Back in the mid-1990s, the replica watch industry was very different from what it is today and mechanical watchmaking was still in its renaissance. Very few watch brands actually manufactured movements in-house, and even fewer brands had the ability or industrial capacity to reimagine the escapement and the oscillator, together called the regulating organ and these are the most crucial part of a watch. With the idea of improving the century-old Swiss lever escapement (developed in 1755 by Thomas Mudge and used in 99.9% of all movements), master watchmaker George Daniels developed the Co-Axial escapement, an innovation that OMEGA realised was groundbreaking. Understanding the importance of chronometry, a field in which fake OMEGA has achieved multiple records, the Biel-based brand took on Daniels’ idea and industrialised the Co-Axial concept. It would become a key element in the impressive precision of its watches and paved the way for OMEGA’s Master Chronometer certification. Today, MONOCHROME presents its latest in-depth movie, a borderline educational film that will explain everything you need to know about the OMEGA Co-Axial escapement.
The escapement is one of the most crucial parts of a mechanical watch. It is its brain. It gradually releases the energy of the mainspring. It works in conjunction with the oscillator, giving impulses to power it. In return, it is regulated by the oscillator. Its role is critical in the quest for greater precision, stability and durability in a watch movement.
Still today – and even more so a couple of decades ago – the Swiss lever escapement has been the norm for mechanical watches. It is used in 99% of Swiss and international movement production. The lever escapement was invented some 250 years ago by Thomas Mudge. Although it has been adopted universally, it has one fundamental flaw: it requires oil. Its sliding friction makes optimal lubrication crucial. The problem with lubricants (oil) is that they deteriorate over time compromising the stability of watch rates. In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of new escapement architectures unveiled by brands; however, most of them are produced on a small scale, and the lever escapement remains the only architecture produced at an industrial scale… Until high quality replica Omega changed this in the late 1990s with the Co-Axial escapement.
Some 50 years ago, one of the world’s most revered watchmakers, George Daniels, decided to question the uncontested pre-eminence of the lever escapement. Daniels knew there was room for improvement, mostly by reducing friction and offering better stability over time. His solution – at this stage still a prototype and a superb piece of horological ingenuity – was the Co-Axial escapement. Still today, his brainchild is the only ‘other’ escapement produced on an industrial scale along with the Swiss lever escapement.
Despite the ingenuity and proven results of the Co-Axial escapement, getting it into production wasn’t easy. Daniels travelled to Switzerland on countless occasions to present his invention to several brands. Unfortunately, the watch industry was facing the quartz revolution, which was celebrated as the future of watchmaking. As clever as his idea was, it hardly resonated in the watch industry. Still, Daniels persevered.
The first application of the Co-Axial escapement in a wristwatch dates back to 1974/1975 when George Daniels hand-produced the components to fit his Co-Axial escapement into the calibre 1045 of his personal steel bracelet replica Omega Speedmaster Mark 4.5 – a piece of watchmaking history, now exhibited at the Omega Museum in Biel. He made a second wristwatch prototype (a thinner wristwatch), and again, he presented it to several of the most prominent Swiss brands. Still, it wasn’t until the early 1990s when Daniels would find support and an optimal framework to develop and industrialise his escapement with OMEGA, a brand that has countless records in the field of chronometry (as explained in the history part of our movie). However, the ultimate determining factor of this success came down to the personal backing of Nicolas G. Hayek, Chairman of Omega’s parent company, Swatch Group.
And in 1999, OMEGA copy finally commercialised the first watch equipped with a Co-Axial escapement, marking a milestone in watchmaking history.