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This watch app will help you reorient your life to the Earth’s natural rhythms

Circa Solar won’t tell you what time it is, just give you a rough idea of how long you have until the sun sets.

A new timekeeping app won’t tell you if you’re late for your 9 a.m. meeting, but it might better connect you with the world outside. Instead of a standard 12-hour dial, the display shows a full day based on your location, with a dark wedge showing the local hours of darkness based on the season and a line indicating where you currently sit between daylight and nighttime.

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“We have seemingly fallen into a collective social agreement that ‘time’ measured through the 24-hour clock synchronized through a series of global time zones all governed from a single point on Earth—Greenwich, London—has reached its absolute and objective measurement,” says Ted Hunt, the U.K.-based designer of the app, called Circa Solar, now crowdfunding on Kickstarter for a planned release this fall. Hunt argues that there are advantages to returning to a sense of time based on the sun.

[Image: Circa Solar]

As he tested a prototype, he said that even the simple shift of looking at a 24-hour day rather than two rotations of 12 hours shifted how he worked. “[It] allowed me to become far less immediate and distracted in how I spend my time,” he says. “I feel like I have far more agency over my attention now.” He also started to recognize how the change in seasons affects his productivity—in the winter, he says, his workday starts to draw to a close as the light dims, and on long summer days, he gets more done. The clock doesn’t have a minute or secondhand, allowing for a more relaxed experience of the day. When the hour hand passes into the nighttime portion of the clock, it disappears; Hunt was interested in the philosophical question of what it might mean to “unknow” time (the feature could also have practical advantages for insomniacs who are advised not to check the time in the middle of the night).

[Image: Circa Solar]

Hunt thinks that reconnecting to solar time could also help remind humans that we are a part of the natural world and reconnect us with our circadian rhythms. If we “adopt the same circadian value of time, which is exhibited by nearly all living organisms, then we might begin to tell ourselves that we are in fact still circadian beings rather than rational cyborgs and that our existence is entirely dependent upon coexistence,” he says. “Put another way, we might begin to consider ourselves ‘a part of nature’ rather than ‘apart from nature.'”

Of course, if everyone started to use this app instead of a standard watch, it would be hard to plan conference calls or catch a flight. But maybe that’s part of the point, since the corporate lifestyle enabled by the modern clock hasn’t been particularly helpful for the well-being of workers—or the planet.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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