Obelisks and sun dials were all well and good until increasingly complex technologies made accuracy and consistency a real requirement of time-keeping. As the distance between towns, cities and even states grew smaller thanks to trains and postal routes, exact time tables were critical for good business.
Despite some early ideas from Italian, American, and Canadian business men and philosophers, the first applied instance of standardized time began in New Zealand in 1868, when they standardized an arbitrary unified time for the entire country. In 1869, Charles Dowd suggested standardized time zones to the American Railroad Company as a way to keep their routes consistent. Dowd’s concept of time zones stuck, though the borders he suggested were not used by the Railroads, since they covered unequal amounts of territory and also included north/south dividing lines. (To this day, no one is quite sure why; Dowd’s system essentially left New England in a time zone all on its own compared to the rest of the country.)
Even after these standard time zones were implemented and maintained by many businesses, recognition of this time was not mandatory, which means that some cities like Detroit, which rested between two of the standard time zones, refused to acknowledge either, and stayed on local time until the 1900s. Thanks to conflicts over daylight savings time, it is still possible to miss out on time zone changes in places like Arizona, parts of Canada, and most of the Asian continent.
The 24-hour day was officially adopted at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, and shortly after this, the 24-hour longitudinal global time zone system was created, though not universally applied. Today, some large countries like China still subscribe to a single time zone within their borders. Some countries in the Middle East keep to a local time that is half an hour different from the nearest official time zone. In Nepal, the difference is something like fifteen minutes, which probably results in a lot of uneasy watch re-setting at the border crossing.
The modern technological world tends to forget about time zones; now that the globally recognized divisions are determined by atomic UTC time and updated regularly by satellite connection and global positioning technology, most of us let our cell phone, laptops, and watches do the computations for us, and we enjoy the ease those products give us while also being stylish and reliable.
Still, there are some of us who still travel with an old-fashioned watch on our wrist, and we take the few seconds it requires in a new place to reset the hands of our watch and get into sync with the time zone we find ourselves inhabiting. While some may see this as an inconvenience, I am coming to see it as a joy, and as a chance to orient myself to a new place, a new atmosphere, and even a new time. Perhaps there is a certain amount of wisdom in taking the time to know the time, to deliberately orient ourselves to the real pace of life around us. Besides, there are plenty of lovely watches that require a bit of manual investment to get them into the proper time zone.
Check out the Tick Tock Shop today for all of your time zone needs, whether you mean to stay in this one and get the kids to school on time, or you plan travel around the world before you reset your watch again.