Verge Escapement

Sometime in the late 13th century, the verge and foliot assembly, also known as a verge escapement, was invented in Europe. This mechanism used an oscillating gear and a balance wheel to turn a shaft in small, equal amounts at a steady rate. This was a major advancement for mechanical technologies, as this allowed for mechanical clocks to be constructed. These clocks were more accurate than previous methods of time measurement such as water clocks, sundials, and marked candles. Additionally, they were more reliable and required less maintenance. Although more advanced mechanical escapements were created in the following centuries, this was the first mechanical device that let man create his own time, rather than let nature determine time for him. Soon, this new technology was put into use in town clocktowers around Europe, especially England and Italy. One of the earliest mechanical clocktowers was believed to be constructed in the Palace of the Visconti in Milan, Italy, in 1335 AD. This new method of timekeeping spread quickly across Europe and enabled societies to agree on the time of day with relative accuracy, influencing how social events and daily lives alike were conducted.

Sources: Wade, Caleb. “The Verge Escapement.” Gearhead. 2018. Accessed 8 Mar 2018.

Lienhard, John. “The First Mechanical Clocks.” Engines of Our Ingenuity. 2000. Accessed 8 Mar 2018.

Image: Wikipedia Commons, public domain.

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

circa. 1250 to circa. 1299