Horology and the Hubris of Home

What – or rather – where on Earth is the strange phenomenon of *Horology, treated as a hubristic statement of home pride or chauvinism, finding its footing? The latest of, yes, many such nationalistic effusions expressed through the medium of a country’s standard time is in the mountainous country of Nepal, home of Everest and many other touristic destinations for hardy climbers. Future visitors will now have to adjust their watches by 15 minutes when entering from India, because of a self-declared horological difference of political opinion in the northeastern Himalayan retreat with its huge subcontinental neighbor to the south. [Reported the other day: Nepal is now 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT because the people wanted the meridian of Nepal Standard Time at Gaurishankar, a mountain east of Kathmandu. That means that the country’s clocks are 15 minutes later than the time in India. One national joke is that Nepalis are always 15 minutes late anyway!]


What – or rather – why has the world come to this when apparently the science of time is taking a back seat to the irrationality of irredentism. But let’s not point a finger at the Nepalese only, among whom I’m sure the Sherpa community couldn’t care a fig so long as its incoming flow of tourist dollars during the height of the climbing season is not affected by missed plane connections to and from Kathmandu because of those pesky 15 minutes.

So you might well ask which other countries are guilty of what
one might term ‘triple-H-ism?”

North Korea

Hermetically-sealed North Korea comes to mind for its obvious attempt to distinguish itself from neighboring South Korea and China even though it’s sandwiched between them. It has announced that effective August 15 it’s setting its clocks back by 30 minutes to create a new Pyongyang Time – breaking from a time standard imposed by what it called “wicked Japanese imperialists” more than a century ago. The change will put the standard time in North Korea at GMT+8:30, 30 minutes behind South Korea which, like Japan, is at GMT+9:00.

Perish the thought, but so-called Standard Time as applied to various nations around the world no longer stands on terra firma anymore. You’ll have to look up the Internet to discover the variants around the globe, some of which will surprise you.

Not only that, it doesn’t necessarily take a country to row its own canoe timewise. Consider a small estate like Sandringham, privately owned by Queen Elizabeth II.


Historically speaking, at the instance of one of its royal occupants, it marched to a different drummer. Yes, the British Throne in the last century enjoyed – for 35 years, I might add – its own Sandringham Time quite separate from Greenwich Mean Time. After all, the royals repaired to their fulsome 20,000-acre pad in Norfolk for their home away from home – er, country house away from palace – to enjoy hunting: such was the late King Edward VII’s fondness for it that he ordered all the clocks set half an hour ahead of GMT to increase the amount of evening daylight available for hunting as well as time away from his onerous duties as overseer of the empire – where the sun never set in any case. Those, indeed, were the halcyon days!

That tradition of Sandringham Time was maintained from 1901 until 1936, when the new King Edward VIII demonstrated he was “a new broom” at Buckingham Palace and swept away the outdated custom at his Norfolk estate.

* For those not in the know, Horology is the art or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, hourglasses, clepsydras, timers, time recorders, marine chronometers, and atomic clocks are all examples of instruments used to measure time.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

For the Record – and before you get zoned out of all things related to Time Zones:
The idea of a country setting its own time is not new. Originally in the United States towns set their own clocks. The advent of the railroad forced cities to adopt more standard times. So the U.S. went from more than 100 time zones to the four zones we now have.

Universally there are 24 time zones, one for each line of the 24 hours it takes for the Earth to make a full rotation. They are loosely marked as longitudinal lines. However, historically countries have individually decided time zones themselves, often for ease in communication and transportation.

For instance, China and India both have several lines of longitude but have chosen to have only one time for their respective countries. In China the entire country sets its time to Beijing Time despite physically spanning five time zones. Because it covers so much territory those living in the far western province of Xinjiang means that they start their day and end work late: A normal lunch hour begins at 2pm – and in the summer you could see sunset at midnight!

Most in the USA are not aware that some countries, such as North Korea reported above, have now decided to use zones that are 15, 30 or 45 minute ahead or behind of GMT.


In 2007, Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez decided to turn the country’s clocks back by half an hour so that there would be a “more fair distribution of the sunrise” to residents.

That’s socialism for you!

Various Sources, including Wikipedia, have been used in this last section entitled “For the Record.”


4 thoughts on “Horology and the Hubris of Home

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