Photo Credit: (Jeane Rouillard)

Unless you’re Dr Who, you can’t change time. Or can you? Well, as the clocks go back in the UK on Sunday 29 October, it jigged Liquid memories about the fascinating story of Swatch .beat time.

There will always be debate about whether it was a PR stunt or a real attempt to change time, but back in 1998 beat time was billed as a response to an increasingly interconnected world thanks to the growth of the internet and the ‘problem’ of time zones.

The idea was simple. Do away with the 24-hour clock with its familiar hours, minutes and seconds in favour of dividing the day into 1,000 beats of Internet Time. That’s one minute and 26.4 seconds per beat. As it says on Swatch’s own website, ‘if a New York web-supporter makes a date for a chat with a cyber friend in Rome, they can simply agree to meet at an ‘@ time’ – because internet time is the same all over the world’. Of course, the beat time would end Greenwich’s monopoly on how time is set. Under the new system, time would be set according to Biel Meantime (BMT) – which just happens to the HQ of Swatch. Going through old web pages, there was a Swatch beat watch, and other models later, as well as a tie-up with a mobile phone manufacturer at the time.

But while the often-worn phrase of ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ seems apt in this post about time, it’s fair to say internet time hasn’t caught on in the way it was hoped. But at least, we will still get an ‘extra hour’ in bed thanks to the old 24-hour clock being set back an hour.