Craftsmanship of Black Forest clockmakers dates back to mid of the 17th century. A specialized branch of Black Forestclockmakers are the manufacturer of cuckoo clocks.
Beginnings in the 17th century
Black Forest clock production began in the mid-17th century. The first range of clocks were for practical use and of simple design. The popularity of clocks from Black Forest grew, and plates and clock faces became more sophisticated. It is said that, in the early days, Black Forest clocks were copied from the Bohemian style. Gradually Black Forest clocks gained in reputation; especially the famous cuckoo clocks, which developed into their now typical style from around 1854.
In the first half of the 18th century, wooden wheels were used in Black Forest clock manufacturing (German: Holzräderuhr). In the second half of the 18th century, technical progress led to winding wheels being produced in yellow brass. Towards the end of the 18th century, plate clocks for the wall were produced. They had wooden panels which were painted in lacquer (Lack-Schilderuhr). At the end of the 18th century, Jacob Herbstreith manufactured small wall clocks with plates in porcelain or brass (Jockele-Uhr). At the beginning of the 19th century, the Sorgs, a clockmaker family, produced a very small wall clock (Sorg-Uhr).
A wooden plate clock (Lackschild-Uhr )
A porcelain plate clock (Jockele-Uhr)
A very small Sorg Clock (Sorg-Uhr)
The heart core of Black forest clock production was an area that extended from Triberg via Furtwangen to St. Peter. In 1850, the Duchy of Baden founded the first school for clockmakers in Furtwangen in order to improve the standard of production and make it more efficient. Several times of crisis followed. In the mid-19th century, mass production began. But after the American Civil War, elements of the US war industry switched to highly competitive clock production. German clock manufacturers thus lost market share.
Special types of clock were developed: the cuckoo clock, the figurine clock, clocks that chimed the hours, the bracket clock and the grandfather clock.
A cuckoo clock (Kuckucksuhr)
A figurine clock (Figurenuhr)
A flute clock (Flötenuhr)
A grandfather clock (Regulator)
Boom and decline
At the beginning of the 20th century, the clock industry initially prospered but then collapsed as the First World War broke out and, subsequently, the Russian and American markets broke away. After the Second World War, exports boosted production.
Continuing structural change
In the 1970s, the advent of new plastic clock cases and quartz clockworks lead to serious restructuring. The new methods meant many workers became redundant and brought higher competition from the newly industrialized countries. Also, the introduction of LCD watches led to further painful restructuring. The number of employed clockworkers shrunk from 28,000 in 1973 to 21,000 in 1976. The export-oriented German clock industry had to weather a roller-coaster of unstable exchange rates, lower growth rates, high competition from developing countries and continual technological change.“ Continuing new techniques and globalization affect the Black Forest clock industry.
Black Forest clockmakers
The German Clock Museum (German: Deutsches Uhrenmuseum) also has in its collection some early Black Forest clocks with wooden cogwheels as well as a number of industrially produced Black Forest clocks. The German Clock Route (in German: Deutsche Uhrenstraße) is a themed route that connects places with relevant museums and (former) clock manufacturers in the Black Forest.
Black Forest clocks on the antique market
Bracket clocks and grandfather clocks by Black forest clockmakers are viewed on the German and American antique market as mechanical clocks of high craftsmenship.
Grandfather clock from 1890 manufactured by AG Lenzkirch
- Rick Ortenburger: Black Forest Clocks. Schiffer Publications, Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania, USA, 1991. ISBN 0-88740-300-X.
- (de) Helmut Kahlert:300 Jahre Schwarzwälder Uhrenindustrie, Katz, 2007, ISBN 978-3-938047-15-6. (In English: 300 years of the Black Forest Clock Industry)
- (de) Herbert Jüttemann: Die Schwarzwalduhr. Badenia-Verlag, Karlsruhe, 2000, ISBN 978-3-89735-360-2. (In English: The Black forest clock)
- (de) Ekkehard Liehl, Wolf Dieter Sick (eds.): Der Schwarzwald. Beiträge zur Landeskunde. Veröffentlichungen des Alemannischen Instituts, 47, Freiburg im Breisgau, 4th edn., 1989. (In English: Black Forest. Studies of Geography, History and Institutions)
- (de) Berthold Schaaf: Schwarzwalduhren. G. Braun Buchverlag, Karlsruhe, 4th edition, 2008. ISBN 978-3-7650-8391-4. (In English: Black Forest clocks).
- (de) Gerd Bender: Die Uhrmacher des hohen Schwarzwalds und ihre Werke. Vol. 1, 1998, and Vol., 2 1978. Verlag Müller, Villingen. (In English: The Clockmakers of the High Black Forest and their Works).
Lenzkirch clocks are without a doubt the most highly collectable of all antique clocks made in the Black Forest region of Germany during the 1800s. Their quality and beauty set them apart from all others. The craftsmanship and highly decorated cases quickly established Lenzkirch clocks as the best of the best. Founded in 1851 as a stockholder corporation, the Lenzkirch clock factory was the first of its kind in the Black Forest. Prior to that clock making was mainly a cottage industry. Aktiengessellschaft fur Uhrenfabrication Lenzkirch (Stockholder Company for Clock Manufacturing in Lenzkirch) was the brainchild of Edward Hauser. He was born August 21, 1825 the son of a teacher.
Eduard Hauser was born August 21, 1825, died July 22, 1900. Born the son of a teacher, he apprenticed as a music box maker at about the age of 15 under Johann George Schoepperle. After completing his apprenticeship, Eduard left the small village of Lenzkirch and traveled extensively in France, Switzerland and England where he studied clock making at the major manufacturing facilities. During this time he developed the plan to bring precision manufacturing techniques back to the Black Forest. On his return to Lenzkirch, Eduard worked out his plan to introduce the precision assembly line methods he had learned. Up to this time, Black Forest clocks were not known for their quality or precision.
Eduard believed that through precision machinery techniques he could manufacture parts that could then be assembled into a functioning clock. By using the precision parts, Eduard hoped to make Black Forest clocks that would be competitive with the French, English and Swiss.
About 1848 Eduard Hauser partnered with Ignaz Schoepperle and opened a modest machine shop. At first they made parts for other clockmakers. Eduard used this time to convince others of his vision and to raise the necessary capital required to purchase the required machinery. This technique of manufacturing would be much more efficient and profitable than the traditional handmade method of making clocks.
Working upstairs in the musical organ factory, Eduard lead his small group of employees using hand powered flywheel lathes and gear cutting engines. In the beginning progress was very slow. The newly formed company lacked the marketing connections to promote their products. Buying the necessary tools and equipment took most of their money. To take the business to the next level, a stockholder corporation would be necessary. On August 31, 1851, Eduard Hauser and Ignaz Schoepperle joined forces with 5 other men, Franz Josef Faller, Paul Tritscheller, Johann Nikolaus Tritscheller, Joseph Wiest and Nickolas Rogy. Together they formed Aktien-gesesellschaft fur Uhrenfabrication, Lenzkirch (Stock Holder Corporation for Clock Manufacturing, Lenzkirch).
For the first few years the Lenzkirch clock factory imported movements and parts from France. Eduard wanted to reduce their dependency of French goods and soon begain making their own. The first movements made in Lenzkirch were exact carbon copies of the French movements they had been importing. It is impossible to know exactly when the transistion occured. From other readings I have done I believed this occured around 1860 but I have no proof to back it up.
In the early days after the factory began producing complete running movements, they bought the finest clock cases from the Heer Brothers in Voehrenbach to put their movements into. Many were in the Oeil de boef or eye of the ox style. After all, French clocks had dominated the quality market for a long time. Could this be where the rumor began that Lenzkirch made movements that were incased by other clockmakers? If so it only applies to the extremely earliest movements made.
When Lenzkirch introduced the German regulator style clock fashioned after the Viennese Regulator, they quickly gained a reputation for making out-standing quality and highly reliable timepieces. Under Eduard's leadership the factory grew into a large modern manufacturing empire. Workers no longer had to use hand-powered machines to make the parts. Steam engines now powered all of the machines in the factory. The Lenzkirch clock factory also had their own sawmill, foundry, tool and die makers and even did their own gold and silver plating.
In order to be successful they still had to get their clocks to market. The old traditional method of clock peddlers transporting the clocks around the country hoping to find a buyer was inefficient. The Lenzkirch factory come up with an idea and produced their first clock catalog in 1855. The first catalog was little more than outline drawing of the clocks they had for offer. After receiving the order, the clock was made to the customer's specifications and shipped to them. The clock catalog was the brainchild of Franz Josef Faller.
Eduard's eldest son would join his father's business. He was a skilled architect and artistically talented. The esthetic beauty of Lenzkirch clock cases for nearly 30 years can be directly attributed to his contributions. This is one of the main reasons Lenzkirch clocks are so popular and collectable today. Eduard's youngest son Paul also followed in his father footsteps and became a tool and die maker at the factory.
In the years to come, the Lenzkirch factory would win many medals for their clocks. The medals were:
An original Lenzkirch factory business card from around 1910 with the medals on it.
For the complete history on Lenzkirch clocks you should read my book.
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