Thursday, 4 June 2009

How to correct the time on a John Lewis Indigo clock

We have a John Lewis Indigo clock. It has a large clear display that dims automatically as the room gets darker so it doesn't give you a suntan while you sleep. It's a nice-looking digital clock.

It claims to "Auto Set", which makes you think of radio-controlled clocks that receive the time from a transmitter, but there's no mention of receiving signals in the feature-list or instructions. It has a battery back-up for the time, and a label says it should be plugged into the mains when the battery is changed. I think "Auto Set" just means that the time is maintained by a battery so that it's still there when you plug it in.

The time drifted off. It got to 10 minutes slow, and I couldn't find the instructions, and various experimentation with button pressing and button holding failed to find a time-setting mode, so I emailed John Lewis for advice.

They told me to "change the transmitter button on the back to the Western European or Central European setting" and it should reset itself. Hmmm. Tried it. Didn't. [Sigh] Looks like it has to go back to the shop.

Then I tried googling with the labels of all the buttons (just in case I hit on an instruction manual or a blog posting or something), and found this:
It's the instructions for a different clock, made by Acctim, but it has all the same buttons, and it has the same "Auto Set" feature. I wonder if Acctim manufacture the Indigo clock for John Lewis?

The instructions for the Acctim clock include advice for resetting the time if it's wrong. I can't find the Indigo clock instructions, but I did read them when we got it (yes, I know, only a Nerd reads the instructions), and I can't remember any mention of setting the time.

The same instructions don't work for the Indigo, but a slight variation does. So here, for the benefit of future googlers, are the instructions for setting the date and time on a John Lewis Indigo clock:
  • Press the "-" button - the clock displays the year
  • Press and hold the "ALARM SET" button for 5-7 seconds, until the year flickers briefly, then let go
  • The year is now flashing - press "-" or "+" to adjust the year.
  • Press "ALARM SET" and now the month is flashing. Press "-" or "+" to adjust the month.
  • Repeat for date, hour and minute.
  • Press "ALARM SET" one more time and the clock returns to normal operation, with new date and time set.
It's still going to have to go back if the time keeps drifting though...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posting. I had the same problem & clock is now showing correct time.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting, this has been driving me mad for ages! Was just about to take it back to JL!

Anonymous said...

Thanks as well for your posting. I actually found that the instructions you found do work for the Indigo - there is a reset button inside the battery compartment if you look closely which you can press with a pin.

I think this feature of 'automatic time', as described on the JL website I notice, is totally misleading though. There's nothing automatic about at all. As you say, the feature is simply that with a battery installed the time - however right or wrong it may be - is stored whilst unplugged from the mains. 'Automatic time' is not the correct term for this at all though. It's simply a basic form of UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to preserve the time. Mine is also not retaining the correct time - it's gained 5 minutes in as many months, so I fully intend to take mine back to JL without receipt and complain about the product description. I thought I'd bought a radio controlled clock, and when I first turned the thing on and the correct time came up I had no reason to belive otherwise. From the description on the box and the JL website, and from what you're saying about the incorrect advice given by JL I don't think they themselves realise it isn't radio controlled.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was about to return it, and will now check it doesn't lose nor gain time, otherwise it is back to the store.

Howard said...

Many thanks for this. I've just reset the time. But how right some of the comments are about John Lewis. I would never have bought the clock if I had known that the time was not radio-controlled and frankly feel 'conned'. I thought very highly of JL before this, but not any more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the blog was pulling my hair out trying to find Indigo op. instructions. Also very disappointed with JL products these days. Was sold a clock, got home, no mains lead,went back to be told it didn't come with one, told to go upstairs and get one from elec. dept. Told they don't do them!
Bought another clock (Indigo - checked with lead). Got home, no instructions!
Urgh, found your blog, thank you!
Will open every box in JL in future!

Anonymous said...

It actually says on the original intrusions how to change time.

"To set time and calendar manually"
#if the time or the date are incorrect then set them by holding the alarm set button until the year appears and flashes on the display. Press the "+" button or the "-" button to set the time. Press the ALARM set button again to set the month, day, HOURS AND MINUTES.

The only thing I couldn't work out is if the ":" between the hour and minute should be flashing all the time or if you can make it stable?

Dr Rob said...

That definitely wasn't in the instructions when we bought ours - they must have updated them.

I don't know of any way to stop the flashing ":". I guess that's there so that you can tell if time has stopped... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Have lived with the clock around 50 mins fast for a year or so now and have just managed to change it by using the original instructions from Anonymous.
Fantastic - except that I bought a new clock from JL a few weeks ago which actually gives the right time but is incredibly bright at night...Now to decide whether to take the new birght one back opr not...
thanks so mcuh anyway

Matt (Engineer) said...

After looking for the manual of my Acctim model 13267 alarm clock online I found this thread.

The CR2032 battery is the ~3.3V supply voltage for the radio chip inside the alarm clock. This synchronises the clock with the time broadcast from several locations across the globe (whichever is closest - google it for more info).

There is also a 9V battery backup which keeps the time running when the unit is disconnected from the mains. - this is the supply that helps it not reset every time there is a power cut.

Essentially whomever designed the electronics was doing it very cheaply and didnt want to include the cost of a 3.3V regulator and DC/DC converter to supply the radio chip with the right power level, so they used a battery. This is just bad design, but the product still works quite happily if you ensure that the CR2032 battery is replaced every couple of years (like you would with a watch battery).

The time drift is seen due to the Real Time Clock & Calendar that the microcontroller utilises. I suspect that this is running from a very inaccurate crystal or RC oscillator and as such is subject to considerable drift over time...

The net result is that you let the battery in your clock die, it then couldnt syncronise the time properly with the radio signal so started running from the internal clock which is very inaccurate. This caused your clocks time to be off over a period of months.

Hope this information helps.

Rob Noble said...

Hi Mark (Engineer),

Interesting... I changed the coin cell last night and am waiting to see if the clock corrects the time by itself.

I think these battery radio controlled clocks only try to acquire the signal occasionally, to save battery power, but I'm wondering how often? It's been over 12 hours since I replaced the battery and the time is still wrong. I tried pressing the reset button (it beeps and the display goes blank momentarily), thinking that might trigger it to try receiving the time signal, but it just resets to 12 o'clock.

Words printed on the coin cell cover say, "The clock must be plugged in when the coin cell is changed."

I'm still not convinced that the John Lewis clock has any radio-controlled time function. To me it seems like the coin cell is just there to maintain the time if the power is removed.

In the Acctim model, are there any clues on the PCB (like a coil or aerial for receiving signals)?

Richard said...

I'm also very sceptical about there being any radio reception as there would be no need to keep it plugged in while changing the button cell if that were the case. The little button in the battery compartment resets it to 00:00 on 1/1/200.

Instructions here:

Rob Noble said...

I opened the clock up again to look for any signs of an aerial or coil suitable for receiving radio signals on the PCB, but there's nothing. It might be a feature of the chip (which is buried under a protective splodge of something black, so I can't tell its part number), but if it is, it looks like the radio receiver parts aren't fitted, so the 3V coin cell just maintains the time when the power is off.

JL don't appear to sell it any more. Maybe they had too many returned...

Kenneth from Culcheth said...

I am much obliged for the comments here and particularly the web address to get the original instructions again and it is of course possible to just print them out by clicking on the print button provided within the screen image. Yes these instructions work for a JLewis clock. But you do have to make sure you are changing the settings whilst the screen is flashing. But after a bit of practice you do get it to work. I will measure the voltage of the button battery that I changed to see how much it had drained and advise.

Kenneth of Culcheth said...

Update of my last comment. The button battery I took out and replaced just now had not been drained at all! It must have been in there about 18 months at least. However in the last 6months the clock has only lost about a minute or so (was about a minute behind when I first set it up about 5 years ago. But henceforth I will watch it very closely. But it has served its purpose well as a bedroom clock that you can see in the night with out switching a light on.