The word ‘escapement’, is one you’ll no doubt have encountered multiple times when reading about watches. But what exactly is an Escapement, and why is it important that you should know?
Simply put, an escapement delivers energy from the barrel, via the train wheels, to the regulating unit (balance or pendulum) to maintain its oscillation. It is the ‘distributing organ’ of the watch and also counts the oscillations of the regulating unit.
That’s what it does in a nutshell, but it has not always been that way. There have been many different types of escapement throughout the history of watchmaking, each one exploiting the available technology of the day and attempting to redefine the tried and tested methods to increase accuracy and efficiency. The most common in use today is the Swiss Lever escapement (the Co-Axial escapement, invented by the late George Daniels, is a modified version of this and currently taking the world by storm). The Swiss Lever Escapement is a DETACHED escapement (which means when the escapement is at rest (at the dead point), its constituent parts are not touching (in theory).
So what are the other types of escapement? Well, there’s the Frictional Rest and the Recoil, but they aren’t very often used these days. An awareness of variations between escapements is imperative when fixing old watches (Pin Lever, or Pin Pallet Escapements were, thanks to their cheapness, incredibly common for a while).
Check out the below categorisations:
Detached: Swiss lever, Detent, Pin lever
Frictional Rest: Cylinder, Duplex