OMEGA’s Co-Axial Technology: the turning point

OMEGA Co-Axial calibres re-define the mechanical watch movement: less sliding friction, greater mechanical efficiency and outstanding chronometric performance over time.


When Swatch Group Chairman Nicolas G. Hayek acquired the rights for OMEGA to use Co-Axial technology, he set an audacious goal: he wanted the best performing and the most beautiful series-produced movement in the world. For OMEGA, which was named for the revolutionary 19’’’ calibre from 1894, the years of intense research and development marked a return to its roots.

The OMEGA Co-Axial calibres were built to provide perfect working conditions to the Co-Axial escapement which had been introduced in 1999 as the first practical new watch escapement to be invented in some 250 years. The components in OMEGA’s Co-Axial escapement differ considerably from those of the Swiss lever escapement which had long been the industry’s mainstay: it consists of a balance roller carrying a pallet and an impulse pin, an anchor with three pallets, and a three-level coaxial escapement wheel comprising the co-axial wheel, the co-axial pinion and the gearing/transmission pinion, with which it is connected to the intermediary wheel and the gear train.
 

The Co-Axial advantages

The technology is complex but there are some impressive advantages to the design when it is compared with the Swiss lever escapement:

With any watch escapement, energy has to be transmitted to the oscillator; this energy maintains the oscillator’s frequency. The impulse in a Swiss lever escapement involves the wheel tooth sliding along the inclined surface of the pallet. This sliding movement generates considerable friction, making optimal lubrication vital if the escapement is to function correctly. In contrast, the OMEGA Co-Axial escapement transmits energy using radial impulses. The smaller contact surfaces and the pushing motion, as opposed to the lever escapement’s sliding motion, significantly reduce the friction in the escapement.

Both clockwise and anti-clockwise impulses in a Swiss lever escapement are delivered indirectly from the escapement wheel through the anchor to the balance roller, resulting in an important loss of energy. The OMEGA Co-Axial Escapement’s clockwise impulse is given directly to the pallet on the balance roller by the teeth of the escapement wheel. As a result, the Co-Axial escapement benefits from greater mechanical efficiency which ensures more stable precision.

The OMEGA Co-Axial escapement is used in conjunction with a free sprung-balance. The timepiece’s rate can be adjusted by modifying the moment of inertia of the balance wheel instead of repeatedly changing the active length of the balance spring. The adjustment is made by micro screws embedded in the circular balance wheel. This design improves shock resistance and avoids the disturbances caused by touching the balance spring.

A four-year warranty

While certain benefits of OMEGA’s Co-Axial calibres will be immediately appreciated, others take more time to appreciate, including a four-year warranty, longer service intervals, and an outstanding chronometric performance which will be maintained over a longer period of time.

Every Co-Axial movement is a COSC-certified chronometer

There is an organization in Switzerland called the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres or COSC (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute) that tests watch movements to determine whether they achieve the designation “chronometer”. To earn that title, a mechanical movement’s average daily variation in rate has to be between -4 and +6 seconds per day. This represents a precision of 99.99%, the highest level of precision attainable by a mechanical movement. Of course, the individual habits of a wearer will have some influence on the performance of a watch but it is worth noting that every single OMEGA Co-Axial movement is a COSC-certified chronometer. An OMEGA watchmaker can adjust the precision of a watch to the even narrower OMEGA tolerances, which are from -1 to +6 seconds per day.

English master watchmaker George Daniels, who invented the Co-Axial escapement in the 1970s and worked closely with OMEGA on its industrialization, is justifiably proud of his creation. He says, “When it becomes more widely known to consumers that watches with Co-Axial escapements have better chronometric performance than their counterparts with classic lever escapements and that the Co-Axial watches have longer service intervals, the demand for Co-Axial calibres will accelerate dramatically. But it has another major role: it will extend the popularity of mechanical watches into the 21st century and beyond.”

Nicolas G. Hayek’s bold challenge has been met: OMEGA’s Co-Axial calibres are the best series-produced mechanical watch movements in the world.

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