Organ clocks are precision mechanical clocks combined with a small organ. The mechanical clock movement is linked to the musical mechanism and the tunes are generated by a barrel, usually of wood. The result is melodious and tunes were composed especially for organ clocks by such famous composers as Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.
The organ clocks were built of affluent, culturally sophisticated people, with an appreciation of art and music. They possibly originated in the late seventeenth century, but their heyday was in the “Age of Reason” in the eighteenth century.
The finest specimens were built primarily in Berlin around 1770. But many were made in Vienna a decade later, and in England, the Netherlands and France.
The greatest advances in organ clock making were made by the Viennese. They made the clockwork in such a high standard that the motion of the wheels and pinions and the rotation of the fly did not drown the melodious sounds of the organ itself. The tonal quality of the pipes was perfected and remains unsurpassed to this day. Finally they doubled the musical playing time to 5 to 8 minutes, without the necessity of rewinding the clockwork to drive the mechanism.
Ludwig Bolzmann and Johann Mälzel first made such organ clocks; they were followed by Hoss, Steiner, Seyffert. Wichmann, Heinrich; and others.
Extensive production of organ clock began in the Black Forest from circa 1810, but these clocks were of muck lower quality.
They were also used for entertainment in inns and taverns. Thus they already existed, like the other kinds of clocks made in the Black Forest, at the dawn of the age of mass production. At the same time barrel organs were manufactured in large numbers.
At about this time the era of organ clock manufacture came to an end. Alternatives to organ clocks were the much cheaper musical boxes developed in Switzerland which however, like the carillon, were not capable of musical articulation. As the Swiss music box movements were initially confined to clocks they were erroneously referred to as “Spieluhr” (musical clock).
Today many of these precious old organ clocks are to be found in private collections and museums. As the clocks made by Matthias Naeschke follow in the long tradition of organ clock making, and his skills are recognised world-wide, time and again he is asked by collectors and the museum curators throughout the world for advice and information on an old organ clock.
Any repairs that are needed, including making a new organ barrel, are carried out in his workshop in Haigerloch.