Black Forest

Black Forest clocks

Black Forest clocks

The digital tour in the Saarland Clock Museum was made possible by the support of:

The beginning

Once upon a time...

The "Ackerer" worked a "yoke" (about 3,300 m²) as a day's work in the summer with the sweat of his brow. In winter there was less to do, the wood was not far from the door, so spoons, forks, plates etc., i.e. everyday objects, were carved out of wood. These were also valuable in the poor area, so that the saying "hand over the spoon" came into being.

Image: Pixabay

Video: SWR - Planet School "The Black Forest


In return, older brothers received a “cow share”: three quarters of an acre of land on which to build a house and feed a cow. Since these "cottage workers" knew that they could not make a living from the farm, many learned a trade if they did not want to work on the farm without having the right to make decisions.

Video: SWR - Planet School "The Watchmakers"

Lacquer shield clock

Lacquer plate clock

The original form of the Black Forest clock is not the cuckoo clock but the lacquer shield clock. The clock shield with the dial was preferably made of fir wood, while other types of wood are also found for gears, axles, etc.

The use of wood was inexpensive. In addition, the craft guilds did not initially allow a watchmaker to work metal.

Watchmaking school

The Furtwanger watchmaking school

In 1850 the engineer Robert Gerwig founded the first German watchmaking school in Furtwangen. The aim of the training was to become capable skilled workers, which corresponded to the demands and needs of the Black Forest watchmaking industry.

Despite the paramount importance of watchmaking for the region, after the situation in Black Forest watchmaking had improved in the 1960s, the authorities saw no need for the school to continue in 1864. Only the former teacher Lorenz Bob continued to train apprentices in his house in Furtwangen. In 1877 a master school was founded.

The Furtwang Institute experienced a particular boom and the establishment of its reputation at home and abroad from mechanical engineer Heinrich Bauman, who took over the management of the school in 1900 and held it until 1922. Professor Baumann was an outstanding specialist who achieved international renown in the field of time measurement technology.

German clock museum

The German Clock Museum in Furtwangen

In 1852, the director of the Grand Ducal Baden Watchmaking School in Furtwangen, Robert Gerwig, began collecting old watches as evidence of traditional watchmaking. Today the collection of the German Clock Museum at Robert-Gerwig-Platz 1 in 78120 Furtwangen in the Black Forest consists of more than 8,000 objects from all over the world.

Image: German Clock Museum Furtwangen

Watch industry

The Black Forest watch industry

After the Second World War, the Furtwangen School of Watchmaking was divided into two branches: a vocational school and the state engineering school for precision engineering, which became the Furtwangen University of Applied Sciences (FHF) when the technical colleges were introduced in 1971.

In 1992 the new building of the German Clock Museum was inaugurated (in the picture to the right of the Robert-Gerwig-Schule).

The best-known still active manufacturers of Black Forest clocks are: Hanhart in Gütenbach (stopwatches and wristwatches), Hermle clocks in Gosheim (living room clocks), Junghans in Schramberg (wristwatches and designer clocks), Rombach & Haas in Schonach (cuckoo clocks) and Black Forest clocks).

No longer active e.g.: Lenzkirch watch factory, Badische Uhrenfabrik Furtwangen AG (BADUF), Mauthe, Villingen watch factory.

Special watches

When the masters of the Black Forest clock industry saw how the foreign factories were forced to increase the quality, they also began to manufacture higher quality clocks: alarm clocks, frame clocks with many decorations (picture clocks, eyecatchers), porcelain clocks, capuchins with angelus bells, trumpeter clocks, cuckoo clocks, figure clocks (e Guards, butcher's clocks, bell-clocks), chimes, flute clocks, etc., that is, clocks that initially only the nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie could afford.

On the following pages you can see how the clock industry in other countries reacted to the flood of Black Forest clocks in the 19th century.


Switzerland: Neuchâtel pendulum clock

The typical clock in Swiss households was the Neuchâtel pendulum clock, which was often on a console. At the beginning of the 18th century a watchmaking industry had developed in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, which produced large clocks based on the French model. Over time, a style of its own developed and when the consoles on the clocks disappeared completely in France after the revolution, the Neuchâtel clockmakers simplified the pendulum clock and developed a classically beautiful shape that is still produced today. The wooden case of the clock is painted black, decorated with flowers and structured with gold rims. The enamel dial has a minute wreath, Roman numerals, openings for winding the movement and striking mechanism and Louis XV style hands.


Austria: Wiener Stutzuhr

Movement: Rectangular brass full plate movement with escapement, short rear pendulum. Viennese four-quarter strike on two bells. Repeater. Walking and striking mechanisms over fixed barrels. Running time approx. 3 days.
Case: Typical Viennese wooden case, ebonized and glazed on all sides. A sound hole in sheet brass on both sides.
Dial: White enamel dial with Arabic hours, minute lines and daily calendar. Above the main dial in the arched two enamel sub-dials for 'Repetiert / nicht' and 'Schlickt / nicht'. Enamel medallion in the center of the arch, including an opening for a mirrored pendulum.
Hands: Finely perforated gold-plated brass hands.


England: Stutzuhr James McCabe

Stutzuhr in the typically reserved English style.

Movement: Very solid round brass full plate movement with lever escapement, short rear pendulum, hour strike via rack mechanism on bell, walking and striking mechanism via worm and chain, device for locking the pendulum, running time approx. 7 days.
Case: Mahogany case glazed on three sides.
Dial: Gold-colored dial with Roman hours and minute lines, engine-turned in the middle, the signature on the left and right of the XII, above the XII slider for 'Strike / Silent'. The signature 'James McCabe' stands for the highest quality. The second quality was signed 'McCabe'.
Hands: Blued lily hands.


France: Lantern clock

Since the Comtoise clock is well known, here is a lantern clock with alarm clock from northern France.

Movement: steel webs, iron wheels, pointed-tooth anchor gear with long steel pendulum with a small brass disc, iron weights for the movement, striking mechanism and alarm mechanism, alarm mechanism with a small counterweight made of lead, half-hour striking mechanism on bell.
Dial: domed enamel dial with Roman numerals and Arabic five-minute divisions, alarm clock dial under the hour hand made of brass with embossed numbers, the alarm time is set using the short tip of the hour hand, matt steel hands.


Germany: Frisian Stoeltjesklok

For Germany outside the Black Forest, a Frisian stool watch from the second half of the 18th century.

Four-legged neck clock mounted on a wall board with console. Weight drive with short pendulum. Pendulum and hands are not original.

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