Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Great Old Video of the Black Forest Clock Industry


Alas, there are no more producers of European mechanical Anniversary Clocks. So many of these fine arts no longer exist. BUT, you can see a woman making a mechanical alarm clock that looks very similar to our very popular Sternreiter Alarm Clock! Quality mechanical items like these are very rare these days. We are very pleased to still be able to offer them. Contact your local clock dealer and ask about our Sternreiter mechanical alarm clocks.

What is an Orchestrion Anyway?

A few weeks ago I did a post on "Orchestrion Hall" and all the goodies found therein. It occurred to me that the word Orchestrion may not be so readily understood these days, so here's some pics and movies with Orchestrions.

An Orchestrion is a mechanical musical instrument that starts with a large "player pipe organ." Just as there have always been player pianos or pianolas, there were pipe organs that played automatically from punched cards or punched rolls of paper. An Orchestrion goes even further by including a small orchestra of instruments that all play automatically from the same roll of music. Orchestrions included the pipe organ, drums, a piano, sometimes reed pipes, sometimes even string instruments.

Here you can see the mechanisms of a Welte Orchestrion. Notice the very large bellows and air chest in the bottom.

Here are some YouTube movies with some notable Orchestrions, including the magnificent collection at the Nethercutt Museum in Los Angeles. The first video was one I took on the sly, when no one was looking.

Followers of this blog know that we are very interested in mechanical musical instruments of all types, including organ clocks, flute clocks, trumpeter clocks, cuckoo clocks, music boxes... The Orchestrion could be considered the master granddaddy of all of these fascinating devices.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Observational Time with John Goodman

Here's an interesting article from the Long Now Blog.

John Goodman is an engineer that admires intuition, a reluctant artist who enjoys elegant approximations. His best known creation,
The Annosphere
, was recently showcased at the Cambridge Science Festival in Massachusetts, where he lives and works.

The Annosphere is emblematic of what Mr. Goodman calls an intuitive grasp of time – time that is told by instinct, season and cultural benchmark, rather than being parceled out in minutes and seconds. He tells an illustrative story: Once, in a hotel in Europe, he noticed that the shower knob was demarcated in degree readings. He got to musing on the fact that he had no idea, in degrees, how hot he liked his shower. “The shower had degree readings on the knob, but who knows the exact temperature they like their shower? The right way to set a shower is where it’s comfortable, the right way to measure time is the same.”

From the Annosphere website:
Time goes both too slowly and too quickly. From one minute to the next, nothing seems any different and yet before you know it, the day is over, the summer’s gone to fall, adolescence turns to middle age, and you’re in the nursing home.

The annosphere tells time, but more usefully, it presents time. It shows you sunrise and sunset, the start of spring and the winter solstice. It lets you see on your desk what you can’t see in the world: the steady pace of time, the subtle day to day changes in sunlight and shadow, the cycles that run through each year.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carved Vienna Regulator

Here's an interesting piece. It's another Vienna Regulator with a very lovely carved case. The case is carved is a rare hardwood, possibly mahogany.

The weight doesn't match. It's got a Jugendstil-style weight and the pattern doesn't quite match the bob and case. I've been reading about diy chemical etching and will one day try to make a weight shell that matches.

If you like this clock, be sure to check out our Amerling regulator with it's fine "Bird's-Eye" Maple case.

"Vienna" Regulators have often been the standard for fine mechanical wall clocks. Their elegant proportions, and high-quality mechanisms create what is for many the epitome of accurate and stylish mechanical wall clocks.

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Interesting English Longcase

One of the things that really interests us (besides beautiful new clock designs) are really old clocks.

This is a piece that was saved from an old estate in the suburbs of Washington D.C. We found parts of the clock laying around the house and in the front yard, and we are going to take some time to clean it and restore it to working order.

Here are some hasty snapshots:

As you can see, it has a very elegant shallow case with a long door in the front. This style is typical of Tall Case or Long Case clocks of England and America in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. This particular example has an excellent oak case, finished in the traditional "Dark Oak" of English fashion.

You can't see it in these pictures, but with careful inspection we found the name of the maker on the dial "Samuel Buxton, Colchester" which we traced back to the earliest possible date of 1773 in England. The dial painter was Wilkes and Company. Because of the style of the dial and case, this clock was most likely made around 1780.

This fine clock even has some animation in the dial. You can see the interesting hand painting of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, with all the animals surrounding them - including the Serpent. Eve even moves her arm with the Fruit of Knowledge, as if to tempt poor Adam!

While we were researching this clock, we came across some other beautiful examples of the same era. Do you have one? Tell us about it! Let's hear from you in the comments.

BTW, if you like this wood finish, be sure to check out our "Handel" wall clock by Sternreiter. This finish is sometimes called "dark oak," or "antique oak," or "English oak" wood finish. It has a nice strong look that is somewhat more formal than our American oak finishes.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fremion - Update

A few months ago, I did a post on an antique French gallery clock.

We have turned up some new research on the clock. Our contact in France (that goes by the handle laprade) was able to contact the president of the association The Friends of Old Issoudun. Apparently, the president has a Comptoise clock with the Fremion name as well. They found old postcards at least as old as 1910 where you can see the market square, including a watchmaker "Fremion." It could still be seen there as late as 1930.

In 1927 there were 7 watchmakers and jewelers in Issoudun. By 1936, Fremion was gone, but there was still a jeweler/clock shop there under a different name until 1960, when the whole block was destroyed.

I couldn't find the actual postcards online that they talk about. These above are some random old postcards from Issoudun that I found here. If there are any postcard collectors out there, I'd love to hear if you can find these cards!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How it works: Looking inside an Emilian Wehrle Trumpeter Clock

Our friends at have put together this unique look into an 8 horn trumpeter clock made by Emilian Wehrle C. 1880

Emilian Wehrle made some fantastic musical clocks in Furtwangen, Germany in the mid to late 19th C.

We hope you will enjoy this opportunity to take a peek into a seldom seen clock, and leave with a better appreciation of Black Forest Horology.

Sunday, October 04, 2009