How To Read Binary Watches & Clocks

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Have you purchased a binary watch and want to know how to read them? Or are you planning to buy a digital binary watch or clock and want to learn to read it before you make your purchase?

If yes, then this article will be very helpful to you. In this article, I will tell you step-by-step instructions to read a binary watch or a binary clock to help you read the time without any difficulty.

So keep reading!

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What Are Binary Watches?

How To Read Binary Watches

The watches that display time in binary format rather than using numbers are known as digital binary watches. Unlike traditional watches, these watches do not use numbers from 1 to 12 to represent the time but make use of LEDs to show you the time.

Binary format as the name suggests consists of two things i.e. 0 and 1. If the LED is turned off then it represents 0 and if it is turned on then it represents 1.

Different Layouts Of Binary Watches

The layout of the LED lights is what differentiates binary watches from one another. Nowadays binary watches come with mainly 2 layouts.

1) Binary Mode

In this mode, the hour, minute, and seconds values are represented by rows. The upper row represents the hour value and the bottom row represents the minute’s value. The second value is generally not shown in this type of mode. Each LED in this mode represents a power of 2.

2) Binary Coded Decimal Mode (BCD)

In this mode, the hour, minute, and seconds values are represented by columns. These columns further have two sub-columns, which represent the one’s and ten’s places of the hour, minute, and second value. Each LED in this mode too represents a power of 2.

How To Read Binary Watches?

Let us now see how to read time in both these modes.

Reading Binary Watches With Binary Mode

As discussed earlier, this mode has two rows of LEDs. The hour value is represented by the upper row and the minute value is represented by the bottom row.

The LEDs in both the rows represent the power of 2. LEDs of the upper row represent values of 1 (2^0), 2 (2^1), 4 (2^2), and 8 (2^3).

The LEDs of the lower row represent values of 1 (2^0), 2 (2^1), 4 (2^2), 8 (2^3), 16 (2^4), and 32 (2^5).

To read the time in this format all you have to do is to add the values of the turned-on LEDs.

For eg., if the LEDs at 2 and 4 are turned on then you have to add 2 and 4, which comes out to be 6 (2+4). So 6 will be the hour’s value. Similarly, if the LEDs at 32, 8, and 4 are turned on then the minute’s value will be 44 (32+8+4). Therefore the time will be 6:44.

Binary Mode

Reading Binary Watches With Binary Coded Decimal Mode

Unlike binary mode, watches or clocks with BCD mode have multiple rows as well as columns.

The first two columns from the left side represent the hour value, the middle two columns represent the minute’s value and the last column represents the second’s value.

The first subcolumn of every column represents the ten’s value and the second subcolumn represents the one’s value. One’s value of the hour, minute, and second is represented by 1 (2^0), 2 (2^1), and 4 (2^2). And the ten’s value is represented by 1 (2^0), 2 (2^1), 4 (2^2), and 8 (2^3).

To read the time of these types of binary watches or clocks, you again have to add values of columns.

For eg., if the LED at 1 in the first subcolumn is turned on then the ten’s value of the hour will be 1. And if the LED at 2 is turned on in the second subcolumn of the first column then the one’s value will be 2. Overall the hour value is 12.

Binary Coded Decimal

Similarly, if the LEDs at 1 and 2 are turned on in the first subcolumn of the second column and the LEDs at 2 and 4 are turned on in the second subcolumn then the minute’s value will be 36 (1+2 and 2+4).

To know the second’s value, you again have to add the values in the subcolumns of the third column. This will come out to be 58 (1+4 and 8). So the time will be 12:36:58.

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Should You Buy Binary Watches?

Yes, you should definitely buy a binary watch if you have got bored of traditional watches and want something different. Not many people own binary watches these days so it will also set you apart from your group as well.

But the thing that you need to keep in mind is that initially, it will take some time to get used to reading the time on a binary watch. And every time you want to read the time you will have to do a little bit of calculation. Also, you will have to memorize which LED represents which value to read the time faster. Therefore unlike traditional watches, you may not be able to tell the time by just glancing at your binary watch. I think all of this does not make it an everyday watch.

Tom Nielson

Tom's love for watches started when his grandfather gifted him his Rolex watch when he turned 18! Being a teenager it was a big deal for him. Later when he got his first job he bought Fossil Palm Pilot back in 2003 which was a smartwatch. Since then smartwatches have come a long way and so is Tom's love for them. His experience with watches inspired him to start Wearholic and share his knowledge of wearables including watches, smartwatches, smart glasses, & smart clothing.

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