Black Forest clockmakers

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Black Forest clock porter

Craftsmanship of Black Forest clockmakers dates back to mid of the 17th century. A specialized branch of Black Forest clockmakers are the manufacturer of cuckoo clocks.


Beginnings in the 17th century[edit]

Black Forest clock production started in the mid of the 17th century. The first series of clocks were for practical use and in simple design. Popularity of clocks from Black Forest grew and plates and dial face became more sophisticated. It is said that at the beginning Black Forest clocks copied Bohemian style.[1] By and by Black Forest clocks gained reputation, especially the famous cuckoo clocks, which were developed in their typical style in 1854.

Shop assembly[edit]

In the first half of the 18th century wooden transmission wheels were used in Black Forest clock manufacturing (in German: „Holzräderuhr“). In the second half of the 18th century technical progress led to winding wheels in yellow brass. Starting with the end of the 18th century plate clocks for the wall were produced. They had wooden plates which were painted in lacquer (in German: „Lack-Schilderuhr“). At the end of the 18th century Jacob Herbstreith manufactured small wall clocks with plates in porcelain or brass (in German: „Jockele-Uhr“). At the begin of the 19th century clockmaker family Sorg produced a very small wall clock (in German: „Sorg-Uhr“).[2] [3]

Industrial production[edit]

The core region for Black forest clock production reached from Triberg via Furtwangen to St. Peter. Former state of Baden founded in 1850 in Furtwangen the first school for clockmakers to get better working conditions for handicrafts and make them more efficient. Several crisis periods followed. In the mid of the 19th century mass production began.[4] But after the American War the US war industry changed their production to clock production of high competitiveness. German clock manufacturers thus lost market shares.

Special clock types were developed: the cuckoo clock, the clock with figurine, the clock with music signals every hour, the bracket clock and the grandfather clock in a wooden clock case.[5] [6]

Roaring times and decline[edit]

At the begin of the 20th century clock industry prospered but suddenly failed as First World War began and afterwards Russian and American markets broke away. After Second World War exports fostered production.

Continuing structural change[edit]

In the 1970s new plastic clock cases and Quartz clockworks lead to serious restructuring. The new methods made work force obsolete and brought higher competition from Newly industrialized countries. Also introduction of LCD watches caused further painful restructuring. Number of employed clockworkers shrunk from 28,000 in 1973 to 21,000 in 1976. In the sum export oriented German clock industry had to survive in a roller-coaster of unstable exchange rates, lower growth rates, high competition from Developing countries and continual technological change.“[7] Continuing new techniques and globalization impress the Black Forest clock industry.

Black Forest clockmakers[edit]

Badische Uhrenfabrik AG, final control (1954)

The German Clock Museum (German: Deutsches Uhrenmuseum) has in its collection also some early Black Forest clocks with wooden transmission wheels and some industrially produced Black Forest clocks. The German Clock Route (in German: Deutsche Uhrenstraße) connects some places with museums and (former) clock manufacturers in the Black Forest.

Former clockmakers[edit]

Active clockmakers[edit]

Black Forest clocks on the antique market[edit]

Bracket clocks and Grandfather clocks by Black forest clockmakers are dealt on the German and American antique market as mechanical clocks of high craftsmenship.[8] [9]


  • Rick Ortenburger: Black Forest Clocks. Schiffer Publications, Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania, USA, 1991. ISBN 0-88740-300-X.
  • (de) Helmut Kahlert:300 Jahre Schwarzwälder Uhrenindustrie, Katz 2007, ISBN 978-3-938047-15-6. (In English: 300 years Black Forest clockmakers)
  • (de) Herbert Jüttemann: Die Schwarzwalduhr. Badenia-Verlag, Karlsruhe 2000, ISBN 978-3-89735-360-2. (In English: The Black forest clock)
  • (de) Ekkehard Liehl, Wolf Dieter Sick (Hrsg.): Der Schwarzwald. Beiträge zur Landeskunde. Veröffentlichungen des Alemannischen Instituts, 47, Freiburg im Breisgau, 4. Aufl. 1989. (In English: Black Forest. Studies of geography, history and institutions)
  • (de) Berthold Schaaf: Schwarzwalduhren. G. Braun Buchverlag Karlsruhe, 4. Auflage 2008. ISBN 978-3-7650-8391-4. (In English: Black Forest clocks).
  • (de) Gerd Bender: Die Uhrmacher des hohen Schwarzwalds und ihre Werke. Band 1 1998 und Band 2 1978. Verlag Müller, Villingen. (In English: The clockmakers of Black Forest and their plants).

External links[edit]