Zero West: What’s in a Name?

So, what is in a name? It can simply be catchy or something that sits easily on the tongue. But a good name has hidden depth and meaning. It can be the source from which everything flows out of. It is often an origin. A well-chosen starting point…

Greenwich building
Greenwich meridian line

Zero degrees west is where time starts. It is the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. A place where almost 140 years ago, twenty-two countries agreed to unify the navigational reference of time. Greenwich became Zero West (Latitude 51.48°N, Longitude 0.00°W) and travellers could circumvent the globe, knowing they could always make their way back.

List of watches and date codes

Finding longitude and the Prime Meridian are at the core of who we are at Zero West Watches. That is why the latitude/longitude coordinates of the unique story behind every watch are carefully placed on each bespoke dial. For us, time and place are everything.

Close up of DB-1 dial

Unifying the Navigational Reference of Time

Our previous blog showed the importance of finding longitude. British engineer and clockmaker, John Harrison won the Longitude Prize with his H4 Chronometer, an engineering masterpiece that was the foundation for a reliable and standardised method of measuring accurate longitude. To this day it remains accurate, where it resides at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Greenwich has always been significant in Britain’s history. Being part of the Port of London, a vast armada of ships and unquantifiable amounts of cargo would use this important dock. Instinctively vessels of all sizes began to use this location as a reference meridian and Harrison’s H4 legacy became the benchmark for marine chronometers and was integral to worldwide navigation.

Vintage photo of men standing on steps

As time progressed there was mounting global pressure to identify a Prime Meridian. Eventually in October 1884 at the International Meridian Conference in Washington DC, twenty-two countries made the decision to unify the navigational reference of time. Greenwich was selected as Zero West (51.48°N, 0.00°W).

From that day on, travellers could pass through zero degrees west and circumvent the globe, knowing they can always make their way home. The significance of Harrison’s Sea Watch sends ripples through time that reminds us that great British engineering underpins great achievement.

Plot a course and navigate to the Zero West Studio. See firsthand the timepieces that capture great moments in British engineering history that consciously salute master watchmaker, John Harrison.

Horology Part 1: Origins of the Mechanical Movement