Clocks and Watches

The Clocks and Watches Collection comprises more than 400 home (longcase, wall, mantle) clocks and about 250 pocket watches and wrist watches, created since the 17th century. Though most of them are foreign made, it is an essential characteristic that they were collected only in Croatia. The most numerous are central European items, especially those from Vienna. Around the middle of the 18th century there are signatures on clocks and watches that indicate the existence of clockmaking workshops in some of our cities (Zagreb, Varaždin, Osijek, Rijeka, Karlovac).

In the recent permanent display, clocks and watches have been for the first time brought together in topic and space and presented as a study collection. Among the exhibits in Room XXV, several types of clocks and watches stand out for their relevance in the context.

Bracket clocks, which started to be made immediately after 1657 when the pendulum was introduced for the regulation of the clockwork movement, which improved accuracy several-fold, are represented mainly by central European specimens, among which those with domestic signatures (Joseph Heichele Fiumme, Frantz Malehlav Carlstadt, Johan Seitler Essegg) deserve particular attention. Also worth mentioning is the clock of Ahasuerus Framanteel, member of a clockmaking family that in London and Amsterdam made the first pendulum clocks, dated around 1680, and at the end of the 18th century adapted to the new housing.

Portal clocks, that is, clocks with pillars the housings of which are formally based on Antique architecture, belong to a somewhat later period, the first half of the 19th century. Most of these too come from central Europe, including some by watchmaker Marcus Gohm, who was at work in Varaždin in the 1820s.

French horology is represented by very high quality figural clocks of gilt bronze made in the leading Parisian art foundries. The themes of the sculptures and reliefs that principally determine the perception of these clocks are taken from ancient mythology or are allegorical, while in their formal treatment, the stylistic features of Neoclassicism and Empire prevail.

Among the wall clocks, the most numerous group consists of clocks in a frame that constitute a particular feature of central European horology, particularly characteristic of Biedermeier. The regulator of Viennese watchmaker Philipp Fertbauer of the early 19th century stands out for the high quality mechanism, graceful proportions and refined decoration. An interesting clock with a wooden mechanism and the date 1719 inscribed was probably made in Davos in Switzerland.

The longcase clocks on show derive from the 18th century (except for one from the 1930s), that is from the period in which the highest quality specimens of this kind of household clock came. Top watchmakers and craftsmen of other trades combined in their making – these latter being responsible for the appearance of dial and housing, most often decorated with a combination of various veneers, inlay or more rarely imitation Chinese lacquer, as is the case on the clock of Viennese watchmaker J. G. Rauch of the mid-18th century.

In room XXIV, apart from personal – i.e. pocket and wrist watches – household and travelling clocks of small dimensions are also on show, and several portable sundials made between 1683 and 1800, mostly in Augsburg, at that time the main centre for the making of this kind of elementary measurer of time.

Among the household clocks on show, the earliest is a prismatic table clock made around 1650 by the Augsburg watchmaker G. C. Lutzenberger, which has only an hour hand. It was made before 1675, when the balance spring was made, giving small sized clocks their first real oscillator, increasing their accuracy several times. Interesting are several high quality travelling clocks – alarm clocks of English, French and Viennese origin of the second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, and specimens that in their design follow the stylistic features of the functionalism of the 1920s.

The display of pocket watches starts with a watch of London watchmaker R. Jarratt, made in about 1665, which apart from the hour also has a calendar indicator, but as yet no minute hand. In the next period silver watches dominated, especial attention being devoted to the decoration of the movement covers.

The last decades of the 18th century particularly featured women’s pendant watches decorated with miniature painted enamel pictures, while the authors of the movements were on the whole famed Parisian artisans. Most in evidence are gold and silver men’s pocket watches of the 19th century, mainly made in Switzerland. An interesting group consists of watches made in England for the Ottoman Empire market, characterised by a large number of protective casings and original Arabic numbers. Finally, there is a man’s Omega of 1930 the geometrically conceived case of which is done in a combination of polished and matte surfaces, without excessive details or decorations, founded on the industrial aesthetics of the time, and a Marvin watch of the same time with a glass casing that enables a view of the movement and the two-sided hour markings.

Wrist watches are represented by selected specimens created between the chronologically first – a woman’s Omega of 1915, that is, the period when this new type of watch was just beginning to appear, and a Swatch chronograph of 1994 designed to mark the centenary of the Olympic movement. Apart from watches that stand out for design characteristic of a given period (a lady’s Roamer decorated with brilliants in Art Déco style, a man’s Venus of about 1970, a robust square casing with appropriate strap that in colour and form made up an integrated unit with the watch, watches are shown the essential feature of which is some innovation; Hamilton Electric of 1958 driven by battery, while the oscillator was still mechanical (balance), a Rado DiaStar of 1975, in which this function is taken over by a tuning fork, and is made from sinterised particles of titanium carbide, which makes it exceptionally scratch-resistant. The Darwil Lux 62 recalls a favourite brand of wrist watches in this country, the Seiko Bell-matic of the 1970s the Japanese takeover of the world clocks and watches market, and the Swatch of 1987 the Swiss response made some ten years later.

Collection Manager:
PhD Vesna Lovrić Plantić, museum advisor