What does Greenwich Mean Time really mean?

 

While using the Floyd Country Store’s W-Fi to compose and send in a story on today’s court proceedings, I noticed a guy at the next table looking at me, or rather, looking at my right arm.

Finally, he came over and pointed to my watch.

“Why does your watch have four hands on it?”

He’s right.  It was a hour hand, a minutes hand, a second hand and a yellow GMT pointer, which designated the time on a 24-hour outer dial that keeps track of Greenwich Mean Time, the Universal Time Code (that determines all time in all zones around the world),  In the military, it’s often called “Zulu” time.  It can also keep track of time in another part of the world.

“It’s GMT,” I said.  “The Universal Time Code or UTC.”

“Oh,” he responded.  “If that like Zulu time?”

“Yes,” I said.

His followup question was expected: “Are you in the military?”

“No,” I said.

“Are you with the government?”

“Not at the moment.  I’m served in various tasks for Uncle Sam on and off over the years.”

“Is that why you still wear a Zulu watch?”

I had to stop and think about that.  I’ve been aware of UTC or GMT since my youth, long before I had any contact with the federal government or the military.  My paternal grandfather gave me my first GMT watch, a Tissot, that had a 24-hour second time zone dial.  Since then, I’ve always had at least one watch with GMT capabilities.

Such habits can get expensive.  I spent far more than I should some years ago for a Rolex GMT Master II. Nice watch, but it didn’t keep accurate time worth a hoot.  I sold it.  All automatic watches gain and/or lose time.  I still have several automatic watch movements but don’t depend on them for accurate time.

Over the years, my most accurate watch with GMT capabilities has been a Citizen Navihawk, an Eco-Drive model that uses solar power to power it and uses the access to the worldwide timing stations to reset itself at 0200 each day.  It’s over 20 years old and the time remains accurate. It provides instant readout for different times in three time zones in readouts on the watch face.

Several years ago, I received a Luminox SXC GMT watch as a gift for attending a seminar in Washington on plans for private companies who want to handle space travel.  Luminox, an American company that gained fame for developing dive watches for U.S. Navy SEAL, produced the GMT in partnership with the Space Exploration Company (SXC) and XCOR Aerospace.

The company included people I had come to know at NASA during my times as the Special Assistant to the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science and Technology.  They had big dreams and a record of making those dreams come true with the Apollo moon landing and the Space Shuttle.

About 282 would-be “space tourists” shelled out $100,000 apiece for tickets to ride in the proposed Lynx Space Plane, a two-seater plane that could take off and land on a conventional runway and reach cruising low orbits in space.

The dream started to unravel by late 2016 and XCOR and SXC dissolved into Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.  The dream died.  About all that remains is the Luminox Space GMT watch,  which is now sold through discount houses.

As this is written, Amazon says it has one SXC Space GMT Black Silicone Polycarbonate Watch for sale at $425.  It is model A-5021, the same as the one in a box I recently came across last week in one of the storage rooms of our house.

I had never worn the watch.  When I opened the box, it wasn’t ticking.  Dead battery.  The folks at Floyd Jewelry replace the battery and it came back to life.  This morning, after wearing the watch for a week, I checked the accuracy by clicking on the National Institute of Standards website.  The Luminox had not lost or gained a second.  If is so light that I will continue using it.

As I write this, the time on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, is 6:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time here in Floyd, or 21:45 GMT time.

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