An escapement is a mechanical linkage in mechanical watches and clocks that gives impulses to the timekeeping element and periodically releases the gear train to move forward, advancing the clock's hands. The impulse action transfers energy to the clock's timekeeping element (usually a pendulum or balance wheel) to replace the energy lost to friction during its cycle and keep the timekeeper oscillating. The escapement is driven by force from a coiled spring or a suspended weight, transmitted through the timepiece's gear train. Each swing of the pendulum or balance wheel releases a tooth of the escapement's escape wheel, allowing the clock's gear train to advance or "escape" by a fixed amount. This regular periodic advancement moves the clock's hands forward at a steady rate. At the same time, the tooth gives the timekeeping element a push, before another tooth catches on the escapement's pallet, returning the escapement to its "locked" state. The sudden stopping of the escapement's tooth is what generates the characteristic "ticking" sound heard in operating mechanical clocks and watches.
The first mechanical escapement, the verge escapement, was invented in medieval Europe during the 13th century, and was the crucial innovation which led to the development of the mechanical clock. The design of the escapement has a large effect on a timepiece's accuracy, and improvements in escapement design drove improvements in time measurement during the era of mechanical timekeeping from the 13th through the 19th century.
Escapements are also used in other mechanisms besides timepieces. Manual typewriters used escapements to step the carriage as each letter (or space) was typed. Historically, a liquid-driven escapement was used for a washstand design in ancient Greece and the Hellenistic world, particularly Ptolemaic Egypt, while liquid-driven escapements were applied to clockworks beginning in Tang dynasty China and culminating during the Song dynasty.