never lose time.

How Do Atomic Watches Work?

The atomic clock adjusts the time through low-frequency radio signals on several occasions at night. A miniature receiver searches the signal and decodes it for an update. The calibration takes place at night because signal interferences from other sources, such as metals and radio waves, are much lower than during the day.

radio tower for atomic wristwear
Radio transmitter towers

A typical reach of waves from a transmitter covers about 2,000 miles, so if a wristwatch is out of the range for an extended period, the watch runs as usual but won’t receive any time calibration. When back in the area, the watch will make adjustments.

The Core Of Solar Atomic Watches

After combining the technologies, we end up with a watch that runs on a solar-powered quartz movement that corrects the time to atomic precision every night. Having one of the advancements in a watch is already a decent upgrade in terms of convenience, but possessing both of them is pure luxury. 

Solar atomic watches are the epitomes of convenience, offering incomparable advantages over the other types of wristwear. The most notable of them are listed below.


To a large extent, the wristwear is maintenance-free. Typical mechanical watches need cleaning and balancing, while quartz equivalents require constant power source replacements. Solar atomic watches, on the other hand, are free of such matters. They don’t require regular upkeep from a watchmaker nor any systematic power source substitution.  

Always Accurate

Since the timekeeping relies on already sufficiently accurate quartz movement, which is furthermore adjusted to atomic precision through radio waves, the outcome is a marvel. No other watches possess such capabilities, except for wristwear that are controlled by GPS signals instead.


Forget manual time adjustments or any concerns that are to do with the watch stopping at one point due to the loss of energy – the technologies employed in solar atomic watches have eliminated the inconveniences, providing hassle-free user experience. 

Guaranteed Quality

The number of brands providing solar atomic watches is limited to a couple of manufacturers. However, the few producing them are all renowned for the quality they’ve provided throughout history. Therefore, besides the convenience that comes with these watches, you can also expect genuine durability.

G-Shock solar atomic watch
G-Shock GWG-1000 solar atomic watch

Despite the overwhelming advantages, solar atomic watches still have some cons.

Distance From The Atomic Clock

One of the disadvantages is the distance from the atomic clock. Although the broadcast reach of the Fort Collins clock in the USA is about 2,000 miles, in that covering the majority of states, it still won’t reach Hawaii and Alaska. The same problem might occur in several places in the world; for instance, the German clock won’t cover Northern Europe entirely.  

In Need Of Constant Light

Another requirement for the watch to function is the presence of light. While most wearers carry their watches on their wrists, which is sufficient for the cell to charge, some people keep their watches in low-light conditions for an extended period. Hence, the charging may not be adequate, and a watch with multiple features consuming energy may run empty.

However, the chance for this to happen is considerably low, especially given the minimum power reserve of six months when fully charged. Besides, the probability of such amazing watches staying hidden in the drawer should be out of the question anyway. 

GPS-Controlled Solar Atomic Watches

More advanced technology in solar atomic watches is the GPS satellite-enabled feature.

The working principle is very similar to atomic watches, but instead of radio waves, they use satellites for time adjustments. With this feature, the watch is not dependable on the distance from the atomic clock. Thus, GPS-controlled solar tickers eliminate one of the setbacks in dealing with simpler atomic wristwear – the range.

satellite above Earth

The providers of GPS-enabled watches are actually the same brands that also offer terrestrial atomic wristwear. Since technology is always developing and taking into account the coverage problems of atomic watches, we’ll undoubtedly see the progress of GPS-enabled wristwear in the coming years.

Brands Of Solar Atomic Watches

The pool of solar atomic wristwatches isn’t too big, yet the reliability of the brands and their time-trackers is high. Solar and atomic technologies aren’t easy to develop, moreover, providing a consistent quality year after year is even more difficult. 

Therefore, the three top Japanese watch brandsCitizen, Casio, and Seiko – have proved their status to be the best in pioneering innovations. And as we can witness, their watches are truly one-of-a-kind examples of innovativeness.


The brand achieved a landmark with its first light-powered analogue quartz watch in 1976. The solar technology they had developed with that watch established the base for Eco-Drive – probably the most known solar model series in the world. They claim their rechargeable batteries to last 40 years, which is quite extraordinary for such cells. 

Citizen is also a pioneer in multi-band radio-controlled watches when the first-ever wristwatch with that feature appeared in 1993. 

The collections combining both solar and atomic technologies are Promaster Skyhawk A-T, World Chronograph A-T, and World Perpetual A-T. The two letters of A and T stand for Atomic Timekeeping, so it’s a useful indication for a quick search on atomic wristwear in Citizen’s collection. 

The Promaster line is the most notable of them. Besides Eco-Drive, these watches also come with atomic timekeeping in North America, Japan, and Europe. Dual Time feature offers the possibility to switch between and keep track of two timezones simultaneously when travelling. The chronograph function is also noteworthy, when not only it measures minutes and seconds, but fractions of seconds likewise.

If you’re interested in a thorough analysis of the brand, feel free to visit our dedicated post on Citizen watch review.


Another Japanese brand with jaw-dropping innovations is Casio. The world knows the brand for its ultimate reliability they ensure in their timepieces. G-Shock series, for instance, is known to be the most reliable and shock-resistant collection ever made. In fact, one of the watches even holds the Guinness World Record for being the first wristwatch to withstand a 29.7-ton vehicle being driven over. 

Tough Solar, Multiband 6, and Wave Ceptor are the technologies in Casio’s timepieces guaranteeing the functioning of solar atomic watches. 

The variety of collections and models is wide. You can expect to find a large number of watches in different styles, starting from G-Shock tactical watch for military purpose to Edifice wristwear for a more professional look. 

An additional wow-factor in Casio’s products is the affordable prices. Simpler watches with the solar atomic feature are rated somewhere between 50$-100$, while the more advanced examples usually cost no more than 500$.


The pioneer and forerunner of many groundbreaking innovations, the most known of them being the quartz movement, Seiko have widened its role in various fields and types, taking its array of watches to a whole new level. 

Although being a late bloomer in atomic wristwear, they still were able to become the first brand to introduce a three-band radio wave solar watch in 2005, capable of receiving time synchronizations from Japan, Germany, and the US. Today, they’ve placed emphasis on a GPS-controlled time correction, which is employed by the Astron collection.

Astron, one of the best Seiko watches available, is a lot pricier option for solar atomic wristwear than any other line in Casio’s or Citizen’s production. One of the reasons constituting the fact is high-grade GPS technology. As a matter of fact, the first-ever GPS solar watch was precisely Seiko Astron. 

This line of watches can discover and identify all the timezones in the world. Whenever the dial is exposed to bright light, the watch automatically receives GPS signals. In addition, the time transfer function allows switching the display of home and destination times between the main and the sub-dial.

If you’re interested in a thorough analysis of the brand and would like to know more about other collections, then feel free visit our dedicated post on Seiko watch review.

Is The Watch For Me?

Solar atomic watches suit the people who appreciate handiness, simplicity, and technological marvels. Those who travel a lot will definitely find good use of the wristwear.  

Although the loss of a millisecond a day, or a regular battery replacement, won’t cause any irreversible adverse outcomes, by that not convincing some individuals to buy such a watch, the solar and atomic technologies are still something to thrive for. They are the glimpse of the future. It won’t be long when all the watches possess atomic precision and run on a sustainable resource of light. 

Conclusion: Solar Atomic Watches

Convenience is the kind of merit individuals will not notice after they have it. Battery replacements and time corrections are not actually significant concerns, but if there’s a possibility to cut them off, then people with solar atomic watches wouldn’t swap their timepieces for anything else. The less hassle there is with a wristwatch, the more time can be allotted to activities that really matter. Fortunately, you won’t have to pay fortunes, nor would you need to worry about the quality and reliability of the wristwear, because the three Japanese brands have taken good care of it.

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