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Collecting and investing in clocks!

Old Clocks

In the era when the smallest unit of time were seconds, not tenths of a second, those days of royal and imperial monarchy of Josef II., the great Viennese Art of Clockmaking was established. Driven by the commercial promotions of the monarch the clockmakers were able to defy in technical as artistic manner with the other major european metropols of clockmaking, London and Paris. From the perspective of the collector, this is significant because in general collecting and rating is done by manufacturers, according to provenance.

Therefor the area of colleting is regional, as opposed to other collection areas. This means that the domestic market is always the most significant market for collectors. The exchange between areas or cities is estimated as rather low. This is also because tastes and interior conditions prevented nearly a lively exchange.

There can be named two criterias of the collecting area. First, collecting according to technical and second according to stylistic criterias. From the technical perspective this makes sense when cherishing clocks before 1860. Around the year 1860, parallel to the development of automatic machines, mechanical clock movements production became even more mass-produced and more alike. With the turn of the century there were hardly any regional differences in the movements, because the movements were distributed “large scale”. Special feature of the great Viennese clocks were the “Viennese Stroke” also called “Great Sonnerie” in the clockmaking world. At every quarter-hour a sound with the number of quarter-hours is played on gong or bells. On the hour this stroke is accompanied with a second different stroke. With an special repeater mechanism this stroke can be played again to strike the current hour. In the technical clockmaking language this function is also compared to “Night Watches”

The Viennese Chest Clocks belongs to the moste diversified clock types, which were always compared to civil prosperity. The excavations at Pompeii (1750) offered the talented and imaginative craftsmen templates for the design of clocks. The case imitates temples, urns or lyres according flanked by plastical mythical creatures and scenes from the greco-roman mythology. Since the 70s of the 18th century Egyptomania (obelisks, sphinxes, hieroglyphics) became noticeable within the European arts and crafts.

Formally Empire-Clocks are characterized by classical architecture and there forms. Often the carrier appears as eagle with outstretched wings. The rest of the decoration was economical, except of openworked dials the palmette motif or the the former interior design valued modern drapery. By the end of the 18th century, the Vienna-based clockmakers oriented – at least the decoration – on designs, which were en vogue in France. Collectors values Viennese clocks because of their loveliness, the decorative imagination of the case and the “Viennese Stroke”.

Be careful when buying!

A newbe should not buy immediatly – this motto is particularly important. Research and visits of museums and alike are the best introduction to the world of clock and watch collecting. Because only practiced eyes don’t miss no important details, which can make the difference between an original and a “mariage”. If you want to buy lasting value, case and movement must be a unit! Especially in Eastern Europe clocks and watches, that doesn’t meet these specifications, are offered at attractive low prices!

Maintenance of Clocks!

The sensitivity of case and movement are different, Basically it is better that a clock outlasted time wrapped in a blanket on a dry attic than in a wet basement. The metal of an movement is corrodible! The wood of the case doesn’t thanks neither too dry nor too wet climate. As with furniture and paintings, a continous climate without excessive circulation would be ideal. The best, however, for each clock is when its running and if the clock is serviced regulary ba specialists. Cleaning and oiling of the movement should always be subject of an clock- and watchmaker. We recommend a maintenance interval of 5 years by old clocks to be observed!

New Clocks, an alternative?

The machine inventions has proceeded and therefore the mass-production market of mechanical movements centralized even more. In addition to the traditional German (Black Forest) movement manufacturer more and more Chinese clock and watch movements come on the the global mass-market!

However, there is also a reverse trand. As an example the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants – en: Academy of indenpendent and creative working horologist) can be named. An international association of independently working elite watch and clockmakers. Their about 30 members were leading by the comeback of the mechanical clocks and watches after the “Quartz Crisis”. Ingenuity, highest craftsman skills and creativeness represents the character of this guild.

In the area of clocks, some members managed an brakthrough of decades of unifying tendencies. Style epochs were interpreted new, old formes maintained and currently interior trands joyfully included. To be named are the actual president of the AHCI Philippe Wurtz, Matthias Naeschke, Konstantin Chaykin, Sinclair Harding, Beat Haldimann, Frank Jutzi and of course Miki Eleta, to name only the main and most important representatives of this guild in the area of clocks.

Technical innovations were also developed, besides the design. Philippe Wurtz, the President of the AHCI, developed movements, which runs entirly witout oils. He achieved this mainly by the introduction of the so called DLC Coating (Diamon-Like-Coating, an invention of the Frauenhofer Institute) of his pinions. Besides his clocks looks impressive with its minimalistic and modern design. This is mainly founded of Wurtz’s personal goal, to produce all the parts himself and in house.

The German Grandmaster Matthias Naeschke and his son Sebastian (also member of the AHCI) created an until then not imaginable duration of 4 years in a longcase clock. Furthermore, the house Naeschke obtain as the last bastion of flute clock manufacturing. Clocks with an entire organ instead of bells or gong. This combination of clock and organ is regarded as the MP3 player of the 18th century. Patents in the area of striking mechanism, the smallness of drops heights of striking clocks and much more complete the range of services and form the basis of his international reputation.
Kontantin Chaykin, a most talented clockmaker from St. Petersburg, invented a new caleder. He succeeded developing an Orthodox Church Calender as well as an Muslim Calender to accommodate a desk clock. An Catholic Church Calender is already structurally completed, but not built yet. The Chaykin genius continues at his watches!

New interpretations in an stylistic sense of original ship or nautic clocks of Sinclair Harding lead to new and authentic works of art. Handmade parts of course, elaborate gliding and surface treatments are done as well. His art pieces attracts eyes magnetic, when entering a room. As culmination of his work, the house Sinclair Harding reconstructed the famous, legendary and historically significant “H1” of John Harrison, the inventor of nautic clocks and the socalled “Father of Time”. He produces his H1as a 3/4 replica of the historic clock.

Miki Eleta again trys to get to the bottom of the meaning of time in an artistic and philosophical way with his unique products. Each new creation is driven by his deep fascination of time measurement, innovation and kinetic art. He compines complex mechanism with unique emotional displays as well as fascinationg contemporary designs. The search for new innovations for reduction of friction loss lead Miki Eleta to his own escapement. It has the characteristics of a chronometer escapement and gives as impulse only every 2 seconds. Miki Eleta only produces uniwue pieces!

Generally it can be mentioned that modern clocks have certain technical advantages. This includes primarily the “Rack Strike Movement”; here the strike is automatically (calculated by the clock) adjusted, therefore it is possible to turn the clock back and forth! An automatic “Night Shut-Off” of the strike is also standard at todays clock movements, such as stone or ball bearings, as well as fine surface sinishes.

This list is by no mean complete and should only be a reference to the technological innovations and uniqueness of these creations. This also should be a reference, that the manufacturers of the finest clock and watch movements has broken the spell of mass-production and has inaugurated a new era. In this sense, these manufacturers should and will be the names of future collections areas.

The big potential of these clocks lies in the globalisation (as opposed to regional markets these days) because of their existing awareness with their regular exhibits at Baselworld; as well as their existing reputation of known and importnt museums, who bought already works from the above mentioned clockmakers and also because of the price! Experienced collectors know that the purchase of potential collector’s items during the lifetime of the artist is the cheapest price you can get!

Check with specialists, you will be surprised!

Archides Clocks Team!

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Gerhard M.

I am founder of Archides Uhren GmbH, the only specialist Clock Shop in Austria. We love to work with small, highly individualized companies as the member of the AHCI are. We continuous have products of Matthias Naeschke, Sinclair Harding, Philippe Wurtz, Peter Wibmer, Pita Barcelona and Konstantin Chaykin in our store.

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