Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Johann Baptist Beha and a Unique Cuckoo Clock

John in a previous post gave us a wonderful introduction to the Beha factory. He spoke of the quality of the clocks Beha made...despite the pressure to compete in a price driven market. Johann Baptist was also a pioneer in Black Forest Horology, and was responsible for many of the modern improvements used in cuckoo clocks for years to come. Some of these improvements never took flight or became mainstream... and has left us with clocks that are unique or different.

This philosophy for improvement was also passed on to his Sons,who would later run the factory. Because of this philosoph, we can find Beha clocks with unique characteristics from the Early years to the turn of the century.
I would like to share a special piece out of my collection, that echoes many of these things.
This piece is a very special Beha cuckoo, and one of only a small handful known like it worldwide.
The quality and detail of the carving on this piece is nothing but the best, typical of Beha factory.
The vines are very delicately done. They wrap over and under each other with amazing detail...the two small carved birds that are perched on the sides of the clock look alive... but that is not what makes this clock so special, at least not among other quality Behas.

This Beha has a life-size cuckoo perched on the top of the clock... He is 12" from beak to tail, and fully automated! You can see on this piece there is no cuckoo door. The movement in this clock is also unique. It is a three train movement. Time, Strike, and Cuckoo. While other cuckoo clocks blend the cuckoo call and the strike (cuckoo-bong, cuckoo-bong) the separation of trains allows this clock to strike the hour... pause then call the hour with the cuckoo. This piece will also strike the half and full hour, but the cuckoo only calls on the full hour. The separation of the cuckoo and strike into two trains, allowed Beha to create a unique call and striking sequence on this clock.

If you look at the side view of the clock you can see that there is a large grapefruit size bell located on the top of the clock. Using a Large sized bell instead of a gong this clock creates a very loud distinct strike that is heard throughout the house.
Last but not least the pipes used in this cuckoo clock are not square, but are round. Turned on a lathe these cuckoo pipes produce a very unique sound. The call of the cuckoo generated from these pipes sound real. This Beha has been documented in several publications over the years. Its most notable publication is the 2008 Edition of Schwarzwalduhren, by Berthold Schaaf. This is the most authoritative text on Black Forest Clocks. The book is available through any German book seller or Amazon.de.
Johann Baptist was not only a quality maker, but a pioneer in Black Forest Horology and unique innovations can be seen in this very special Beha timepiece.

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