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Rolex’s Chronergy Escapement – A Closer Look

September 14, 2016

BY Ed Estlow

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If you’re not a watch nerd, those words might sound a bit like a part from a DeLorean time machine – like ‘flux capacitor.’ But if you’re a Rolex aficionado, you know the Chronergy escapement is part of the key to the brand’s new definition of their Superlative Chronometer.

So just what is the fuss over Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement – which debuted a year and a half ago in the calibre 3255 – all about?

Rolex Calibre 3255

Rolex Calibre 3255

The Chronergy escapement is really a modification of the Swiss lever escapement. The classically designed lever escapement is not very efficient, mechanically. Roughly 2/3 of the energy it receives from the mainspring is consumed rather than being transferred to the balance wheel. The Chronergy escapement is uniquely designed to improve efficiency by about fifteen percent.

It does this by reducing the mass of the components. A quick look at the escapement parts will tell you they’re smaller and/or skinnier. The pallet fork is lighter, with smaller pallet stones. And the escape wheel has been skeletonized.

Now, in the engineering world of mechanisms, inertia is a huge consideration. Inertia is effectively defined as the tendency for objects in motion to stay in motion, and objects at rest to stay at rest – unless acted upon by an external force of some kind.

movement 3255 - Bob's Watches

movement 3255 rolex watches

The more mass an object has, the more inertia it has. And so, it takes additional energy – by way of an external force – to get resting objects moving or get moving objects to stop.

So, in order to use less energy to get the escapement components to start, stop, and change direction, Rolex designers have lightened up said components. As we noted above, they’re smaller and/or skinnier.

But that’s not all the designers did. They changed the geometry of the escape wheel teeth and pallet stones, and therefore, how they interact. They also changed the overall geometry of the mechanism in order to obtain better use of the leverage generated by the pallet fork.

Precision manufacturing processes also improve the poise of the balance wheel by a factor of three. (Poising is effectively ‘balancing’ the balance wheel similar to balancing the wheels of your car.) These manufacturing processes also enable the production of the pallet fork and escape wheel out of paramagnetic (only very weakly magnetic) nickel-phosphorus materials.

Rolex Day-Date 40 - Bob's Watches

Rolex Day-Date 40

All in all, these changes to the design of the Chronergy escapement led to much of the additional power reserve the 3255 holds over its predecessor. And really, these changes aren’t just for show, they’re for go. The new Chronergy escapement, along with the new balance wheel are a big part of what enables Rolex to claim their recent redefinition of Superlative Chronometer and its -2/+2 seconds per day precision.

 

 

 

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