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BQ Glossary
Watch Escapement

Luxury timepieces are truly marvels of engineering and craftsmanship. If you’re interested in learning how these watches tick away, it’s helpful to be familiar with the technology working under the surface. Watch escapement is a term you may have heard of if you’re interested in watches. But what are watch escapements and how do they work? In today’s BQ Glossary, we’ll break down the details.

What Is a Watch Escapement?

A watch escapement is a mechanism in mechanical watches and clocks that advances the hands of a watch. The mechanism achieves this by giving impulses to the timekeeping part of the watch and releasing the gear train to move the hands forward. 

A watch will have a timekeeping element, typically a pendulum or balance wheel, that loses energy due to friction. The impulses from the escapement replace this lost energy and ensure the timekeeping element continues to work properly. 

But how does the escapement impulse at the right time? When the pendulum or balance wheel swings, a tooth of the escapement wheel moves forward, which moves the hands forward, pushes the timekeeping element, and returns the escapement to a locked state. This stopping event is the ticking sound you hear when your watch keeps time!

OMEGA CK 859 51112392199002
Cartier Pasha 2377

A Quick History of the Escapement

Surprisingly, mechanical escapements have been around for nearly a millennia. The first escapement was developed in the 13th century, which eventually led to the innovation of the mechanical clock. Even before these mechanical escapements were developed, ancient Egypt, Greece and China used liquid-driven escapements.

As for luxury watch escapements, the lever escapement as we know it today was originally designed by Thomas Mudge in 1755. Though many improvements have been made over the years, the fundamental technology is still widely used today.

What Determines the Best Escapement Technology?

As with most things, modern escapement technology isn’t perfect. While horologists and craftsmen have been iterating on escapements for years, there isn’t one technology that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In order to be absolutely perfect, an escapement would have to check the following boxes:

ROLEX SKY-DWELLER 326934
PATEK PHILIPPE AQUANAUT 5164A-001

The Lever Escapement

Most luxury watches utilise a variation of the lever escapement, with certain exceptions including Omega and some other smaller brands. We’ll discuss Omega’s unique escapement design below.

In a lever escapement, two pallets (or locks) are driven by an escape wheel with small teeth that fit into the pallets. As the escape wheel rotates, the pallets stop and release, allowing the watch to advance one notch at a time. The lever escapement is utilised because of its durability and longevity. The lever escapement is self-starting, durable thanks to ruby pallets, and provides impulses in both directions. The reliability and precision of lever escapements have led many top brands to use them for all of their watches. It’s been this way for centuries.

However, the friction from the ruby pallets against the wheel teeth and asymmetrical impulses means that the lever isn’t quite perfect. Although it comes decently close.

The Rolex Chronergy Escapement

The Rolex Chronergy Escapement is Rolex’s variation on a lever escapement. The modifications to the escapement allow it to be more efficient. This is achieved by reducing the size of the pallet stones, offsetting the lever, and optimising the escape wheel. Rolex reports that these modifications make the Chronergy escapement 15% more efficient than traditional levers. So, this still uses the basic tenets of lever escapements but improves upon them.

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326935

The Co-Axial Escapement

The co-axial escapement is the brainchild of George Daniels, who designed an escapement using three pallet stones, two escape wheels and two impulses to keep the balance wheel ticking. With this design, the number of sliding surfaces is reduced and friction between parts is, thus making it more durable and reliable. This escapement is used in Omega watches. 

The reduced friction means that these watches are less prone to need maintenance and don’t require oil. However, the locking mechanism isn’t quite as refined as the lever escapement, though Omega’s continued iterations on this escapement mean that you can still expect your watch to be highly precise for years before needing to service it.

Browse Fine Examples of Premium Mechanical Functionality

The best watchmakers in the world have managed to design and craft timepieces that are as close to perfect as possible. These giants of the watchmaking industry include greats like Rolex, Patek, Omega, Audemars Piguet, and more. The best brands ensure that every piece of their watch is to the highest standards, creating an impeccable product for the customer. It’s amazing how much careful work goes into these timepieces.

All of these brands are noted for their precision, accuracy and dedication to watch design and innovation. While there may not be an escapement that is undeniably perfect, these are the companies that are most likely to come up with that perfect solution in the future. The research and resources they put into their watches are unmatched, and you can find them for a great price right here at BQ Watches. Browse our inventory below.

  • ROLEX GMT-MASTER II 126710BLNR

    ROLEX GMT-MASTER II

    • YEAR2022
    • BOXYes
    • PAPERSYes
    £13,750
  • ROLEX AIR-KING 116900

    ROLEX AIR-KING

    • YEAR2021
    • BOXYes
    • PAPERSYes
    £6,750
  • ROLEX DAYTONA 126500LN

    ROLEX DAYTONA

    • YEAR2024
    • BOXYes
    • PAPERSYes
    £26,500
  • OMEGA SEAMASTER AQUA TERRA 220.13.38.20.02.001

    OMEGA SEAMASTER AQUA TERRA

    • YEAR2023
    • BOXYes
    • PAPERSYes
    £4,300
  • ROLEX GMT-MASTER II 116713LN

    ROLEX GMT-MASTER II

    • YEAR2016
    • BOXYes
    • PAPERSYes
    £10,250

Exceptional Technology, Exceptional Timekeeping

If you’re in the market for an exceptional timepiece, BQ Watches is here to help. BQ Watches provides the best inventory of pre-owned luxury watches in the UK and online. You can find all of the top brands or you can ask about our sourcing services to find your ideal watch. BQ Watches also offers numerous other luxury watch services. You can sell or exchange your watch with us or you can schedule a cleaning, appraisal, or repair service.

If you’re interested in learning more about a watch and the technology behind it before purchasing, simply ask our expert team. We’re happy to answer any questions about our incredible selection. A pre-owned luxury watch is an investment you won’t soon regret. It’s truly an incredible feeling to own a watch that is impeccably designed with top-of-the-line technology. If you’re interested in learning more, or if you know which of our services you need, simply fill out our contact form below. A member of our team will be in touch shortly.

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