OMEGA Mechanical Watches and Hand-wound Watches Co-Axial Escapement and its Function

Omega's signature escapement: the coaxial escapement

Image of Omega's coaxial escapement movement, cal.2500

Alpha (α) is the Greek letter that represents the beginning of something, and its counterpart Omega (Ω) is the letter that represents the end, or the ultimate state.

And the watch manufacturer Omega is a manufacturer that lives up to its name.

Especially when it comes to technological innovation, they are one or even two steps ahead of other manufacturers, making them the greatest pioneers among watchmakers.

OMEGA watches have always accompanied mankind on land, sea and in space, where man has never been before.

When NASA was selecting clocks for use in space during the Apollo program, for example, they conducted experiments that were more like destroying the clocks than selecting them.

The only one that remained was the Omega Speedster, which meant that Omega was the only watch that had landed on the moon with mankind.

The accuracy and durability of this watch are remarkable, with no deviation in the movement of its hands even in harsh environments such as space.

Omega has been at the forefront of technology since the 1960s, and in 1999, the company developed a technology that would evolve even further into the history of wristwatches by 200 years.

This is the co-axial escapement as we know it today.

Before explaining the "coaxial escapement", it is necessary to explain how an "escapement" works in the first place and how a mechanical watch works in the first place.

Regardless of whether it is automatic or manual winding, mechanical watches run on a mainspring that rotates gears.

It does not operate on electrical signals like a quartz watch.

Image of Omega's coaxial escapement movement, cal.2500

In this situation, the gears inside the clock must continue to rotate at the same speed as ever.

If you don't do this, the lens will become significantly misaligned after wearing it for a day, and will no longer be usable.

The heart of a mechanical wristwatch consists of the "regulator" and the "escapement."

The "regulator" is composed of a "hairspring" and a "balance wheel." It is the part that uses the isochronous expansion and contraction of the "hairspring" to send stored energy to the "balance wheel" at a constant rate, causing the "balance wheel" to rotate back and forth regularly.

If the weight and string are the same length, the time it takes for the pendulum to swing back and forth will be the same regardless of how fast it swings.

This is the "isochronism of the pendulum" that the 16th century genius scientist Galileo Galilei discovered in 1583. Mechanical watches use this isochronism to keep the passage of time constant.

A "balance" is a small, portable version of the pendulum mechanism.

In addition, the current Omega movements have a hairspring made of silicon, which makes them more resistant to magnetic forces and more durable.

The escapement is made up of an escape wheel and an anchor. It continuously provides the power for the balance to rotate back and forth (i.e. the movement of the pendulum) and controls the wheel train with the regular reciprocating rotation from the balance.

The escapement is a mechanism that uses the isochronism of the pendulum to rotate the gears at a constant speed. The escape wheel, a serrated gear that tries to continue rotating with the power of the mainspring, is received and released by a pawl that works in conjunction with the pendulum, or the anchor, allowing the escape wheel to rotate at a constant speed.

The pinion on the escape wheel axis works in tandem with the gears that move the hands of the clock, allowing the clock to keep time correctly.

By winding the crown, power is transmitted to the mainspring, which makes the mechanical watch work. Automatic watches have a rotor. The rotor moves when you move your arm, and the power is transmitted to the mainspring, which then moves the watch.

Therefore, unlike manual winding watches, automatic watches do not need to be wound up with a crown if they are left on. This has the advantage that the mainspring is less likely to break.

Now, this "escapement," which is the most hard-working part to keep time, generates a lot of friction. In other words, minimizing this friction will increase the accuracy and durability of a mechanical watch.

The conventional escapement that had been used since the 19th century had a major drawback in that the angle at which the "balance" was rubbed was large, making it difficult for the pendulum to maintain isochronism and resulting in a loss of power from the mainspring. The "co-axial escapement" solved these drawbacks.

In a co-axial escapement, the anchor has three prongs, and the contact method with the escape wheel is a bouncing (point contact) rather than a rubbing (linear movement).

This reduced the contact area between the escape wheel and the anchor, and also succeeded in increasing the efficiency of power transmission. The invention of this mechanism made it possible to reduce the rubbing angle of the balance, something that had not been possible for two centuries.

Image of Omega's coaxial escapement movement, cal.2500

As a result, the pendulum principle works more easily, there is less loss of force, and it is more resistant to shocks and changes in posture.

By reducing the contact area, the lubrication cycle is much longer than with conventional escapements.

In other words, it has become possible to lengthen the required overhaul cycle, which was previously once every 3 to 5 years, to once every 10 years.

The coaxial escapement, the greatest invention of the century, was invented by Dr. George Daniels in 1978. This was more than 20 years before Omega put it to practical use in 1999, but that doesn't mean nothing had happened in the meantime.

Dr. Daniels brought prototypes of the "co-axial escapement" to watch manufacturers such as Rolex.

However, due to the high level of development difficulty and the difficulty of mass production, other manufacturers other than Omega hesitated to try it. It is said that Rolex did not even understand the mechanism. However, Omega, a pioneer, continued to challenge the mountain of problems that arose in commercializing the product.

The result is what we have today.

Omega's Co-Axial mechanism has since been improved several times, and as of 2015, the further evolved Master Co-Axial mechanism is becoming the standard for Omega watches.

The Master Co-Axial is an ultra-antimagnetic mechanism that can withstand magnetic forces of 15,000 gauss or more. Currently, the Master Co-Axial is only used in some of the Seamaster, De Ville, and Constellation models, but Omega has declared that it will introduce the Master Co-Axial mechanism to all models, including the Speedmaster, in the next few years.

In terms of practicality, if you buy an Omega in the future, I think it would be best to choose a Master Co-Axial watch. However, since traditional Co-Axial watches will no longer be available in the future, if you are keen to buy a Co-Axial watch, now is the time to buy one. Don't miss out!

Coaxial parts
Coaxial parts