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Binary Watches: Tease Your Brain by Telling the Time!

Posted by Henry Cheang | March 19, 2014 8:00 AM

Brain-teasing time!

When it comes to owning watches, most people aim for timepieces that, quite simply, tell the time. I am not most people. I’m a man who likes his time-reading to be a brain-teasing challenge.

Where’s the fun in knowing the hour simply by looking at the watchface? I want to work hard and literally do the math to figure out the time. That’s why I own not one, but two binary sexagesimal watches!

Now, the interchangeable terms “binary sexagesimal watch” and “binary watch” are probably meaningless to most of you. So, here’s a bit of context: A binary watch is a watch that displays the time in binary code. It expresses hours and minutes – separately – as the sums of powers of two!

Two examples of binary watches

I probably just made that even harder to understand. So, let’s try that again, only this time with illustrations and a concrete example.  First, have a look at my binary watches:

Binary Watches

The top two images are pictures of my Samui Moon binary watch; the bottom two show my Slider binary/analog watch. Both are by a German company known as The One. I will use the Samui Moon watch to illustrate how time is told using these watches. First, note that there are two rows of LED lights on the watchface.

How to tell time with binary watches

In the watch’s default state, the LED lights are unlit. Each unlit LED corresponds to a binary value of “0”. Whenever the LED lights are lit, each lit LED corresponds to a binary value of “1”. The top row of LED lights represents the hour, while the bottom row of LED lights represents the minutes.

Binary watch LED schemeEach LED light denotes a particular power of 2. For both rows, the right-most light denotes 20 (i.e., a value of “1”). Each successive LED light represents an increasing power of 2 (i.e., the second LED light denotes 21 (i.e., “2”) the third LED light denotes 22 (i.e., “4”), and so on). To display the time, you begin by pressing the activation button (on the top right of the watch).

This will cause certain LED lights to light up. And this is where the binary system truly kicks in. When an LED lights up, it represents the “on” position for a particular power of 2. To read the time, you have to sum up the lit-up powers of 2 in each row.

In the present example, you get "5" as the hour (from adding 0 + 22 + 0 + 20 = 0 + 4 + 0 + 1 = 5) and "54" as the minutes (from adding 25 + 24 + 0 + 22 + 21 + 20 = 32 + 16 + 4 + 2 = 54), for a time reading of 5:54.


And that’s it! For me, telling time is a fun little challenge each and every time, particularly when I’m exhausted and have both hands occupied. But that’s part of the fun – when I need to know the time, I can’t just look at my watch, I actually have to find a way to press the activation button, see the watchface (which is especially hard on a very sunny day), and do the summing of powers of 2 for each row. I have literally put myself in awkward positions just to know the time of day. But it’s fun.


In the end, that’s the kind of man I am. I like challenges. Well, more accurately, I like uncovering and overcoming problems, because it's a lot of fun to do so. And all of my colleagues at Cimpl also have fun in meeting challenges. Having fun is one of Cimpl's core values.

We have a few others:

  • Growth - Both personal and that of the company's,
  • Execute - We say it, we do it. Our word is our bond.
  • Respect & Humility
  • Fun & Family 
  • Customer Intimate - Our communication with everyone is honest and transparent.

It is with all of these values that we developed Cimpl, the best asset and telecom expense management software in Canada. It’s how we’ve made our company one of the Top 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada, and made the inaugural list. And we're hiring. Check us out if you'd like to contribute your talents to a fun-loving company with an exceptionally nurturing environment!


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Topics: Core Values, Tips and Tricks

Written by Henry Cheang

Henry is a dedicated technical writer, focused on conducting market research, contributing to product design, and writing clear and concise documentation for the company. He is an enthusiastic team member and is passionate about science and technology, who plays a key role in Cimpl’s product messaging. His dedication to writing is reflected in his experience in authoring academic papers, documentation, user guides, and in contributing to Cimpl’s marketing efforts.

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