Monday, March 23, 2009

"Put a Penny in the slot" Em. Wehrle & Cie

This muscial clock is one of the rarest in my collection. First I will describe the clock and its functions, then speak of its history. This special order Musical Flute Clock was made by Emilian Wehrle during the last quarter of the 19th C. The architectural case is a style # 28 in the 1898 Em. Wehrle and Co. Catalog. This case was available in both Oak or Walnut. This example was made in Walnut.

The dial is silvered with a brass high polish locking bezel with glass. The hands on this piece are fantastic silvered hands with cherubs spreading their wings. These hands are the identical hands Wehrle also used on the #33 “Scheffel-Uhr”… Wehrle most elaborate and expensive clock.

The Clock movement is a large robust brass movement that will run for 8 days on a single winding. The musical function of the clock is a two tune 8 pipe organ. As the organ plays the large double doors open...and a flute player steps forward. After the Organ is finished playing..the dors close, and large 6 tune music box is activated in the base… this musci box plays one of 6 airs, that change with every activation. The music box fills the whole base of this large flute clock.

A note worth mentioning, the model # 33 is the only other known Wehrle clock to have a music box. The #33 has a music box that only plays 4 airs and is smaller.

The last feature of this clock is Coin-Operation. On the top of the pediment is a brass plaque in a wood frame that reads “Put A Penny In The Slot Em. Wehrle & Cie.”

When a English Penny is deposited into the brass slot on the upper Right of the case.. The coin activates the organ where one of two tunes is played, followed by one of Six Airs on the music box.

After the music box is finished the Penny is deposited into a locking coin box, that is accessed with a key on the bottom Right of the case.

The side doors on this piece are also locking to keep people out of the mechanism.

This is the only known Wehrle in existence to have a coin operated feature, and it is 100% factory.

Now onto the history:

Camerer Kuss & Co (Later Camerer Cuss & Co.) Were one of the largest Retailers for Emilian Wehrle, Johann Baptist Beha and many other fine clock makers during the 19th C in the UK.

In each of the Camerer Cuss retail outlets, a different coin-operated clock was displayed on the counter. This Wehrle coin operated flute clock with music box was displayed in their Edinburgh, Scotland store.

Out of the three locations two of these clocks have been located. (Edinburgh & London)
The Glasgow clock is still missing…

The London retail outlet had a Beha #932 (Large gothic shelf cuckoo with Angelus striking and Monk automation, this clock also had a large music box in the base and of course coin operation.)

Beha records show this Beha was sold to Camerer and Cuss with coin operation in 1882 for 152 Gold Mark (98 for the clock, 52 for the musical movement and 2 for the coin-op mechanism) This was a very large price for a Beha. It should also be noted that although this clock looks like a #932 in everyway, Beha did not assign it this model # because it was not a normal production clock with the coin mechanism. Unfortunately the Wehrle records were either not recorded or preserved, so information on the price and details of the Kuss flute clock will remain unknown. What we do know is the clock was very expensive, and clearly a special made piece… and very well may be the only coin-operated Wehrle in ever produced.

It is quite amazing to think of the thousands of people who “Put A Penny In The Slot” while visiting the shop when these clocks were sold as new. We welcome comments on this clock, and are happy to be able to share this piece with you.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mark Singleton and Dr. Wilhelm Schneider for their assistance with these Coin-operated Cuss Clocks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Rare Beha model #119

The case style of this Beha is done in a very traditional “Postman’s Alarm” style. But clearly it is not your normal Black Forest Clock. A life size 12” cuckoo bird is perched on top of a oak branch that extends out of the top of the dial. This cuckoo is fully automated on the Full and ½ hours.

This cuckoo strikes on a large grapefruit size bronze bell with a silvered hammer, a very unique touch to the cuckoo call that sounds more like a English tall case strike than anything out of the Black Forest.

The highly polished pendulum, has alternating steel and brass rods, giving it a look of a compensation pendulum used on fine precision pieces.

The movement in this clock is a large wood plate cuckoo movement, two train. The strike and the cuckoo are on the same train like most cuckoo clocks. (see an earlier post for our other “Maxi” Beha cuckoo with a unique striking system). Obviously this movement does not have the cuckoo perch mechanics as a cuckoo os not pushed out of a door… but has a large additional arm that lifts a wire that activates the bird with the call.

The pipes on this cuckoo are large and round, not square and turned on a lathe. They creat a cuckoo call that is so real. This same style of pipes are also on our other Beha cuckoo with life size bird that can be viewed in an earlier post.

This clock has a night shut off so the strike and cuckoo can be silenced at night… this can be activated by pulling the silvered knob that extends out of the bottom of the case.

On the back Board is a fantastic Beha Label. Above the label is No 119 hand written. We have a scan of a early and rare Beha catalog that shows this clock. (Thank you ato Dr. Schneider once again for his assistance in assisting with the documentation on this clock)

We know of another similar example that is in a collection in Germany. This other example is also a #119 but done in a walnut case (ours is Oak). This other example is documented in the Book, “Auf Der Hohe” on pg 137. This example was presented at the wedding of Johann Baptist Behas daughter, Leopoldine Beha and Andreas Nobs in 1887.

The dial is lettered AN LB to commemorate the bride and groom and their special occasion.

While our example is not the “wedding clock” it is the same model, and a very difficult Beha to locate. (In fact it is the only #119 we have ever seen come to the market) If you want to see more rare clocks by Johann Baptist Beha...check out our private museum at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Virtue of Random Error and Its Exploitation by Early Black Forest Clockmakers

In a previous post, I summarized the initial results of an analysis being conducted in cooperation with Dr. Martin Wolk regarding the placement of pins and small indentations on the the outer diameter of Angelus count wheels of Beha cuckoo and monk clocks. As the purpose of the pinned positions are well understood to trigger the Angelus ringing automation in the clock, our analysis focused upon less understood intent of the non-functional (unpinned) positions and the horological logic of their pattern.

Our basic hypothesis is that, in the cottage Black Forest clock industry of the mid- to late-nineteenth century, there may have been an attempt to gain economies of scale in manufacturing by fabricating clock parts that could be used in multiple applications and clocks. Accordingly, the pattern of the indentations in the Angelus count wheel might represent a series of pre-registered positions that could be drilled, and pinned, to create a wide range of time intervals over which horological-registered events (i.e. a monk ringing the Angelus, a music box playing, etc.) could be activated. Thus, a "standard" count wheel could be customized via the setting of pin positions to fabricate a multiplicity of different clocks.

According to our initial hypothesis, if one lets x represent the smallest interval between two consecutive marked positions on the Angelus count wheel, it appears that there are two intervals with 1x spacing, eight intervals with a 2x spacing, six intervals with a 3x spacing and six intervals with a 4x spacing. Thus, there are a total of 60x intervals (2*1x + 8*2X + 6*3x + 6*4x) about the circumference of the Angelus count wheel. Since there are sixty teeth on the Angelus count wheel and the Angelus count wheel rotates once every 24 hours, each x interval must then correspond to 0.40 hours or 24 minutes. Thus the intervals defined by successive markings on the Angelus count wheel would correspond to 0.40 hours (for each of the 1x intervals), 0.80 hours (for each of the 2x intervals), 1.20 hours (for each of the 3x intervals) and 1.60 hours (for each of the 4x intervals). Starting from position 1 and moving counter-clockwise, the interval sequence (in hours) is approximately …0.8, 0.8, 08, 0.4, 0.8,1.6,1.6, 1.6, 1.2, 1.2, 1.2, 0.8, 0.8, 0.8, 0.4, 0.8, 1.6, 1.6, 1.6, 1.2, 1.2, 1.2…

Given this sequence, pins may then set via combinations and permutations to create all of the following time intervals (in hours): 0.40, 0.80, 1.20, 1.60, 2.00, 2.40, 2.80, 3.20, 3.60, 4.00, 4.40, 4.80, 5.20, 5.60, 6.00, 6.40, 6.80, 7.20, 7.60, 8.00, 8.40, 8.80, 9.20, 9.60, 10.00, 10.40,10.80, 11.20, 11.60, 12.00, 12.40, 12.80, 13.20, 13.60, 14.00, 14.40, 14.80, 15.20, 15.60, 16.00, 16.40, 16.80, 17.20, 17.60, 18.00, 18.80, 19.20, 19.60, 20.00, 20.40, 20.80, 21.20, 21.60, 22.00, 22.40, 22.80, 23.20, 23.60, 24.00. Additional flexibility in these intervals could obviously be gained by modifying the rotation frequency of this count wheel.

On this basis, we initially concluded that this sequence of pre-registered positions on the count wheel would have provided the nineteenth century Black Forest clockmaker with a wide range of closely spaced time intervals for customizing animation, music, and other events registered to time. Whereas it was clear that the spacings of the holes varied somewhat from a uniform x (or multiple of x) spacing, our assumption was that this variation was unintentional and reflected the limits of the technology available to a rural cottage clock industry in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.

While this premise we believe to be still basically true, examination and analysis of additional examples of Angelus count wheels for Beha cuckoo and monk clocks now leads us to speculate that it was the intent of Black Forest clockmakers to consciously introduce random error into the spacings between the holes to enable a more complete spectrum of time intervals to be derived from the same number of hole drillings. Introduction of this random error into the spacings between the pre-drilled holes would thus enable the clock maker to use the pre-drilled positions to activate a horological complication at a greater number of distinct (and hence more closely spaced) intervals over the period of the count wheels rotation than if the pre-drilled holes were regularly spaced.

To illustrate this effect let us assume that instead of the existence of a uniform x (or multiple of x) interval separating the pre-drilled positions we have an interval x, or multiple of x, to which each interval is added a random error y (y may be either positive or negative so the actual interval may in fact be larger or smaller than x or the corresponding multiple of x). For comparison purposes, let us now take the exact spacings (as determined from the sector angles defined by the hole positions, see below illustration) between the various pre-drilled holes present in the above Angelus count wheel (that is, assuming the spacings are what they are measured to be and not a hypothetical target x or multiple of x) and generate the analogous series of time intervals derived from the various combinations and permutations.

Whereas, our initial analysis using the regular spacing intervals results in 61 different possible time intervals between 0.4 and 24.0 hours with a regular 0.4 hour spacing, using the experimentally determined irregular intervals results in 181 different time intervals between 0.6 and 24.00 hours with spacing intervals varying from 0.07 to 0.61 hours. Clearly, the effect of non-uniform hole positioning has resulted in almost three times the number of distinct intervals that can be used for timing horological events. This is graphically depicted in the below histogram that illustrates the number and distribution of the time intervals for these two cases. In this histogram, the bin increment is 0.1 hour and each frequency count represents a unique time interval (a frequency count of "2" means that there are two distinct time intervals in a common bin).

The irony of this result is that relaxation of the clockmaker's accuracy and precision of pre-drilled pin position placements not only results in increased potential future utility but would have been expected to lower his manufacturing cost as well. Who says there isn't a free lunch....

We are indebted to our fellow Black Forest clock collectors Dr. Wilhelm Schneider, Mr. Mark Singleton and Mr. Dean Sarnell for the generosity of their time, information and helpful suggestions, without which this analysis would not have been possible.

Again, this is an still evolving theory so all comments, questions and rude remarks are welcome :-)


Another Early Black Forest Automa

This early Black Forest soldier Automaton is another one of our favorite shield clocks in our collection. This clock shows a more primitive style of Black Forest Clock making…and was made in a time before the mass production of the large factories. It was made by the hand of a clock maker, in the Black Forest that took pride in his work.
The soldier automaton was a favorite done by the Black Forest clockmakers. While most of these antique soldier clocks that are seen today are incorporated into the shelf cuckoo (and made around the turn of the 19th C)… These early shield variety were made a generation or two earlier, and in much fewer numbers …and are difficult to locate today.
This Automaton was made C. 1820. It has a early wood plate, wood spindle movement.. The movement has Time, Strike & Automation. The two trains on this clock are front to back. The clock is in fantastic condition for its age, the soildier cannon...normaly missing or replaced are period. This clock is very pleasing to the eye. While most automated clocks the automation is hooked up to the strike train...where the automation is viewed every hour… the soldier is one of the few where the automation is connected to the time train. This creates constant action that can be seen as the pendulum swings.
On this piece the Soldier marches in front of the mansion, guarding the palace with his gun. When he reaches the turret on the right hand side, he quickly turns around…and begins his march in the other direction. He then marches back across the front of the clock to the cannon on the left…were he spins again. This is repeated over and over as the clock ticks.
This clock was located in Holland. We had is serviced in Europe prior to sending it back to the USA.. It is all cleaned…and working as it did when it was made... nearly 200 years ago.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Beha Shelf Cuckoo and a Carl Heine Painting

This Beha cuckoo was made C. 1870 in Eisenbach, Schwarzwald. The typical wood plate 8 day double fusee movement is housed in a beautiful round top elongated walnut case.

The case is intricately done with fruit wood inlays of oak leaves and acorns both on the base and well at the top. The cuckoo door is also inlaid with flowers and leaves. What makes this Beha special is the full oil painting on zinc or tin.

While Beha frequently used paintings on his cuckoo clocks, this was rarely done on the shelf or table examples. These Beha shelf clocks with large oil paintings are prized by collectors worldwide.

The painting on the clock is well done. It shows a mother and child on the ground...quietly looking up into the tree at the cuckoo up in the branches. The mother pointing to the cuckoo.

This painting was painted by the well known Black Forest painter Carl Heine, of Neustadt (1842-1882). Carl Heine's work almost always includes the tree with the bending trunk, and cuckoo up in the branches. The subjects eyes always gaze up at the bird... and frequently pointing to the bird... as on this clock.

The book IN DIE NEUE ZEIT (which covers clocks and influential people from the Titisee/Neustadt region in the Black Forest) has several pages devoted to Carl Heine... his life, his work, and many of his paintings. This piece shows a softer side of the clocks produced in the Black Forest.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Wehrle Timepiece: "Rare As Rooster's Teeth"

This next clock in the collection is a Emilian Wehrle Rooster clock. Also known as a "Hahnen-Uhr".
The Wehrle Rooster awakes on the hour, or on demand...with three loud distinct calls.


While Emilian Wehrle was not the inventor of the Rooster clock... he was the first to perfect it. He invented an apparatus that mimics the call of the Rooster without the use of air or horns. Instead Wehrle used a serrated wheel that rides a small metal reed...

This friction at variable pressures and speeds creates a correct Rooster call. Emilian Wehrle was issued a patent in 1884 for his design (Apparat Fur Schallerzeugung #32141). Production started shortly after this date. Because of their high cost, and the loud and obnoxious call of the Rooster every hour they were never a success. By Emilian Wehrles death in 1896 very few were made, and even fewer have survived. The Rooster clock is one of the Rarest clocks ever produced by Wehrle...and are almost impossible to find today. We are honored to have one in our collection.
The example shown here is one of the nicest known. The only other example known in the States, is a small 30 hour wall clock, in a simple case.

This Rooster is a fancy cased shelf clock, with a matching bracket. This clock will run for 8 days. This clock was retailed by Camerer, Kuss & Co. in England, and has there lable on the back board.



A Early Black Forest Miniature, by Joseph Sorg

Measuring in at only 3.25 inches from the bottom of the movement to the top of the bell, this clock is the smallest clock in our collection.
This miniature, that can easily fit into the palm of your hand... is called a “Sorguhr”.
This term refers to miniature clocks patterned after those made by their inventor Joseph Sorg of Neustadt (1807-1872).
Joseph Sorg was not only a important clock maker during the first half of the 19th C., but also severed as the Mayor of Neustadt during the early 1850’s.
The styles of Sorguhren produced varied greatly. They were made in picture frame style cases..many with hammered brass frames (with or without automation), Biedermeier cases, and the more common shield style with wood or brass faces. There are also known examples cased in miniature granfather style cases no more than 20" high.

The example shown here is in the most traditional style. The clock has a round enamel dial… with the hammered brass crest. This example shows an eagle representing war… grasping arrows.

While we own several Sorguren in the collection (and will share them in future posts) this one is special.

This Sorg was made and signed by the inventor himself, Joseph Sorg. We have owned nearly a dozen Sorguhren over the years…and all are very collectible, but this is the only example we have owned that has been a true Sorg.

Joseph Sorg, although the inventor, was responsible for just a very small fraction of all the Sorguhren produced. A Sorg that is made Joseph Sorg himself , is of no comparison in rarity or value to other unsigned examples.
This example shown here was made by Jospeh Sorg, in Neustadt C. 1850. This example has wood arbors, and is rope drive. The movement has both the time as well as the alarm functions.
The movement measures 2.5 High (without bell) 3.25 inc. Bell 1.75 Wide 1.25 Deep
The clock is signed on the small gear that is located the front of the movement . “J. Sorg” (see pic).
We look forward to sharing other examples of Early BF miniatures in the future.