The role of the escapement is to maintain the oscillations of the balance, which is the regulating organ of a watch. Its mechanical efficiency must be the highest possible, i.e. it must absorb the least possible energy when performing its functions. Once thought to be the most efficient there was, the lever escapement passes on just 30% of the energy it receives. The rest is lost due to the inertia of the masses set in motion, friction and shocks. The time had come for modern watchmaking, with its new resources, to re-examine the question. Which is where the Co-Axial escapement came in. By reducing friction and using available energy more efficiently, it ensures greater stability of the watch’s precision over time. This means less frequent servicing, a necessity for any mechanical watch. The Co-Axial also requires less oil, which significantly diminishes disturbances caused by lubrication in an escapement.
Ten years ago, the general consensus was that such a complex piece of mechanics as the Co-Axial escapement would be reserved for high-end watches. Today, it is being fitted in all Omega’s mechanical watches. Launched in the Calibre 2500, further refinements have been made with the addition of complications such as a chronograph in 2003, an annual calendar in 2008 and a GMT chronograph in 2009.
In the meantime, in 2007 Omega launched the Co-Axial 8500 Calibre. Developed around the escapement and produced in-house, it welcomed Omega back into the circle of manufactures. In 2008, a model especially for smaller watches debuted in the women’s Seamaster Aqua Terra collection. These watches were also first to benefit from an additional innovation: the Si 14 silicon balance spring for even greater accuracy.
Omega is celebrating the Co-Axial escapement’s tenth anniversary with a special worldwide campaign, inspired by the earlier “Watchmakers Wanted” ads for which George Clooney donned a white lab coat and a loupe. In the new campaign, the brand’s spokesmodels – Buzz Aldrin, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford, Sergio Garcia, Nicole Kidman, Michael Phelps, Michael Schumacher and Zhang Ziyi – are seen holding or wearing a loupe. Each advert puts the accent on a particular aspect of the Co-Axial escapement.
The astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who wore a Speedmaster on the moon, poses under the slogan, “It’s not rocket science. But it’s close.” Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher reminds us that “Faster isn’t always better,” a slogan that emphasises the movement’s solidity and consistently strong performance. Swimmer Michael Phelps is associated with split-second timekeeping while Cindy Crawford is associated with fashion. Commenting on the campaign, Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega, declared, “The Co-Axial has been a turning point for us. It has given substance to our message. Creating a campaign around the quality of Omega’s Co-Axial movements using these pictures of our brand ambassadors is an innovative and eye-catching way to communicate how proud we are that the calibres have been so well received and how confident we are about the role they will play in Omega’s future.”