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Model of a Mechanical Clock Escapement
American Journal of Physics
  • John Wagner, Clemson University
  • David Moline, Clemson University
  • Eugene Vold, National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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American Association of Physics Teachers
The mechanical tower clock originated in Europe during the 14th century to sound hourly bells and later display hands on a dial. An important innovation was the escapement mechanism, which converts stored energy into oscillatory motion for fixed time intervals through the pendulum swing. Previous work has modeled the escapement mechanism in terms of inelastic and elastic collisions. We derive and experimentally verify a theoretical model in terms of impulsive differential equations for the Graham escapement mechanism in a Seth Thomas tower clock. The model offers insight into the clock’s mechanical behavior and the functionality of the deadbeat escapement mechanism.

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