The Earth rotates in 24 hours. The solar time is therefore permanently different from one place to another. Until 1 May 1892, Belgium used local (mean) time, which was most often that of a large nearby city. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Earth was divided into 24 time zones, and the law of 28 April 1892 (which is implemented on 1 May 1892) unified time for the whole country. According to this law, the reference time was the mean solar time of the Greenwich meridian, called GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
In 1971, the official world reference time became the Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). This time is based on the atomic time, defined in 1967 from a quantum property of the caesium atom. In this system, the time zone UTC + 0 h corresponds to that of the Greenwich meridian. Since 10 September 2018, legal time in Belgium has been aligned with UTC.
The old GMT name is still sometimes used instead of UTC. However, the two terms are not equivalent. Indeed, until 1925, according to GMT, the day began at noon and not at midnight. In addition, GMT is based on astronomical criteria (the rotation of the Earth), while UTC is based on the atomic time. Indeed, the Earth does not always turn exactly around itself in 24 hours since its rotation is disrupted by various physical processes. The atomic time, on the other hand, is much more stable. In order to keep UTC as close as possible to the Earth rotation, leap seconds are added at certain times.
The Royal Observatory of Belgium realises the UTC for the whole country. For more information on UTC, the definition of the second and leap seconds and the work of the Royal Observatory of Belgium on time, visit the website of the Time Office.
Geographically, Belgium extends in longitude from 2.6 to 6.4 degrees east. Following the division in 24 timezones, Belgium is located in the Greenwich timezone.
Our time is therefore the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), now Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The old name GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) is still sometimes used, but it is not quite correct, since until 1925, according to GMT, the day started at noon. On 1 May 1892, the Belgian State adopted GMT (later UTC) as legal time.
The daylight saving time system was first introduced during the First World War in some European countries. In these countries, legal time is advanced by one hour during some periods in the summer (UTC + 0 h in winter and UTC + 1 h in summer for the Belgian time zone at the time). In Belgium, the occupied territories followed the time (and daylight saving time) of Germany while the rest of the territory followed the Greenwich Mean Time (UTC + 0 h).
During the Second World War, all occupied territories, including Belgium, were required to adopt German time (UTC + 1 h, winter time, and UTC + 2 h, summer time). In 1946, summer time was abolished, but Belgium decided to keep German time and an hour was added. The Royal Decrees speak of an “advance” of the legal time (UTC) of 60 minutes (UTC + 1 h). Since then, our country has maintained this shift for winter time.
The daylight saving time system was reintroduced in 1977. Since then, an extra hour has been added in summer. Legal time in Belgium is now UTC + 1 hour in winter and UTC + 2 hours in summer. When it is 13:00 in UTC, it is in fact 14:00 in winter time and 15:00 in summer time.
Since 1996, the changeover from winter to summer time has taken place on the night between Saturday to Sunday during the last weekend of March, and the changeover from summer to winter time on the night between Saturday to Sunday during the last weekend of October.
The table below shows the latest dates for switching from winter to summer time and vice versa.
Complete list of daylight saving time change dates for Belgium.
Daylight saving time changes take place on Sunday mornings at 1.00 UTC. For the changeover to winter time in Belgium (last Sunday in October), at 3.00., local time becomes 2.00. local time. For the changeover to summer time (last Sunday in March), 2.00 local time becomes 3.00 local time.
The changeovers are regulated by Royal Decree by the Minister of Home Affairs in accordance with the directives of the European Parliament and the European Union.
(e.g. for the years 1998-2001, they were published in the Moniteur belge of 19.12.1997, p.34256).
For the period after 2001, the Directive (PDF) of the European Parliament and the Council of 19 January 2001 is followed. This directive is transposed into national
law for Belgium by the Royal Decree of 19 December 2001 (published in the Moniteur belge of 28 December 2001 and 1 February 2002).
This Decree specifies that, as from 2002, the advance on legal time, set at sixty minutes, will be increased to one hundred and twenty minutes on the last Sunday of March, at 1.00 universal time (2.00 local time) and that it will be reduced to sixty minutes on the last Sunday of October, at 1.00 a.m. universal time (3.00 a.m. local time).
As no deadline was specified, the annual changeover from summer to winter time (and vice versa) was established for an indefinite period.
Europe recently decided to end daylight saving time. Belgium and its neighbours have to choose whether they will remain permanently on winter time (UTC+1h) or summer time (UTC+2h). In order to inform about the consequences of either choice, the Time Office of the Royal Observatory of Belgium has compiled a document that presents the astronomical data for Belgium.
Until 1 May 1892, local (mean) time was used in Belgium, which was usually that of the nearest large town. The law of 28 April 1892 (which came into effect on 1 May 1892) established GMT (Greenwich Mean Time, later UT or TU, now UTC, the Universal Coordinated Time) as legal time.
The table below displays the dates of time and time zone changes in Belgium since the time zone system was introduced on 1 May 1892. 0 h UTC corresponds to the time zone centred on Greenwich (UTC + 0 h). This was the time zone originally adopted by Belgium before it decided to change to UTC + 1 h in 1946, after the Second World War.
The column “Hour of summer/winter time” shows the time in UTC at the moment when the time change took place. The column “Correction” shows the corrections in time with respect to UTC. For example, on 5 October 1918 at 23:00 UTC, the time changes from UTC + 1 h (Correction: + 1 h) to UTC + 0 h (Correction: + 0 h). This means, for example, that on 6 October 1923 at 00:00 local time, we “jump” one hour earlier, to 5 October at 23:00, in Belgium.
|Year||Day||Hour of summer/winter time
|1918||March 9||0 h UTC||+1 h|
|1918||October 5||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1919||March 1||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1919||October 4||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1920||February 14||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1920||October 23||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1921||March 14||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1921||October 25||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1922||March 25||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1922||October 7||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1923||April 21||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1923||October 6||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1924||March 29||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1924||October 4||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1925||April 4||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1925||October 3||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1926||April 17||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1926||October 2||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1927||April 9||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1927||1 October||23 h UTC||+0 h|
|1928||April 14||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1928||October 7||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1929||April 21||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1929||October 6||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1930||April 13||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1930||October 5||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1931||April 19||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1931||October 4||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1932||April 3||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1932||October 2||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1933||26 March||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1933||October 8||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1934||April 8||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1934||October 7||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1935||March 31||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1935||October 6||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1936||April 19||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1936||October 4||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1937||April 4||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1937||October 3||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1938||March 27||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1938||October 2||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1939||April 16||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1939||November 19||2 h UTC||+0 h|
|1940||February 25||2 h UTC||+1 h|
|1940||May 20||2 h UTC||+2 h|
|1942||November 2||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1943||March 29||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1943||October 4||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1944||April 3||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1944||September 17||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1945||April 2||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1945||September 16||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1946||May 19||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1946||October 7||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1977||April 3||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1977||September 25||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1978||April 2||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1978||October 1||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1979||April 1||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1979||September 30||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1980||April 6||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1980||September 28||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1981||March 29||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1981||September 27||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1982||March 28||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1982||September 26||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1983||March 27||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1983||September 25||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1984||March 25||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1984||September 30||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1985||March 31||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1985||September 29||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1986||March 30||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1986||September 28||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1987||March 29||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1987||September 27||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1988||March 27||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1988||September 25||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1989||March 26||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1989||September 24||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1990||March 25||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1990||September 30||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1991||March 31||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1991||September 29||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1992||March 29||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1992||September 27||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1993||March 28||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1993||September 26||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1994||March 27||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1994||September 25||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1995||March 26||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1995||September 24||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1996||March 31||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1996||October 27||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1997||March 30||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1997||October 26||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1998||March 29||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1998||October 25||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1999||March 28||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1999||October 31||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|2000||March 26||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|2000||October 29||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|2001||March 25||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|2001||October 28||1 h UTC||+1 h|
During the years 1914-1918, in occupied territory, the time and time zone changes in the following table were in effect. In other areas, UTC (correction + 0 h) was used. The time of passage varied according to the advance or retreat of the occupying army.
|Year||Day||Hour of summer/winter time
|1914||November 8||*||+1 h|
|1916||April 30||23 h UTC||+2 h|
|1916||September 30||23 h UTC||+1 h|
|1917||April 16||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1917||September 17||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1918||April 15||1 h UTC||+2 h|
|1918||September 16||1 h UTC||+1 h|
|1918||November 11||*||+0 h|