The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

The clocks are changed on Sunday night

Daylight saving time begins on Sunday. At 02:00, all clocks are set forward one hour to 03:00. Many clocks do this automatically. But how does this actually work? And shouldn't the time changeover have been abolished long ago?

WHO DECIDES WHAT TIME IT IS?

The official Swiss time is realized and disseminated by the Federal Office of Metrology (Metas) in Wabern BE. Researchers there use several atomic clocks to determine the exact length of a second. These measurements from Bern are used to determine coordinated universal time (UTC). "For what happens in our time laboratory, the time changeover doesn't really matter," said Jürg Niederhauser from Metas when asked by the Keystone-SDA news agency.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE TIME CHANGEOVER?

The time changeover is more or less a by-product of this time determination. One hour is simply added to UTC for Central European Time (CET) and two hours for Central European Summer Time (CEST).

"Nobody has to press a button at two o'clock in the morning for that," Niederhauser clarified. That would also be far too imprecise. Instead, this is programmed in advance.

HOW DO RADIO-CONTROLLED CLOCKS KNOW IT'S TIME CHANGE?

However, official Swiss time is not used by station clocks, church clocks and many alarm clocks. Since the decommissioning of the Swiss time signal transmitter in Prangins VD, Swiss radio-controlled clocks have received their signal from Germany. A radio tower around 200 meters high near Frankfurt am Main transmits the exact time every second around the clock. It receives its time from the German equivalent of the Metas, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig.

Cell phones work differently. They get their time signal from the nearest mobile phone antenna. GPS devices are in contact with satellites.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME WE CHANGED THE TIME?

An end to the time change has long been under discussion in the EU. Specifically, the European Union planned to do so from 2018, with the European Commission presenting a draft law to this effect. The European Parliament even agreed, but postponed the end of the time change planned for 2019 to 2021. However, the member states did not go along with this and put the plans on ice.

The core problem of the EU discussion is a disagreement as to which time should prevail at all - standard time, i.e. winter time, which is now coming to an end, or summer time. A patchwork quilt with several time zones is to be avoided; some EU states are fundamentally opposed to the end of the time changeover.

AND IN SWITZERLAND?

The abolition of summer time has also been discussed in Switzerland. In 2010, former SVP National Councillor Yvette Estermann unsuccessfully called for the abolition of summer time in a motion. The Federal Council emphasized at the time that Switzerland had become a time island in 1980, when the surrounding countries introduced summer time but Switzerland did not. The disadvantages for the economy had become clear. In order to avoid these disadvantages, Switzerland caught up with its neighbors a year later and introduced daylight saving time.

Switzerland is therefore likely to adapt to the EU this time too. To switch to perpetual summer time, Parliament would need to pass a resolution and amend the law. A decision by the Federal Council would be sufficient for perpetual winter time.

©Keystone/SDA

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