From its first broadcasts, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) included a time check before their evening news bulletins taking the form of the chimes of Big Ben being played originally on a piano and later on tubular bells. The research department at Marconi suggested that a time signal under the control of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich might be broadcast but the BBC chose to use synchronised clocks. During a radio broadcast in April 1923 the horologist Frank Hope-Jones again mooted the idea of the BBC broadcasting a more accurate time signal in the form of a series of ‘pips.’ In December 1923, the General Manager of the BBC, Lord Reith, and the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Dyson, agreed on a plan to modify two clocks at the Royal Observatory to produce a signal that the BBC could broadcast.

The system produced a series of six short five seconds before the end of the hour with the last one generated on the stroke of the hour or half-hour. GPO phone cables carried this signal to the BBC where it was converted to an audible signal. At 9.30pm on 5th February 1924 the BBC broadcast the first Greenwich Time Signal, soon to be known as ‘the pips,’ following an introduction from the Astronomer Royal.