Have you ever wondered why mechanical watches always ‘tick’? In fact, these sounds come from the escapement, which plays a key role in the precise timing of the movement. The escapement is a model of watchmaking technology, and it is also the result of microtechnology. The error between components is only a few microns. Its complex and strict production process is the result of the brand’s rich knowledge and superb technology.
When the escapement wheel clasps the pallet fork, a ‘click’ sounds. Then, as the balance wheel oscillates, the pallet forks ‘off’ the pallet wheel from its original position. The escapement wheel will continue to rotate, and then a second answer will snap the second fork. The ‘dipping’ and ‘answering’ sounds of typical mechanical clocks will sound separately every one-eighth of a second. The escapement fork is synchronized by the alternating movement of the balance wheel and continuously swings. The tilted escapement teeth accurately vibrate 28,800 times per hour, of which the ‘drop’ and ‘answer’ each account for 14,400. The oscillating movement of the Rolex Perpetual Core makes the timing accurate and reliable.
Interaction with the balance wheel
The escapement alternates in rhythm and interacts with the balance wheel to become the ‘key of time’ of the movement. The escapement receives the original energy from the mainspring, and then gradually transfers the energy to the balance wheel to maintain the regular swing of the balance wheel. This law will determine the time, and the escapement is transmitted to the pointer through a series of linkage wheels. If there is no escapement, the mainspring will be released at once, allowing all the energy to be released immediately. In addition, if there is no escapement to maintain the balance balance, the balance spring and balance wheel will lose power quickly, and the movement can only stop for a few minutes.
The escapement is a symbol of watchmaking and the fruits of research over the centuries. Like the balance wheel, the escapement is one of the factors affecting the precision, reliability and autonomy of the watch, and it is also a complex and precise component to make. Production and handling errors are limited to a few microns. Some parts, such as the impact pins, fork studs and pallet forks on the balance wheel discs, are the smallest parts in a watch. The production of escapement requires mastery of superb technology and the most advanced micro-technology, which is a major challenge for watchmaking.
The secret of Rolex quality
Rolex develops its own tools and machines at the Bill’s manufacturing facility, and manufactures, inspects, and assembles escapements. Making the most accurate parts and ensuring they work perfectly is a big challenge. Generally speaking, the escapement must be fine-tuned or ‘finished’ to ensure the best performance of the escapement. However, the quality of the products of Bill Manufacturing greatly reduces the need for fine-tuning.
It’s incredible how many factors affect the way the escapement works. A typical example is the precise interaction between the pallet fork and the teeth of the escape wheel. The error range is limited to within a micrometer. If the length is 0.01 mm longer or shorter, the device will stop running. It is no accident that watchmakers can achieve great results. This is the result of cutting-edge watchmaking knowledge, superb technology and strict detection errors, which enables the mass production of very accurate parts. This is one of the know-how of Rolex’s excellent quality. For example, we check the escapement teeth of each movement and measure at two points to ensure that the error does not exceed a few micrometers, which meets extremely strict requirements.
Escape wheel, pallet, splint and balance shaft disc
The escapement consists of four components, including the escape wheel, pallet, fork pallet (used to secure the position of the pallet, to restrict its movement by the positioning post), and the pendulum fixed on the balance wheel shaft. Axle disc and its ruby impact pin. The escapement wheel, the pallet fork and the balance wheel disk work together and are subject to major mechanical pressure: the escapement wheel and the pallet fork are locked with each other 700,000 times a day, that is, more than 250 million times a year. To reduce friction with metal, watchmakers use synthetic ruby components (escape fork gems, impact pins on rollers and bearings). The contact surfaces, especially the escapement teeth, must be smooth and polished. Furthermore, since the challenge of escapement operation is to prevent energy loss, reducing friction is also an important part. Only about forty percent of the mainspring energy can be transmitted to the balance wheel.
New and unique lubricant
In addition, lubricants can play a key role in helping each component of the escapement to achieve maximum performance. Every escapement tooth and escapement pivot must be thoroughly lubricated. The lubricating oil used can lubricate components for many years, even when subjected to temperature changes. Therefore, Rolex has developed a new and unique lubricant that is not only more durable, but also more stable. In addition to extending the inspection interval of the watch, it can also improve the reliability and operation of the watch in the long run.