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

Born in the Winter: Black Forest Clock Making

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When  time, incentive, and patience come together, something great can happen. And it did. The tradition of Black Forest clock making began with those three ingredients, some farmers, and the craft of wooden gear clock making, back in the last half of the 17th century.

 

During the long winter months when sowing, tending, and reaping were at a standstill, the farmers had plenty of time on their hands. And in that pause, a need was filled.

How? In the Black Forest, it was customary for a farmer’s oldest son to inherit the farm–-the younger son or sons were given only a small parcel of the farm. That created a need. Looking for additional ways to earn their living–here’s where the incentive comes in–some of the younger sons began crafting wooden clocks during the winter months to supplement their income. There were also cottagers and poorer farm families who took up the craft.

Clock making was a likely choice for their new venture, as linden wood was abundant in the region. The wood was soft enough to carve, yet hard enough to support the structure, and there were plenty of rivers and streams to power the lumber mills. The rocks that were used to power most of the weight-driven “Waaguhr” clocks, as they were called, were also in abundance.

Now for the patience: Farmers know that seeds grow at their own rate, and that mother nature can’t be rushed. Farmers know how to wait. Knowing how to be patient prepared them well to be clock makers. For long hours they could sit at their benches using their skill,Wood-Gears#2-uh.edu inventiveness, and the simplest of tools. The movements of the clocks, including the gears, were all made of wood. Without the benefit of electric-powered jigsaws, they had to hand-cut, file and shape every tooth on each gear, one at a time, carefully, slowly and precisely.

How many gear teeth did the average Waaguhr have and how long do you think it took to make such a clock? Based on our research, we estimate that the movement had, more or less, 140 to 150 gear teeth among its three gear wheels. As for how much time it took to make one of these timepieces…we can only guess! But the winters were long, and it was good that they were.

When spring came it was time to, so to say, “harvest” the clocks and bring them to market. The farmers gathered them up, and had traveling clock peddlers find eager homes for them. These were the first, the simple Waaguhr clocks, which were followed some decades later by the immensely popular cuckoo clock. Artisan clock makers steadily developed their own styles in the designs of the cuckoo clocks, and the Black Forest gained a worldwide reputation for producing timepieces of great beauty and craftsmanship. What had begun as a small cottage industry, in the pause of winter, grew and flourished throughout the region and beyond. In time, the clock making tradition of the Black Forest gained worldwide recognition.

So, great things did happen…when time, incentive, and patience came together.

Below is the “Hohenzollern”, a 17th century replica by Rombach and Haas. Click here for more details.

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Photo credits:

Photo # 1 – Potato Planters by Jean-François Millet – hoocher.com

Photo # 2 – 17th century replica of a Waaguhr style wall clock – uh.edu

Photo # 3 – 17th century replica  ” Hohenzollern” – Waaguhr style clock by Rombach and Haas

 

 

The Hohenzollern Rock Clock by Rombach and Haas

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For a time, it was chocolate cakes, glass products, and lumber for which the Black Forest of Germany was best  known. But in 1640 that began to change. It was the “Waaguhr” clock that did it, the first affordable mechanical clock for the new and growing middle class of the European society. Waaghur-#2-Rombach-7640People were taking up a trade in the new industries. Farmers became millers, bakers, and craftsmen of all kinds, and they began to buy, sell, and trade with other middle class tradesmen. The Waaguhr helped them keep better track of the starting and stopping time for the breads they baked, the grains they milled, and the products they crafted. (Photo: Rombach and Haas antique reproduction Waaguhr style clock.)

Before the invention of the Waaguhr, people had estimated the passage of time by using the sun’s position, unless they lived close enough to a church clock tower to hear its bells ring at special times during the day. Some may have used candle clocks or flipped over their hourglasses. But when the Waaguhr came along, it must have been a big relief for them, for it was easier to know when to take their breads out of the ovens and to time all their other tasks.

The clock went over big in spite of one shortcoming, its accuracy. Having a movement made of all wood instead of metal parts had a lot to do with its lack of precision. By today’s standards, losing, let’s say, fifteen minutes a day, would be unacceptable. But think of it, compared to how people had been measuring the time, the new and affordable Waaguhr was a great and practical convenience, even if it wasn’t perfectly accurate.

Not only did this clock make life easier, but it also added eye-catching interest to any home and shop. Why? Because of what powered the clock’s 12 hour, weight-driven movement–and that was usually a heavy rock. Some clocks, had a glass vile filled with pebbles or sand, instead of a rock. Adding to the Waaguhr’s unusual appearance was its curious looking yoke-shaped balance which continuously twisted back and forth. (Waaguhr means “Foliot”, which is the name of the type of movement of the clock.)

Over time it became known that the Black Forest had more to offer the world than delicious chocolate cakes, lumber, and glass products. The production of the Waaguhr began the tradition of Black Forest clock making, a tradition that just kept on growing and growing.

So, sit down and relax German-style with a piece of chocolate cake, a glass of schnapps,  and a Waaguhr style clock hanging on your wall. Check out an antique reproduction model of the Waagur clock on our website. Be sure to also see our related article “Born in the Winter: Black Forest Clock Making”.

See this video of how the foliot works. (The clock shown in this clip is for demonstration purposes only).

 Photo:  Waaguhr style antique reproduction wall clock – Hohenzollern #7640 by Rombach and Haas

 

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.

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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.

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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

The History of the Cuckoo Clock

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It seems that disagreements about when an invention was invented and who did the inventing, tend to bubble up here and there, and so it is with the cuckoo clock.

Hundreds of years have passed  since the famous clock first appeared in the Black Forest,and today horologists are still in disagreement about its beginnings. Maybe it’s understandable, because the Black Forest has always been a place of myths and fairy tales.

 

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The popular and traditional belief, which has lasted through the centuries, is that the cuckoo clock History-Cuckoo-#2-Bellows-Clockworks.com-cu2was invented in 1740 by Franz Anton Ketterer, a master clock maker from the small village of Schoenwald (photo above) in the heart of the Black Forest of Germany. It is said that he was the one who devised a clever mechanical system using two small bellows and wooden whistles, much like the pipe organ, to reproduce the two-note call of the cuckoo. (photo on right).

 

Maybe the reason Ketterer chose the cuckoo for his clocks was because he knew that the familiar cooing sound of the cuckoo bird would perk people up, the bird being a welcome sign of the coming of spring and History-#2cuckoo-Sepia-Natural History- Birds by Philip Henry Gosse the end of winter. Before Ketterer added the cuckoo to his wall clocks, clockmakers had used a variety of winsome, animated figures such as dumpling eaters, laughing faces, beer drinkers, trumpeters and the like to bring mirth and appeal to their timepieces.

 

It wasn’t a surprise that before long the cuckoo clock gained popularity throughout Germany. Artisan clock makers of the Black Forest steadily developed their own styles and themes in the designs of their clocks, and clock peddlers traveled the countrysides and beyond, to far away places, selling the cuckoos.  Over time the wooden mechanisms of the clock were replaced by brass and other metals, and eventually History-#2-rombach-8222two main styles of cuckoo clocks emerged: the ornamented “railroad house” style known as the “Bahnhäusleuhr” (far left photo)History-RE-SIZED-Anton-schneider-8T-215-9 and the decorative “traditional style” known as the “Jagdstück”, (middle photo) which had  elaborate, hand carved hunting themes . Toward the end of the 19th century, modeled after typical Swiss and German chalets, guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91the “Chalet” style cuckoo clock emerged (photo above on right); some featuring music boxes and animated figurines and waterwheels to liven things up. Over time the cuckoo clock has become a worldwide symbol of the Black Forest.

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In the span of three centuries, the cuckoo clock has remained in a mostly unchanged state. But now, there are more style choices, including quartz models and the contemporary/decorative designs that are usually smooth, flat, minimalistic and geometrical in shape. But regardless of its style, the whimsical charm and kinetic experience of a cuckoo clock, and the relationship it engenders, is still very much the same.

 

Well, whether it was Ketterer or someone else who first invented the cuckoo clock, congratulations for a job well done, for we can now enjoy the mirth of these charming creations. As for our other animated friends, the dancing figurines, beer drinkers and other characters, they’re also found on many a cuckoo clock, spinning, dancing, moving about and making merry. Some things just don’t change.

Check our large online selection of heirloom quality cuckoo clocks.

 

Photo credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock maker in his clock shop – burtonlatimer.info

Photo # 2 – Village of Schoenwald, Germany – black-forest.org

Photo # 3 – Cuckoo clock bellows and pipes – clockworks.com

Photo # 4 – Cuckoo Bird drawing – from “Natural History: Birds” by Philip Henry Gosse

Photo # 5 – Rombach and Haas “Railroad house” style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider traditional style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider chalet style cuckoo clock

Photo # 7 – Rombach and Haas modern style cuckoo clock

The History of Hermle Clocks–Made in Silence

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history-cuckoo#2-BRN-burtonlatimer.infoImagine you are a clock maker sitting at your bench, assembling the intricate parts of a clock–and there is noise all around you. Distracting, isn’t it? Now, imagine how it would be if it there were silence. Less distracting, right? So, here’s a question: in which environment could you do the best job: the noisy or the silent? My guess is that you chose the silent.

 

Yes, to produce timepieces the right way, it takes…silence. Franz Hermle knew it. That’s why the serene and small town of Gosheim, nestled in the Black Forest region of Germany, was his likely choice for the founding of the Hermle Clock Company. That was over ninety years ago. Hermle-#2-history-archaeology.about.comToday the Hermle Clocks is located in the hush of the Swabian

Alps,  still far away from the distractions of a city. In those mountains, Hermle workers can immerse in an environment that’s most conducive to the meticulous and focused art of clock making. Silence is one of the key elements that ensures the high accuracy and perfect precision of every Hermle component, and it’s one of the reasons why Hermle clock movements are among the world’s best.

“Nothing is more useful than silence.”  –Menander of Athens

Silence is one important ingredient, and tradition is another. “We’re bound by tradition and committed to maintaining a traditional approach in our company” said Rolf Hermle, the current owner of Hermle. Part of that tradition Hermle-#2-history-22864_070340-darkis maintaining a family owned and operated business, now in its third generation. In 1953, the operation was passed on to Franz’s four sons who continued to build the business into the world’s leading manufacturer of mechanical clock movements.

Since it’s beginning in 1922, it took only a decade for Hermle to gain worldwide recognition. Since then, they’ve been masters in hand crafting clockwork mechanisms. In 1977 Hermle opened an additional plant in Amherst, Virginia, USA, to serve the North American market.

When you buy a Hermle clock, you’re not just getting the precision and quality and tradition, you’re getting the hush as well.

Have a look at this an excellent video produced by the Hermle clock company. It’s filled with history, fascinating closeups of clock workings, and clock makers working their craft.

 

Click here to view our large selection of Hermle clocks.

 

Photo Credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock maker in his shop – nawcc.org

Photo # 2 – The Swabian Alps – archaeology.about.com

Photo # 3 – Hermle mantel clock – TheWellMadeClock.com

The Long-Lived Cuckoo

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BLOG#2-rh8264webbig_289x433Three centuries is a long time, long enough for things to come in and out of style many times over. But if I were to tell you that there’s a unique product, that after three centuries is still going strong, could you guess what that was? If you know your clock history then you may know that it’s none other than the beloved Black Forest cuckoo clock. What’s the reason for its continual popularity?  It’s a combination of things: whimsical charm, kinetic experience and a relationship that can start from the very first day you bring the cuckoo into your home.

But there is one more reason: it’s the German clock making tradition of the Black Forest. For generations cuckoo clocks have been made by craftsmen of that region with a consistent high level of workmanship. These clock smiths are masters at what they do and they love their craft. The passion they put into their work shows in the long lived quality of their clocks and in the abundant variety of their designs.BLOG#2-Modern-Cuckoo-rhbb1111 In recent years a lot more choices in decorative styles have emerged, but the cuckoo clock has traveled through time in mostly an unchanged state. It’s anchored in tradition and keeps going strong.

To preserve this tradition of clock making the Black Forest Clock Association was founded in 2006. After I viewed their video (below), being an artist and technician myself,  I had so much more appreciation for the works of these craftsmen. This “bird’s eye” video tour takes you right into the heart of Black Forest cuckoo clock factories and workshops of Rombach & Haas and Christophe. There are lots of great closeup shots. You’ll see movements and clock cases being assembled, jig saws cutting templates, wood carvers carving their designs, painting, staining, varnishing and the making of pipes, clock dials and figurines.

So take the tour. I hope you enjoy it! Also, you can click here to find out about The Clock Route Of The Black Forest.

 

Photo and Video Credits:

Photo #1 – Rombach and Haas Filigree Cuckoo Clock

Photo #2 – Rombach and Haas Bamboo Cuckoo Clock

Video – Black Forest Clock Association

 

5 Good Reasons Why Clock Enthusiasts Are Enthusiastic

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BLOG#2rh8367_289x433Ah, the difference between a digital clock and an analog clock. Where are the animated dancers, the finely crafted wood carvings, the deep sonorous gongs and the dumpling eaters? Think about it. They’re seen and heard on the analog clocks. I’d rather get the time from a beautiful grandfather clock or a charming cuckoo clock than from the digital icon on my computer screen or iPad. Wouldn’t you? Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting a clock, but aren’t convinced yet that it’s a good idea.

Here are 5 reasons why clock enthusiasts are enthusiastic:

1. Tradition

Blog-tradition-polls_tradition_2258_517561_pollYes, analog clocks are passed down from generation to generation bringing with them their family history and the warmth of relationships. And, by the way, clock lovers, who have sometimes lost their family treasure, will purchase a clock today that is just like what their grandmother had. That reconnects them to their family heritage in a deep and personal way. And what if there isn’t a family heirloom to be passed down? You could start one today. It will be an heirloom in the making. Think of your children and their children who will remember you and enjoy the beauty of the clock you got started.

2. Decoration

BLOG-Hermle0803RoomSceneThis can be anything from filling that large wall with a chic over-sized clock or grouping a selection of smaller clocks to create a center of attention. Like a painting, a clock will beautify your decor. They’re works of art. You can bet they’ll add warmth, atmosphere and charm to your home. They’re versatile too, whether traditional or modern, large or small, for the table top or fireplace mantel, clocks bring movement and mirth to the air.

3. Relationship

BLOG#3relationship-300x225Here is where the fun is. Did you know how musical and moving a clock is? They’re almost like kinetic sculptures that you can interact with daily. They engage your senses and can fill your spirit. Listen to their sounds, feel the clicking in your fingers and hands as you wind them and admire the visual artistry of their craftsmanship. With their ticking, chiming, cuckoo-ing and swinging, they become a part of the hum of your home.

4. Expression

BLOG-#2-PaintBrushesWhat is your unique personality? Clocks let you express it with their variety of colors, shapes, textures, and sounds. There are fun clocks, bold clocks, stylish clocks, classic clocks, unusual clocks, chic and over-sized clocks–all with their own flavor and character.

 5. Conversation

BLOG-conversation#2-indexHaving friends or relatives over? The winsome characters, hand painting and woodwork, deep sonorous gongs and the intricate brass mechanisms seen through a clear casing, have been known to open many a conversation over a glass of sherry before the ring of the dinner bell, or with a cup of mint tea at dessert.

Convinced yet why clock enthusiasts are enthusiastic about clocks? If not, ask any clock lover and they’ll tell you–or even better, they’ll show you. And you just might catch the enthusiasm.

Photo Credits:

Cuckoo Clock: northcoastimports.com

Room Scene: hermleclock.com

Paint brushes: http://inspired2act.com