Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a two-part series about the tours offered before and after the 2019 NAWCC Ward Francillon Time Symposium. Part 1 was published in the March/April 2019 Watch & Clock Bulletin.
I’ve discovered that there are different types of once-in-a-lifetime events. Perhaps serendipity takes us by surprise, only later to recognize how special the moment was. Others are definite and predicted; like the return visit of the Hale-Bopp comet, which will occur centuries after I am gone. Some events are so thrilling that we hope to return to them later in life, like a wonderful vacation or a fond family reunion. But it wasn’t until my trip to Germany to take two horological tours and attend the 2019 Time Made in Germany Symposium that I realized they can be all three!
It was by chance that I met Bob Frishman, NAWCC Symposium Chair, at the 2019 HSNY Gala and expressed my interest to attend the Symposium. The tours and Symposium, which took years of preparation, were already planned and underway. I was thrilled to be able to reserve my spot. I greatly hope, as I believe the other attendees do, that I will revisit all the wonderful places on the tour, the lovely people I met, and the beautiful treasures I saw.
The day after the 2019 Time Made and Germany: 700 Years of German Horology ended in Nuremberg, Germany, I rejoined the group from the Black Forest tour. Karl Zech and Michael Kopp said their goodbyes at the end of the first tour. Kurt Strehlow would be our guide instead, to take us to the horological hot spots of Bavaria. Our ultimate destination for the day was to arrive in Munich but we had two stops along the way.
Our first stop was to visit the community of Schlossberg, only a short distance from Nuremberg. There in the forested hills we visited the home of a private collector, who had an impressive collection of rare precision regulators. We also visited his machine shop, that was used to fabricate parts for his clocks and telescopes. Before leaving, we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant and a lovely view of the landscape.
Our second stop was for another private collection and, for me, this was one of the highlights of the trip. We visited the home of Siegfried Bergmann, who has authored the books Comtoise-Uhren and the four-volume set Comtoise-Uhren: Historie–Technik–Typologie. Bergmann’s collection, comprising more than 500 Comtoise clocks, was proudly on display in his lovely home. Every room on every floor represented his collection. During the tour he explained the rich history of Comtoise, also known as Morbier, clocks. These clocks were produced in the rustic, mountainous region of eastern France. Much like the clocks of the Black Forest, they began as a cottage industry and then evolved into mass production. Comtoise clocks, in fact, were competitors of the clocks of the Black Forest and were sold in many of the same international markets.
Before leaving, Mrs. Bergmann prepared a lovely spread of delicious sandwiches, desserts, and drinks. The German expression “Gemütlichkeit” is used to express warm and happy feelings. I certainly experienced this during this memorable visit. We reluctantly said auf wiedersehen to Herr und Fräu Bergmann, climbed back on our bus, and completed our journey to the Holiday Inn in Munich. That evening we enjoyed a buffet dinner and our tour guide, Kurt, explained the tour’s itinerary.
We began in the morning with a fascinating visit to the manufactory of Erwin Sattler in Munich. Founded in 1958, this small, family-owned company has become a globally operating enterprise over the past 52 years. We were first greeted not by a tour guide, but by the largest working regulator in the world. This regulator, which is over two stories tall, hangs on the front of the building. As we walked through the front entrance the pendulum literally swung over our heads. Our tour guide and master clock maker, Markus Glöggler, gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the business, which is composed of a showroom, offices, and factory.
Twenty men and women work at the manufactory and produce about 700 clocks per year. Customers must wait approximately one and a half years to obtain their custom-made timepieces. Erwin Sattler not only manufactures precision pendulum regulators, but also highly complicated and precise table clocks, wristwatches, and pocket watches. They even produce long case clocks that also serve as watch safes and winding cases.
Next, we headed off to the Deutsches Museum, one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to science and technology. The first timepiece we encountered was an astronomical clock in the courtyard. The clock indicates the time of day, week, month, and moon phase using Roman numerals, symbols of the zodiac, and iconography. The museum is so massive that the exhibits could be separate museums themselves. We had a little bit of time to explore before eating lunch at the museum’s cafeteria. I was particularly impressed with the Electrical Power and Energy Technology exhibits. Using models, panels, and actual machines, including room-size generators, the exhibits demonstrate humanity’s ever-improving quest to harness energy.
After our lunch, we met with master clock maker, Thomas Rebényi, head of the Restoration Workshop of Scientific Instruments and Timepieces for the museum. Rebényi took us into the workshop where timepieces, mechanical automatons, and other mechanical instruments are restored. There he explained the various pieces in the workshop and their efforts to restore them. There were many lovely timepieces in various stages of repair including a tower clocks, an electronic wall clock, and a trumpeting automaton from 1810.
After our workshop tour, we returned to the museum to visit the horological exhibit. Despite its small size, the exhibit is quite comprehensive. There we saw timepieces from all eras and regions of the globe, from hourglasses and clepsydras to astrolabes and atomic clocks. A massive tower clock and stunning 17th-century religious and mythological figure clocks stood out for me. I was also impressed, however, with a simple cut of wood, showing the rings of a tree, indicating how many years it had lived.
After having some time to explore the museum on our own, we enjoyed a bus city tour of Munich. Led by a local guide, we first learned about the history of the city’s foundation. The city’s name is a derivative of an older German word that translates to, “of the monks.” It is named accordingly because an order of Benedictine monks were its earliest settlers. Our guide then showed us the many sights and important buildings of the city. We ended the tour to walk the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace. The massive palace and grounds once served as a summer home for Bavarian royalty and is one of Munich’s most popular tourist destinations. It is also the birthplace of the famous, “Fairytale King,” Ludwig II, who captured the world’s imagination with his dashing good looks, extensive cultural projects, and mysterious death.
For dinner, we discovered that Germans not only take their beer seriously, they take their breweries seriously as well. We ended the evening at Paulaner Brewery. Paulaner is one of the six breweries permitted to operate in the city limits of Munich. It is also one of the six breweries allowed to participate in Oktoberfest. Founded in 1634, Paulaner must follow the “Reinheitsgebot,” or the German Purity Laws for Beer, to continue to operate in the city. We had a tour of the brewery and a hearty three-course meal. We enjoyed an evening stroll back to our hotel, only a short distance away from the brew house.
We awoke early the next morning and took a 50-mile trip to the town of Mindelheim to visit the Schwäbian Tower Clock Museum. Before the museum, however, we were greeted by Wolfgang Volg, founder of the Tower Clock Museum, and Birgit Kremer, art historian and practicing horologist. Our guides gave us a tour of the city that happened to consist of two public clocks along the way. The first clock was a restored tower clock of a church, housed in a sleek and modern case that stood more than a story tall. The second clock was housed in a large glass case and was unique because its power source was distilled water.
The Schwäbian Tower Clock Museum was once a former church called Silvesterkirche. The museum consists of over 50 pieces that are from Volg’s personal collection. One exception was a beautifully decorated tower clock with religious motifs made by a monk in 1750. The movement is on loan from a nunnery that recently suffered a fire. The clock would have certainly been destroyed had it not been kept safe at the museum. Volg and Kremer guided us through two show rooms and a nine-story tower, representing 500 years of the evolution and various types of tower clocks. All pieces were in working order.
For me, the tower was one of the wonders I encountered during the trip. Each floor had multiple working tower clock movements. As you ascended the tower, you knew how many clocks would greet you on the next floor by their swinging pendulums. The tower also boasts of having the second longest pendulum in the world. After our museum tour, Volg and Kremer walked us back to our bus. Kremer would join us at our next destination, the Wittelsbach Castle Museum in Friedberg, but Volg would not. I distinctly remember Volg, the very definition of a German gentleman, riding off on his bicycle and waving goodbye as we boarded the bus to depart. On the way to the museum, we stopped for lunch at the Hotel Untere Mühle.
The original foundations of Wittelsbach Castle in Friedberg date back to the mid-13th century. The castle housed its first museum as early as 1886. However, before entering the museum, we literally had to cross over a moat, enter a gate hall, and pass through a courtyard, reminding us of the castle’s original defensive purposes. Recently renovated, the current museum is a state-of-the-art facility housing many exhibits and event spaces.
We were greeted inside by Museum Director Dr. Alice Arnold-Becker. Arnold-Becker took us through the horological section of the museum that celebrated the rich clock- and watch-making history of Friedberg, which flourished from the 16th to 19th centuries. The city’s horological success had to do with its close proximity to the commercially and politically powerful city of Augsburg. Because Friedberg was a free city and did not have to follow the strict rules of the guilds, clock and watch makers were encouraged to settle there to make fine timepieces. We saw many wonderful examples of High German horology, from gilded table and mantel clocks to watches with crown-verge escapements in ornately engraved cases. After the guided tour, we had time to enjoy some of the other exhibits including the pre-history of the area displaying artifacts dating from the Stone and Bronze Ages, and an exhibit on the porcelain industry that also flourished in Friedberg.
After a time, our tour guide Kurt must have heard our stomachs growling. He gathered us together for a short walk to Gasthof Zur Linde, a traditional German inn, located in the center of Friedberg. Thus far, my rudimentary knowledge of the German language had served me well at ordering food, but it failed me here. That told me I was going to have something truly authentic. I ordered what basically translated to crispy-skin pork fillet, vegetables, and mashed potatoes. After dinner we once again boarded the bus and returned to our hotel in Munich.
Our last day of the tour was certainly not the least. Our first stop in the morning was a visit to the Bavarian National Museum. We were given a guided tour of the museum’s horological collection by Dr. Raphael Beuing, Curator of Armory, Clocks, Scientific Instruments, and Metal Artifacts. We saw a stunning collection of Bavarian timepieces from the 16th to 19th centuries. The variety of timepieces was astounding. Large table clocks, orreries, figure clocks, and automata were on magnificent display.
The monumental ceremonial clocks on exhibit definitely stood out. These works of art were commissioned by Bavarian royalty and used as curiosities, not to keep accurate time but to entertain guests and demonstrate their owners’ wealth and power. The details of these clocks could fill volumes. Gilded in precious metals, they don classical Greek mythological figures and exotic themes from foreign lands. They house movements with striking bells, organs, and mystery movements. Once such clock demonstrated a hunt as animals were chased in a palace courtyard; another rolled a small metal ball in and out of its façade. As we were led through the museum, we also saw other exhibits of Bavarian antiquities including paintings, sculpture, and furniture—all examples of the great wealth and influence of the Bavarian Empire. After we enjoyed lunch at the museum’s restaurant, we boarded our bus for our last official destination of the tour.
The Residenz Museum is housed in the former municipal seat and residence of the former Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria. There we met up with Birgit Kremer, our guide from the previous day. Kremer graciously shared her extensive knowledge of horology and Bavarian history as she guided us through this massive palace of Teutonic influence and culture. First founded in 1385, the palace expanded through the centuries and reflected the styles of the times, from Renaissance to early Neoclassicism. Despite extensive damage during World War II, the palace and collection have been restored to reflect their former majesty.
Kremer guided us through the wings of the palace explaining how, as we came closer to the residence of the king, the rooms became more elaborate and specialized. This included the rarity and preciousness of timepieces. Not to say that the clocks that we saw walking through the lower-court rooms were not special. There were many wonderful examples of wall, tall case, and mantel clocks along the way. Naturally, the king’s chamber and throne room had the most elaborate pieces. This included an Oriental themed rococo-style lacquered writing desk with a mantel clock on top and, in clear view of whoever sat on the throne, a monumental ceremonial clock, with a gilded figure of Apollo riding a chariot.
We continued on to see the other exhibits at the palace after the horological segment of our tour was complete. We saw many incredible relics of Bavarian antiquity, including crowns, swords, jewelry, and toys of previous monarchs. Kremer pointed out one such toy, an automaton of Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting, riding a stag. The figure, which is hollow and was used for a drinking game, has hidden wheels on the bottom and, after being wound, would roll toward a chosen participant of the game.
After our visit to the Residenz Museum we were free to enjoy the city and what was left of the day . I was treated with one last display of German mechanical entertainment. As I was doing some last-minute souvenir shopping in Marienplatz located in the heart of Munich, I had the pleasure of watching the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Constructed in 1908, the two-story marvel adorns the façade of the town hall. It reenacts the marriage of a king and queen, complete with life-size court jesters, trumpeters, jousting knights, and dancers.
We enjoyed one last dinner together that evening back at our hotel. We were joined by Josef Stadl, president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie, and his wife. Farewell and thank-you speeches were given by Bob Frishman, Richard Newman, and Fortunat MuellerMaerki. Although it was the end of the Symposium and tours, it wasn’t the end of Europe for many of the attendees. Many were going off to enjoy some of the other, non-horological delights that the Old World has to offer. The rest of us, myself included, were bound for home.
All my life I had wanted to go to Germany, but until now, had never made the trip. In fact, I had only flown outside of the United States once before. I could have never imagined that, on my first trip to Europe, I would be traveling with such wonderful and knowledgeable company. Touring some of Germany’s most famous towns and regions. Exploring castles, keeps, palaces, and prominent museums. Visiting churches, private collections, and businesses. Meeting world-recognized specialists, historians, and collectors. All in the name of the art and science of horology