LETTERS: Quartz would help old clocks save face

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The Independent Online
From Mr David J. Boullin Sir: Gideon Berman (letter, 4 January) is correct in stating that the original mechanisms of many public clocks have been dumped or sold for scrap. While some mechanisms have been replaced by electric motors, many have been neglected. However, all is by

no means lost.

These fine architectural specimens may once again tell the exact time if radio-controlled clocks were installed. These quartz clocks incorporate radio receivers and have their time-keeping regulated by precise time signals broadcast by station MSF in Rugby or DCF near Frankfurt. Both radio transmitters, broadcasting on long wave, send out a continuous stream of signals so that any clock can be kept to exact time within a 1,500 km range. On the Continent, many public and church clocks have been maintained under radio control for up to 20 years, and today even radio-controlled domestic clocks and wristwatches are available giving virtually absolutely correct time.

The absence of radio-controlled public clocks in Britain is a sad reflection on our inability to exploit a good idea. This is especially the case as a Londoner, F. O. Read made the front page of the Daily Sketch in 1912 with his clock controlled by wireless time signals broadcast from the Eiffel Tower.

But today, even the world's most famous clock "The Great Clock" of Westminster (commonly known as Big Ben) has its time-keeping regulated by old pennies placed on a platform on the 13ft pendulum.

For relatively small sums of money we could reactivate our fine public clocks under radio control and make them as accurate as any other clock in the world.

Yours sincerely, DAVID J. BOULLIN Witney Oxfordshire

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