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Clocks at Winterthur Museum

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The 2016 Ward Francillion Symposium will be held October 6 – 8, 2016, at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, DE. The symposium is sponsored by the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors (NAWCC) and will focus exclusively on the museum’s horological pieces.

Winterthur is one of America’s top-rated house museums and boasts a premier collection of 90,000 decorative and fine arts objects made or used in the USA between 1640 and 1860.

A lineup of eminent speakers will address important clocks and watches in the collection, highlighting their makers, regions, craftsmanship, and cultural significance.

The public is welcome and registration is open to all. For more information click here.

Free Webinars Offered by NAWCC

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NAWCC-webinars

The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors is offering an ongoing program of free webinars covering a wide variety of horological topics. These presentations offer you an excellent opportunity to hear speakers from across the country, right from the comfort of your own home.

For details, more information, and to view past webinars click here.

What’s a “Webinar?” It’s a lecture or presentation that is broadcast live over the internet and viewable on your computer. You can access the web broadcast live or if  more convenient, view the recorded version later.

After you register, you’ll receive an immediate email confirmation and later a follow-up email reminder on the day of the webinar. The email notice will include link to join the presentation. In case you’re not able to view the program live, you can register in advance and afterwards receive a follow-up email with a direct link to the recording.

To check out the system requirements for your computer click this link. 

Visit the NAWCC Museum Collection From Your Home

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Did you know…

BLOG-NAWCC-#2_explorecollectionyou can visit the entire collection at the National Watch & Clock Museum from the comfort of your own home? With a click of your mouse or a touch of your finger, you can explore the Museum’s online database containing thousands of objects and images.

You’re invited to join Museum Director Noel Poirier for a “how-to” on using the Museum’s Online Collection Database. The event takes place on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 7pm EST.  There is no charge for the webinar.

After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Be sure you view system requirements before logging on to confirm that you’ll be able to access the program. This information will be found in registration link and registration confirmation. If you can’t attend this webinar live, and would like to view a recording of it,  just register for the webinar and you will be automatically notified when a recording is available.

Register online here. For more Information, or to register, contact Katie Knaub: (717) 684-8261, ext. 237 • kknaub@nawcc.org

Rombach and Haas Modern Art Cuckoo Clocks – Merging Traditional and Modern

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BLOG-#2-Modern-Art-rombach-and-haas-filigree-black-34-2Before Rombach and Haas took up the challenge of making a modern art cuckoo clock, there was the one created by architect Pascal Tarabay. That was the first, almost a decade ago.

Since then, many versions have been produced by designers all over the world. This development was especially good for the clock lovers and interior decorators looking for a cuckoo to fit the sleekness of the modern motif.  And there’s plenty from which to choose. Many have geometric shapes, such as rhombuses, squares, cubes, pyramids, ovals, etc. Their surfaces are often flat and smooth with a minimalistic approach; a handful are featured with filigree or collage. Some are mono- colored while others are multicolored with abstract or figurative paintings, even text and phrases. As for the cases, they come in a variety of materials ranging from laser cut metal, glass, plastic, wood and even fabric covering. (The above photo is one of Rombach and Haas’s modern art cuckoo clocks with a mechanical movement).

No doubt, there’s a lot of variety and difference in designs, but almost every one of them, regardless of brand, shares one thing in common: they have a battery-powered quartz movement, not a mechanical weight driven one. Why? One obvious reason is that crafting a quartz powered cuckoo clock demands far less clock making skill than crafting a mechanical weight driven model with its complex and intricate workings of gears and bellows.

BLOG#2-Modern-Cuckoo-rhbb1111So, rather than attempt to build a mechanical version, the makers of modern art cuckoos have left that formidable task in the hands of Germany’s Black Forest clock masters. Here’s where Rombach and Haas comes in. Shortly after Pascal launched his designer cuckoo, Ingolf and Conny Haas had taken up the challenge and crafted their own modern versions, but with the traditional mechanical movement. The well qualified, fourth generation Rombach and Haas company has been making cuckoo clocks since 1894. Their modern art cuckoos are the only designer versions that pay homage to the centuries old tradition of mechanical clock making of the Black Forest.

Rombach-Haas-2--Cuckoo-Modern-SL15-2But why buy a weight driven mechanical modern art cuckoo instead of a less expensive, more convenient battery operated model that needs no winding? For one thing, some clock owners truly enjoy interacting with their cuckoo clock; they want the satisfaction of winding it and feeling the chains click away as they pull them down to lift up the weights. Some clock owners also prefer the rich mechanical cuckoo call produced by real bellows and pipes, instead of the prerecorded digital sound of the quartz powered models.

 There is still more to think about. If you’re looking for a clock you can pass on to your children or grandchildren, think “mechanical”. They’re a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items and family heirlooms than quartz clocks. There’s a good reason. Centuries of development, clock making history and human labor all add to a clock’s value and appeal. Inside each mechanical cuckoo, heritage and tradition are alive and well–they’re embodied in the workings of the clock’s gears, escapement and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship.

Modernity added to tradition? Now that’s a great merger.

Check our selection of Rombach and Haas Modern Art Cuckoo Clocks.

Photos:

Photo # 1 – Rombach and Haas Filigree Design 8-day wind cuckoo clock

Photo # 2 – Rombach and Haas Bamboo 1-day wind cuckoo clock

Photo # 3 – Rombach and Haas Simpleline 1-day wind cuckoo clock

Master Level Carving: Christophe Cuckoo Clocks

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At just five years of age, as a fifth generational worker, Christophe Herr began carving clocks in the family’s clock shop. For ten years, he sat next to his father and grandfather, three generations of clock makers in one room working side by side. LIttle Christophe learned well. Today in southwestern Germany, he stands as a master craftsman at his worktable, renewing the old techniques of Black Forest carving and refinishing.

Christophe-#2-8399s_closeup
The quality of Christophe’s work today is a lot like the cuckoo clocks of
the last half of the nineteenth century, the clocks that made the Black Forest famous. It’s the degree of detail, the beauty of the carving  and the complexity of the design that raise his modern timepieces to the same artistic level of the Wehrle and Beha clocks, for which connoisseurs are now paying in the range of ten thousand dollars each.

Christophe’s clocks embody both delicacy and power and are set apart from all the other modern day brands. Recently, I spoke with Dolf Kemper, the USA distributor of Christophe clocks, “if you compare a Christophe cuckoo clock to another well known brand,” he said, “it’s like comparing the difference between a Bentley and Mercedes. Both cars are high quality, but the Bentley is at the top. If you’re looking to buy a new carved cuckoo clock and want the top one percent in artistry, it would be a Christophe. Of course the price is higher due to the extra time and effort it takes to make one.” The above photo shows the incredible detail of the 8399S model, now in production, and will be available late this summer. Call for details.

KW-christophe-cuckoo-clock-8366
Just how much time is extra time? Well, each masterpiece takes about six months to finish. It’s all done the unhurried, old-fashioned way. No sprayed-on finishes for these clocks; each one has an authentic hand-rubbed, antique wax finish. This is an extremely labor intensive process, and it takes several days and several hand applications to complete just this part. Another reason for the lengthy production time is Christophe’s “one-man-one-clock” approach. He believes strongly that the best results come when only one person carves the entire clock. “When one person makes a clock, not a line of people, it always looks special,” Christophe said. That’s why he does all the woodworking himself, from the beginning to the end.


You can see what we mean in this behind-the-scenes video below.
Take a tour of the Christophe shop and watch a master clock maker in action.

And be sure to check out the Christophe Cuckoo Clocks on our website.

 

References:

Christophe Interview: smithjournal.com.au

Photo #1 – Christophe Cuckoo Clock –  The Hart and Hound Model

Photo # 2- Christophe Gothic Design Cuckoo Clock

Guide-2-smithsonianmag.com-cuckoo-clocks

The Complete Cuckoo Clock Buyer’s Guide

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With so many models, styles and prices of cuckoo clocks, how do you begin a search for the right one? Reading this guide is a good place to start. We’ll be covering seven major points: quality, terminology, what you’re looking for in a clock,  price ranges, buying from the USA or Germany, and investment.

1. Quality

Are some clocks better than others? The answer is YES. But what exactly does “better” mean?  Personal tastes or preferences might, in a way, make one clock more appealing than another, depending on what you’re looking for. A particular size, color and certain features of a clock may be “better” for one person, but not for another. So, is there an objective standard by which everyone, regardless of their personal tastes, can use as a reliable measure of what a “better” cuckoo clock is? The answer again is YES. There is an objective standard of quality and authenticity.

In the southwestern corner of Germany is a region known as the Black Forest. It’s famous for producing exceptional clockwork and is a place where the art of clock making has been passed down from generation to generation. That tradition is more than 300 years old. So when you’re shopping for a cuckoo clock, consider buying one that comes from the German Black Forest.

guide-2-vds-black-forest-certifiedThere are a number of clock makers in the Black Forest region and ten of them are members of the VDS (Black Forest Clock Association). This organization was established in 2006 to uphold specific industry standards of clock production in the Black Forest region. Only clocks that meet those standards are permitted to bear the VDS certificate of approval*. The VDS has also established a worldwide network of quality service stations for the maintenance and repair of cuckoo clocks.

Please note: the absence of the  VDS certificate on any particular brand of cuckoo clock does not necessarily mean that the clock is not of high quality and authentic. But if you would like the assurance of the VDS endorsement, look for their certification seal.

  • Here are six of the most well known Black Forest cuckoo clock makers that are certified by the VDS:

Rombach and Haas (also known as Romba)
Anton Schneider
Hubert Herr
Hones
Hekas
August Schwer

To meet the demands of the marketplace, clock manufacturers of the Black Forest also produce high quality cuckoo clocks with quartz (battery operated) movements. Since one of the requirements for VDS certification is that a clock have a mechanical movement, quartz models do not carry the VDS certificate. More about quartz cuckoo clocks later in this article.

Knowing the standard of quality in cuckoo clocks makes for a good starting point in shopping. And knowing the name and functions of each basic cuckoo clock part is a good next step. If you’re not familiar with all of this, have a look at the section below. It will help you to better understand the features and descriptions of any clock you’re considering to buy.

 2. Terminology : Cuckoo Clock Parts – Here are brief explanations of the basic parts of a mechanical cuckoo clock:

  •  Movement – This is the working inside the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. Mechanical movements are powered by weights; quartz are battery powered.
  • Figurines – These are the small carved or molded ornamental figures of people and/or  animals you see on some clocks. Some are animated and some are not.
  • Case – This is the exterior body of the clock which comes in many styles and sizes. The   case of a Black Forest clock is traditionally carved out of linden wood.
  • Pendulum – This is the swinging part below the clock case that controls the accuracy of a mechanical clock. It’s rhythmic motion is a favorite of clock enthusiasts.  The pendulum on a quartz powered cuckoo is for decorative purposes only.
  • Weights – These are usually shaped like pines cone and generate the power for a mechanical clock. Weights on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only.
  • Bellows – A device that pumps a puff of air into the musical pipe which makes the cuckoo sound. Each cuckoo clock has two bellows.
  • Pipes – Inside the clock case are two small musical pipes that alternately play the “cuc” and “koo” notes when air is pumped through them.
  • Shut-off Switch – A lever or switch on the side or bottom of the clock case that allows you to silence the cuckoo bird and/or music.

 

3. What are you looking for in a clock? Knowing the answers to the following four questions will help focus your cuckoo clock search:

  • Style & Design: Is there a size, style and coloration that you’d like for decorative and/or nostalgic reasons?
  • Convenience and Movements: Do you prefer to wind a clock or not? Do you want an automatic night shut-off or manual shut-off?
  • Music: Besides the cuckoo sound, some clocks also play music. Do you prefer just the cuckoo call, or music too?
  • Price: Do you have a price range in mind? If so, how does your budget “fit” after you’ve answered the questions above?

It may take some thought, planning and checking different clocks on the market for you to answer these four questions.

In the section below we’ve elaborated in detail on the four points above.

  • Style & Design – Over the years two cuckoo clock designs have remained the most popular: the Carved design and the Chalet design. The Shield and Contemporary designs are two other types that are also available. (See “Decorating With Clocks” if you need clock decorating tips).

Guide-2-river-city-cuckoo-clock-md841-16Carved DesignFresh air scenes of nature or hunting are the motif of this type which is also known as the “traditional” design. The clock case is usually square shaped with intricate carvings surrounding it. Originally the carved style clock was designed to look like the residence of a 19th-century German railroad guardhouse. Over time Black Forest clock makers livened it up with rich a variety of ornamentation such as leaves, sometimes colorfully painted, vines, birds, deer and other animals. Some models feature a Swiss music box playing folk songs and dancing figurines. The carved design comes in both quartz and mechanical models.

guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91Chalet Design Chalet clocks look just like a brightly colored miniature chalet and come in three varieties: the Black Forest chalet, the Swiss chalet and the Bavarian chalet. These depict charming scenes of every day country life and come in both quartz and mechanical models. The mechanical models usually feature the merry theatrics of spinning  figurines that dance to traditional folk songs.  The melodies are played by a Swiss music box that’s built into the movement. And it’s not uncommon for animated wood choppers, animals, beer drinkers and water wheels to play their part in the “show”. Many chalets clocks have handmade, hand laid shingles on the roof.

guide-2--rombach-and-haas-cuckoo-clock-3402

Other Designs – A less popular traditional design with a mechanical movement is the “Shield” cuckoo clock. It’s face is usually flat and has a colorfully painted surface. (photo on left). Another design is the Contemporary (Modern Art) with clear and simple lines (photo below). It comes in both quartz and mechanical models.

         guide-2--rombach-and-haas-cuckoo-clock-sl15-1

  •  Convenience and Movements – Your personal preference and daily schedule will tell you which type of cuckoo clock movement could be the most convenient one for you. Shut-off options are also something to think about. Here are the three movement types:

1-Day Wind – This is a mechanical movement that’s powered by weights and needs to be wound every day. If you enjoy frequent interaction with your clock, then consider a 1-day wind movement.

8-Day Wind –  This is also a mechanical movement powered by weights and needs to be wound every 8 days.  Clocks with this movement are more expensive than 1-day clocks due to their having a larger movement; they also tend to be more intricately crafted. You can recognize a clock with 8 day movement by the larger weights.

Quartz –  A quartz movement is battery-powered and has no mechanical parts. If you like the no-fuss approach of no winding, then consider a quartz movement.  Although mechanical movements keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments, they’re not as accurate as quartz movements. (Note: weights, chains and a swinging pendulums featured on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only).

Shut-off Switch –  Almost all mechanical and quartz cuckoo clocks have a manual shut-off switch. Some clocks feature an automatic night time shut-off setting, a very handy thing if you tend to forget to shut your clock at night.

  • The Music — There are two ways a cuckoo clock produces music: mechanically and electronically.

Mechanically – Mechanical cuckoo clocks (those with a 1-day or 8-day movement) contain a Swiss music box inside of the clock case. Right after the cuckoo bird announces the time, the music begins and plays on the hour in an eight-day clock, and on the hour and half hour in a 1-day clock. Musical cuckoo clocks usually play the German folksongs “The Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss”; some beer drinker models play the songs “In Munich Stands A Court Brew House Drink” and Little Brothers Drink.”

With most all musical models, things get pretty lively when the music begins, as dancers dance, wood choppers chop and beer drinkers drink…not to mention the moving water wheels and other nearby forest creatures. The number of notes the music boxes plays can vary between 18 and 36, and the more tones, the better the sound will usually be. You can recognize a musical cuckoo clocks by a third weight which powers the music.

Electronically – Unlike the 1-day and 8-day mechanical movements, the music (and cuckoo call) in a quartz movement is electronically simulated. Quartz clocks usually play music every hour and have up to 12 different melodies.

About the Cuckoo Sound – Larger size bellows in a mechanical clock will produce a deeper pitched cuckoo call than smaller size bellows.

  • Price Determiners – The cost of a new cuckoo clock can range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands. The price depends on the factors below. A general rule of pricing is that the more craftsmanship,  features and quality a clock has, the higher the price will be.

Country of Origin: Authentic, hand-carved Black Forest cuckoo clocks will cost more than mass produced replicas made in other countries.

Movement Type: Clocks with 8-day movements tend to cost a little more than those with 1-day movements. Quartz movements are least expensive.

Music: A mechanical musical movement increases the cost – so does the number of melodies and notes in each melody.

Amount and Intricacy of Carvings: The deeper and more detailed the carvings are, the higher the cost.

Wood vs. Plastic Parts: Clocks with wood cuckoos, figurines, dials and hands cost more than those with plastic ones.

Size of the Case: Larger clocks usually cost more than smaller ones.

Figurines and Ornaments: Quantity, size and whether or not they are hand carved, hand painted and animated will effect the cost.

Night Shut-off / Sound Shut-off: Mechanical clocks with shut-off settings cost more.

4. Price Ranges: These are general price ranges based on the cuckoo clock brands offered for sale on our website as of the date this article was published.

MUSICAL
1-Day  – $300 to $750
8-Day  – $600 to $3000 & up
Quartz  – $130 to $495

NON-MUSICAL
1-Day – $150 to $1070
8-Day – $260 to $2,000

5. Buying: USA or Germany?

Since Black Forest cuckoo clocks are made in Germany, it might seem logical to purchase one directly from a dealer located in Germany. Here are some important things to consider before you make a buying decision:

1. Imported goods are subject to a duty of at least 5% of the purchase price, and you may have to fill out paperwork as well.

2. If your clock is defective or doesn’t meet your expectations and you want to return it, it will have to be packed and shipped back to Germany. You may have to pay for the shipping expense, depending on the reason for your return. Export documents would also have to be filled out.

3. Some cuckoo clock brands offer a more comprehensive warranty if the clock is purchased from a merchant located in the USA.

4. If the price offered by the German dealer is lower than the USA dealer’s prices, determine the amount you’ll save and weigh that against points 1 to 3 above. Then ask yourself: is it worth it?

6. A Better Investment

Mechanical clocks are a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason is that centuries of clock making history and development are alive KW-2-invest-www.theboardgamefamily.comand well inside each clock. These are embodied in the workings of its gears, escapement and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship. History, detail, and human labor are important factors that add to the value and appeal of not just collectibles, but to heirlooms as well. So if you’re looking for a clock that you can pass on to your grandchildren, think “mechanical”.

 

Closing Thoughts

We hope this guide will help you to make the best buying decision. If you need extra help in setting up your new mechanical cuckoo clock when it arrives, check our illustrated article: “How To Setup A Cuckoo Clock”. With proper maintenance and care, your new clock should last for generations and become a cherished heirloom. Click here to view our large selection of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks.

For a further discussion on mechanical wall clocks and quartz wall clocks see: Pendulum Wall Clocks: Key Wound or Quartz?

Photos :

TOP:  Group of Cuckoo Clocks

Photos # 1 – Black Forest Clock Association – VDS Certificate

Photos # 2 – Craved Cuckoo Clock by River City #MD841-16

Photos # 3 – Chalet Cuckoo Clock by Anton Schneider #8T1686-9

Photos # 4 – Shield Style Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas # 3402

Photos # 5 – Contemporary (Modern Art) Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas #SL15-1

Photos # 6Hourglass and Money – effectivesoftwaredesign.com

Why Doesn’t My Cuckoo Bird Cuckoo?

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If you’ve just unpacked your new cuckoo clock and your cuckoo bird isn’t singing…

you can be sure it’s not due to a sore throat or shyness. More likely it’s because he can’t get his little door to open, or that there’s something jamming the works down the line in the chains, or bellows or in a wire or two. Or maybe its from things that should be hanging from the clock, but are still sitting in the box.

Yes, your cuckoo is a little fellow, but small as he is, he still needs his array of mechanical backup gear to perform his simple concert. So if your cuckoo bird isn’t cuckooing, watch this short video; it will help you diagnose and fix the problem easily and quickly.

Do you have troubleshooting questions about clocks? Check our FAQ page for answers.

The Clock Peddlers

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Anton-Shneider-2-clock-peddler I can remember the mid 60′s in New York City…

when door to door peddlers still made their rounds. I didn’t know then that I’d be writing this now with a nostalgic feeling for the simplicity and warmth those peddlers brought to our lives. At that time their numbers were dwindling, but they hadn’t yet disappeared completely. A well-rounded variety of them still came around selling brushes, soap, encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners and other household items that we all needed. One kind of peddler that I know I’d remember would be a clock peddler. But I never saw one. If I had lived in the Black Forest region of mid-nineteenth century Germany, I would have.

If you roll history back far enough, there was a time when clock peddlers sported their goods through hills, forests and countryside, and that happened on their regular routes through the region. On foot they carried all sorts of clocks tied with rope to large backpacks. These hardy entrepreneurs of old were called “Ührschleppers” in German.

Here’s where it gets really interesting…

There is a fable* told by Father Franz Steyrer in his book, “History of Clock Making in the Black Forest,” written in 1796. It was about two peddlers from a town called Furtwangen in the Black Forest of Germany who met a traveling Bohemian clock merchant. BLOG-Kleiser_ClockThe peddlers were so enthused that they purchased one, brought it home, and made copies, then showed them to other clock merchants. The clock caught on in the region and more and more clock makers started to build them. It turned out to be a seasonal business: during the long harsh winters the artisans crafted the clocks, and then in the spring went about the countrysides and beyond to far away places selling the cuckoos. The fable has it that those clock peddlers played an important role in launching the popularity of Black Forest clocks. Today, the image of the clock peddler is a prominent symbol of the Black Forest clock industry.

as-8T1686-9

 

In modern times we no longer have…

any clock peddlers.  But if I get nostalgic, I can always look at the clock peddlers preserved as wood carved figurines on some of our beloved cuckoo clocks. On the left is a sample of one. 

 

In case you’re curious about the below photograph…

it’s a rare (yes, it’s worth thousands) and very collectible table clock, a Black Forest clock peddler timepiece from 1850 to 1860. Peddler2-Justin-685x1024The small clock he’s holding is a working clock with a porcelain dial. The figure is made of formed sheet tin and is hand painted. Don’t you just love the peddler’s old-world attire?

One last thought…

Although I’ve never been eyewitness to a real live door to door clock peddler standing at my threshold, if by some chance you’ve ever had a visit from one, we’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let us know the details.

PHOTO CREDITS:

1. Schneider Cuckoo Clocks

2. German clock shop street sign

3.  North Coast Imports

4. BlackForestClocks.org