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Internet Time

In short

Internet Time is another method for representing the time of the day. It's a three digits number between 0 and 999, which loops once every 24 hours. Its main advantage is that the number is the same no matter what timezone you live in.



The Swatch Internet Time concept was introduced by the watch-making Swiss company Swatch about a decade ago as a universal time of the day unit. It's a kind of metric time, as it relies on base-10 counting.

The concept is simple: each day is divided into 1000 basic units, called "beats". As a result, each beat is worth 1 minute 26.4 seconds. The time is written in the form of @704, said "dot beats 704" (or "dot 704" for short).

The base time, @000, is defined as midnight in Biel Meridian Time (BMT - Swatch's HQ timezone, which is GMT+1).

The big advantage of Internet Time is that the time is the same everywhere on Earth. There are no timezones, no conversions to be done. While it's @415 in Tokyo, it's also @415 in New York, Paris, Johannesburg, etc. The difference, obviously, is that @415 will be the middle of the night for someone while it will be noon for someone else.

This makes it easy to schedule a meeting through the Internet, as you don't have to say "Well, meet you at 12h45 Eastern Time", which needs the other person to convert into their local time. All you have to say is "See you at @780", which is the same for both of you. This comes in especially useful with the Internet age, which makes worldwide communications easier than ever.

The main drawback of this method is that the standard doesn't define anything related to days: the current method should still be used. However, with days that doesn't end at @000 everywhere, one person living in @010 could be in Saturday while it would already be Sunday for someone else.

Note that, while this is called a "standard", it hasn't been submitted to any actual standards office. As such, it doesn't have any quick reference number (such as a RFC ID).



This section covers some suggestions to improve and complete the standard. None of these are endorsed by Swatch or any standards group.

The standard, as defined by Swatch, unfortunately doesn't account for all situations and needs. One glaring flaw is the lack of subdivisions. Without those, how do you define anything smaller than a single .beat?

My suggestion is to follow the metric system. After all, Internet Time IS a form of metric time. As such, you gain access to decibeats (1/10 of a .beat), centibeats (1/100 of a .beat), and so on. The basic unit in measurement, for several purposes, would be the centibeat as it's quite close to a second (one centibeat = 0.864 seconds).

The notation for this time extension would be @832.17, with the number of decimals shown changing depending of the needed precision. As such, @832.1, @832.17 and @832.176 are all acceptable to represent the same time.

The second main flaw is the lack of reference to days. The format used should be the ISO 8601 standard, as in "2008-02-11". (In order to have a common reference, that date should be the one used in BMT at the time.)