The time elapsed between successful cell infection and the start of virus production is called the eclipse phase. Its duration is specific to each virus strain and, along with an effective virus production rate, plays a key role in infection kinetics. How the eclipse phase varies amongst cells infected with the same virus strain and therefore how best to mathematically represent its duration is not clear. Most mathematical models either neglect this phase or assume it is exponentially distributed, such that at least some if not all cells can produce virus immediately upon infection. Biologically, this is unrealistic (one must allow for the translation, transcription, export, etc. to take place), but could be appropriate if the duration of the eclipse phase is negligible on the time-scale of the infection. If it is not, however, ignoring this delay affects the accuracy of the mathematical model, its parameter estimates, and predictions. Here, we introduce a new approach, consisting in a carefully designed experiment and simple analytical expressions, to determine the duration and distribution of the eclipse phase in vitro. We find that the eclipse phase of SHIV-KS661 lasts on average one day and is consistent with an Erlang distribution.