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Week-end Clock Blogging - The 18th century in Germany

by dmun Sat Jun 17th, 2006 at 10:53:40 AM EST


We last visited the Germans in the rennaissance, before the invention of the pendulum, when Augsburg was the center of the clockmaking universe.

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

The shape and form of the Renaissance clock came into the seventeenth century, and became cased in wood. This example is from Augsburg at the end of the 17th century, by Johann Buschmann. You can see the similarities to the Augsburg tower form table clocks which preceded it.

What can you say about the Germans? In the sixteenth century they took an obscure Italian ecclesiastical timer, that even the Italians weren't much interested in, and turned it into an active industry. In the 19th century, in the Black Forest, they basically invented the cheap clock. When threatened by the Connecticut invasion, they threw themselves into industrialization in a big way, and produced a dizzying array of mass-produced clocks.  In the last century they made arguably the best precision regulator, by Sigmund Riefler, and others. When their industrial capacity was destroyed in two calamatous and losing wars, they rebounded to become, basically, the only maker of mass produced clocks in the world, aside from a bit of marginal stuff from the far east.  Clockmaking is, basically, a German story, so you'd think we would know a lot about the formative years of the German clock.  We don't. I have one or two books, in a language I can't begin to understand.  I can't tell you about the people involved.  I can show you some pictures, but I don't have anything like a comprehensive narrative structure to tell you.  In most cases, I don't even know what the movements look like.

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

Here's another fairly early bracket clock from Augsburg, made by Johann Philip Treffler, showing the Augsburg folks starting to embrace the curves which would be such a part of German 18th century clock design, but clearly feeling a bit insecure about it.

The Germans had a curious fondness for placing the pendulum in front of the dial, about the worst imaginable place to put it. Admittedly the pendulum was a novelty at the time, but any clock design which makes you stop the clock to wind it or set it is deeply flawed.

Here are a couple of examples of zapler clocks:

This is the zapler clock in it's table version.  Note the flimsy pendulum swinging in front of the dial. This one's by Johann Peter Federspill

The zapler clock also came in a wall version with a stout ring to hang it up. Here's an unsigned wall zapler presented in a wood table case (?). You will note the repousse sheet brass dial surrounds in these, another holdover from renaissance practice, where this hammered decoration was an important decorative element.

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

The bracket clock had German equivalents:

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

This somewhat over-the-top example in a gilt bronze case, by Paul Graff of München has the form and dial shape of an 18th century English bracket clock, but with a degree of elaboration to appeal to local tastes.

The longcase clock had it's place in German horology as well:

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

The left hand clock from 1738 is by Urban Schmitt, and the center one from 1761, by Heinrich Kessman, both of Würtsburg.  The right hand clock was made by Kasten.

I end with a curious item:

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

This is a clock with a twenty-four hour dial, and numerous astronomical indications, in a curious rococco style case. It's by Joseph Cajetan Rasp, of München

I'd like to be able to tell you more about clockmaking in Germany, but without knowing the language, or having exposure to actual examples. I can't tell you what's more common, or typical of particular regions. But in any event, here are some pictures to look at.

Next time: more 18th century clockmaking in other European countries.


Monastic alarms and the beginnings of clockmaking
De Dondi's remarkable astrarium
Early tower clocks
Gothic iron clocks
Rennaisance clocks
Early english lantern clocks
Huygens and the pendulum
Fromanteel's English pendulum clocks
Huygens in Paris
Clement and the recoil escapement
Edward East and the golden age
Thomas Tompion
Daniel Quare
Joseph Knibb
Golden age recap
The balance spring
Paris - Louis Quatorze
Paris - La Regence
Graham - Compensation
18th century in the Netherlands

This is sort of a pictures only version of clockblog.

Anyone who knows more about German tradition, feel free to jump in.

Have a good weekend.



by dmun on Sat Jun 17th, 2006 at 10:56:26 AM EST
Thanks dmun for your clock diaries which I always enjoy.
I am wondering, from a clockmaker point of view, are all timekeeping devices as interesting ? I mean, is a classic swiss watch from the seventies as fine a piece of engineering ? In other words, would you blog about Breguet or Omega watches, or they just aren't as interesting as clocks ?
by balbuz on Sun Jun 18th, 2006 at 10:25:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the English speaking world, watchmakers and clockmakers are completely separate trades.  I hold great admiration for the precision and technical mastery of watchmakers, but I just don't know anything about it. I don't even wear a watch.

As for clocks, the end of clocks as works of art, as opposed to mass produced machines was pretty much WWI.

by dmun on Sun Jun 18th, 2006 at 06:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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