Swatch Internet Time was perpetrated in 1998 by the Swatch company and Nicholas Negroponte, who really should have known better. I ridicule this this supposedly next-century idea by presenting it in the form of a last-century medium.
The littlest hand is the tenth-beat hand. It goes around once per beat, or once every 86.4 seconds, which is about 30% slower than a second hand. The face of the swatch is divided into ten parts, so it takes the tenth-beat hand one-tenth of a beat, or about 8.6 seconds, to sweep out one division.
The not-so-little hand moves ten times as slowly as the littlest hand. It makes a complete revolution every ten beats, or every 14 minutes 24 seconds, about four times as fast as a minute hand. It is called the beat hand because it sweeps out one division every beat.
The medium hand moves ten times as slowly as the beat hand. It makes a complete revolution every hundred beats, or every 2 hours 24 minutes, about two and a half times slower than a minute hand.
The big hand moves ten times as slowly as the medium hand. It makes a complete revolution every thousand beats, or every day. This is exactly one-half as fast as an hour hand.
To translate analog swatch time to digital, just read the hands as you would the electric meter at home: Note the last number that each hand has passed, in order. For example, in the picture to the right, the four hands are just past the 0, 2, 6, and 5, respectively. That means that the swatch time depicted is @026.5.
The hands point in the same direction every 111 and 1/9 beats, or every two hours and forty minutes. When all four hands are pointing straight up, it is midnight in Geneva.
Conventional time systems have a local adjustment so that 0:00 occurs at midnight and 12:00 at noon, based on the approximate position of the sun in the sky. This means that if you call up someone in Seoul and they tell you that it is 19:37, you know that it is about dinner time. Swatch time has no such local adjustment. That means that if the Swatch time is @500 you know what time it is in Seoul—still @500—but you do not know where the sun is or whether it is dinner time. Therefore the motto of Swatch Internet Time is “Fuck the Sun”.
In the future, everyone will be famous for ten beats.