Continuous Revolution In Mechanical Timekeeping

Mechanical clocks and watches have been ticking ever since their invention in the late Middle Ages. The culprit is the escapement, which cuts time into discrete pieces. It stops and starts the movement at regular intervals dictated by the oscillator, a pendulum for clocks and a balance wheel with hairspring for wristwatches.  Watchmakers have dedicated significant effort to improving this inherently complicated mechanism, with remarkable success. 

A research Lab in Switzerland has taken a radically new direction by completely eliminating this escapement. Time is now displayed continuously and silently. The breakthrough observation was that oscillators with only one degree of freedom stop and change direction, so require escapements, but that two degree of freedom oscillators can move continuously with the complex escapement replaced by a simple crank.

The research Lab modified a vintage Neuchâteloise clock by replacing its pendulum with this new oscillator, a sphere maintained by a crank driven by the classical clock movement. The clock features a second hand sweeping continuously and without ticking. 

The following clip was filmed and produced by the Monochrome online watch magazine

Source: EPFL

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