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