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Association française ACHED
pour la fin de l'heure d'été double

pour la réduction des avancements de l'heure
French Association ACHED for reduced time advance
fondée en 1983 since 1983



The situation in France, #the3times

(glossary 1)

In France, the legal time situation is exceptional: indeed, during the "winter" period, the legal time of the country is already advanced by one hour compared to the solar time of the nearby meridian .

Courtesy image

As we see on this map, metropolitan France (like Spain and some other countries) should have the same legal time as the United Kingdom and Portugal, namely GMT (UTC) and not GMT + 1 ( UTC +1).

Since 1945, France is assigned to the CET timezone, Continental European Time, code A (Alpha), time of Continental Europe. Its current standard time is UTC + 1.

But France should be in the WET zone (code Z, Zulu), Western European Time, Western Europe time. The standard time for this time zone is UTC (GMT). UTC is the true normal time of France, its natural standard time.

This natural standard time is the solar time along meridian 0 which passes through Greenwich in England, Alençon and Gavarnie in France and Alicante in Spain. It is the stime closest to the solar time of all French people in metropolitan France.

Compared to this natural standard time, the French legal time carries TWO advancements: a one-hour advance during the "winter" period and a two-hour advance during the "summer" period.

Solar time in Alençon

standard natural time

6 8 10 12 16 18 20 22 24

Time in "winter" period,

current standard time

7 9 11 13 17 19 21 23 1

Time in "summer" period,

current daylight saving time

8 10 12 14 18 20 22 0


During the summer period, with "double" summer time, French clocks show 14 hours when it is actually noon. Or how to look for noon when two o'clock ...

During the summer period, currently, France has the standard time of the EET time zone (code B, Bravo), Eastern European Time, UTC + 2 or GMT + 2, which meridian passes near Kiev in Ukraine.

A bit of history ...

The basis of the system stated in 1884 is that within a 15 ° time spanl, all the clocks indicate the same time: the average solar time of the central meridian of the time zone(Meridian of reference). The meridian of the Z / WET timezone is the 0 meridian that passes through Alençon and Gavarnie in France, Greenwich in England, Alicante in Spain.

From 1916 and between the two world wars, many European countries, including France and Spain, used a system of "single summer time" (one hour ahead during  "summer" - in fact for five months then).

During the Second World War, occupied France lost control of its time and was set to Berlin time, either UTC + 1, or UTC + 2 when Germany advanced. Two consecutive winters 40-41 and 41-42, it even happened that France spent the winter in UTC + 2. In 1945, France did not return to UTC but remained on at Berlin time. France and Germany (West) stopped changing their time seasonally and stayed at the same fixed time, UTC + 1. Spain, Belgium and Benelux also under Nazi influence until late 45, had also lost their pre-war time, suffered UTC + 1 / UTC + 2 during the war and also remained at UTC + 1.

After 45, some countries (Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland) continued to advance under "simple" summer time systems. Except UK spent 3 years at UTC + 1 from 1968 to 71 and then returned to seasonal changes. France was during this period somehow at an advanced time, a  "single" summer time blocked in summer position. In 1976, France added an additional seasonal advance (change) for six months of the year ... then for seven months since 1996. In the wake of France, other countries (re) began to make seasonal progress. As early as the 1980s, all countries in the European Union had a time change system and this is still the case today. It is even a condition of entry into the European Union.

In 2019, France, Spain and the Benelux use "double", + 2H, summer time compared to their natural standard time. France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are sometimes called "The Club of 5": the club of 5 European countries with a double summer time, advanced 2 hours in summer compared to at their standard time of origin / natural. (Portugal also used "double" summer time, but only for four years, from 1992 to 1996). Other countries in the European Union have  "single" summer time systems.

To conclude ...

Saying winter time and summer time is relatively necessary to be understood talking to a French person, but we are of the opinion that their use of those terms should be restricted especially in the questions of polls and in the official texts. When we say summer time, what is it? the system? time? the simple one? the double one? When we say winter time / summer time, how can we not think of the winter / summer seasons? And do not we forget the third hour: the UTC.

Because the times of France are more than 2, winter / summer, 

but actually there are 3 times: UTC / UTC + 1 / UTC + 2

# les3H

Natural standard time, standard time, advanced time + 2H

Standard time is by convention that of the time zone in the winter. Contrary to American they is no notation S for Standard D for Daylight Daving time like the US one (example CDT, CST). 

It is risky to talk about standard time as they have changed over the course of history and could change again. It is nevertheless very handy. In the case of France, it is further complicated because we have several standard hours. We will be saying   natural standard time for UTC + 0 to distinguish it from UTC + 1 the current standard time.

UTC + 0 is the natural standard time. In French heure standard naturelle.

UTC + 1 is the current standard time. In French, heure standard actuelle.

 Standard time UTC + 1 and UTC + 2 are advanced times.

UTC + 2 is a the advanced time for the summer period. In English Advanced time, or DST or summertime, or double-summertime. Double summer time is part of the name of our association)

To limit confusion it is useful to speak in UTC, UTC + 1, UTC + 2.

The name GMT is obsolete since 1972 but everyone understands and we still find it in the official documents of the European Union of 2017 ...

The codes Z, A, B have the advantage of being a short notation but less known.

If we use the zones WET, CET and EET, it is good to know that France should be in WET but is not there.


Note 1: References / Glossary, outside of France: 

Standard time :
is the legal time given to a place,
corresponding to the mean solar time of a nearby meridian or a neighboring one.

According to Merriam Webster

Natural Standard time :
is the standard time given by the closest meridian .

When are current and natural standard times not the same ?
when a country or state adopts a legal time that is not the one of the closest meridian.

How to know whether your current standard time is the natural one?

Look up for the solar noon of your place.
It must approximately less than 30 minutes away at noon standard time.

The province of Saskatchewan is not having its natural standard time but an advanced standard time
because the solar noon in Regina is about 1pm


Places where standard time is not the natural standard time

France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands

Saskatchewan in Canada (http://heure-ete.net/CanadaFR)

Sometimes it is debatable as a country can be half way between 2 meridians or extend on more than 2 stripes

Luxembourg is a debatable one as it lays half way between 2 meridians

Sometimes part of a country or a state is not having natural time . Sometimes it is an area with low populatoin density
Example: Greece

Sometimes the country spans on more than 2 natural standard times and part of country has an important population not under natural standard time:
Example: China


Updated on Jan 31, 2020.