Of all the inventions that help improve the accuracy of mechanical timepieces, nothing is more important than the speed control mechanism. This article will trace the development and evolution history of speed governing mechanism from its early prototype to the latest material. This article is the sixth part: modern escapement mechanism.
During World War II and in the years that followed, the Armed Forces made different specifications for different types of quality timepieces to watchmaking brands. Objectively speaking, the outbreak of the war has promoted the development of the watchmaking industry. At that time, the frequency and accuracy of the movement was more than sufficient for daily applications, so the watchmaker did not deliberately strive to develop a new escapement. Instead, the brand is focusing on improving case processing technology and looking for ways to improve water resistance and night legibility. It was not until the mid-1950s that the American Mallory Company invented a mercury-containing button battery, and the movement escapement mechanism was further developed. The watchmaker was able to create an electromechanical escapement equipped with an electric drive balance, and the HamiltonVentura watch uses this technology. There are two disadvantages to this type of system: one is that it is very complicated (the quartz watch is developed from this), and the other is that the battery needs to be replaced frequently to provide power.
In 1916, TAG Heuer launched the Micrograph stopwatch, which improved the timing accuracy to 1 / 100th of a second.
The watchmaking industry’s reliance on lever escapements was unexpectedly broken by electronics engineers. For more than 20 years, the research of electronic engineers has made the impossible possible, and successfully miniaturized the components so that they can fit in the watch case. It is worth mentioning that Bulova, the United States, manufactured the first tuning fork watch long before the appearance of quartz watches, thanks to the Swiss engineer MaxHetzel who joined the company in 1948. Bulova’s tuning fork is a crystal resonance, a new invention at the time, indicating that quartz crystals will push the watchmaking industry into a new era: high vibration frequency and ultimate precision. These tuning forks are very clever, not ticking, but buzzing like a bee. Bulova sold more than 4 million tuning fork watches, which were discontinued in 1977 and could no longer compete with quartz watches. In 1960, the universal frequency of the watchmaking industry at that time was 2.5 Hz (18,000 times / hour), and the ‘invasion’ of high vibrational frequencies encouraged traditional mechanical watch manufacturers to start raising the oscillation frequency of the escapement.
Speed up or fall behind
This is not the first time watchmakers have tried to increase the escape frequency. At the beginning of the 20th century, the watchmaking industry was determined to measure the world, unable to satisfy the technological level at that time. In response to demand, TAGHeuer became one of the first brands to explore high vibration frequencies, and in 1916 released its research result, Mikrograph. This hand-held stopwatch vibrates up to 50 Hz (360,000 times / hour), with a timing accuracy of 1/100 second, and is displayed on the dial. In the same year, Minerva introduced a stopwatch with a timing accuracy of 1/100 second, which was subsequently improved in 1936. However, not all brands believe that there is a need to use such a high frequency, especially in practice, this level of accuracy is rarely involved. In the 1920s, OMEGA took the first step in the field of sports timing. Its mechanical stopwatch vibrated at 5 Hz (36,000 times / hour) and the accuracy of the timing was 1/10 of a second.
At the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, OMEGA provided 30 stopwatches with a timing accuracy of 1 / 10th of a second.
Only a few timepieces can approach this level of accuracy, but the first shot of the ‘war’ of vibration frequency has been fired. When the timepiece moves from the pocket to the wrist, the competition to find the right frequency really begins. In the earliest mechanical watches, the vibration frequency was usually set at 2.5 Hz (18,000 times / hour). Movement engineers quickly realized that it was difficult for these watches to maintain accurate timekeeping as the wearer constantly changed gestures. To this end, movement engineers have come up with various solutions, such as switching to smaller and lighter balance wheels (to reduce inertia), or faster escapement components (higher frequencies). This explains why most watchmakers have increased the escapement frequency, from 2.5 Hz in the 1940s to 3 Hz in the mid-1950s, and to 5 Hz in the late 1960s by Büren, Seiko and Zenith. . (Photo / text watch home compiled by Xu Chaoyang)