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Continuing with the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum at Furtwangen … from ancient time keeping devices to clocks and watches …

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This museum is not to be confused with the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum Glashütte  which was opened in 2008 at Glashütte near Dresden.

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Glashütte is the watchmaking capital of the former East Germany while Furtwangen is in the traditional clockmaking area of Germany.The well-known brand A. Lange & Söhne is located in Glashütte, started by Aldolf Lang in 1845 initially making pocket watches. See engravings below.

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Some of the early pocket watches had really plain exteriors, due not because of the lack of skills, after all they were very expensive and worn by the rich and noble, but because protestant cities in the 17th century enforced strict moral standards and banned ornamentation.

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So the jewels and decorations were on the inside. In the 1700’s many goldsmiths became watchmakers.

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In the 18th century, pocket watches were no longer made by a solo watchmaker – instead, the parts were made by specialists and increasingly by machines in different regions, notably Geneva and the Jura region on the border of France and Switzerland.  This division of labor made inexpensive pocket watches possible.
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In Switzerland, the watchmaking industry is centered around La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle which is only about 30 minutes drive from my office. We blogged about La-Chaux-des Fonds here.

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But of course times changed … no ornamentation? How about the graphical display of carnal pleasures …”C’est inci q’on passe le temps”.

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The photos shown here are mostly pocket watches but they do have a wristwatch collection. Apparently, the collection including many famous brands had been stolen once before. So they are protected by burglar-proof glass (so it says on a little card on display).

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The pocket watch shown below is by DuBois et fils. The company was founded in 1785 and one of the DuBois’s sons or someone who licensed the name raised new money to continue the business. It announced a 1.5 million swiss franc investment to kick start the brand on its website :

We are happy to report that in January 2013, after five months of raising, the successful DuBois et fils Crowd Funding came to an end. More than 587 persons from 20 different countries subscribed to shares of DuBois et fils and are now partial owners of the oldest Swiss watch factory. …  Thus the Crowd Funding project of DuBois et fils, which raised CHF 1.5 Mio to produce the new watch collection, is pure pioneer work. …

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Some of the parts for the pocket watches (the escapements shown here) are so delicate.

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The Deutsches Uhrenmuseum at Furtwangen does have a collection of wristwatches. Interestingly, according to a publication from the museum, wristwatches were originally worn only by women in the 19th century. Only until around 1930, the production of wristwatch overtook that of the pocket watch and watch repair became part of a clock-maker’s training.

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Up to that time, the exterior of watches had to be adapted to their interior movements, but technology has advanced to the point that the movement could fit the shape of the watch and as a result, many different shapes emerged. In the 40’s the round shape became popular again because it is easier to make a round movement flat and waterproof. The second world war made the wristwatch a professional tool for many soldiers.

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Long before Swatch, the French company – Lip – already tried plastic, witty design but it was not commercially successful. Lip is still around and it had quite a bit of history worthy of a whole book – go online and look …

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Staiger quartz clocks from Germany (above) and some fun alarm clocks (below).

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In the museum, we saw a lot of alarm clocks, an appliance which we hate but cannot live without … this is what they looked like in the beginning.

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Fascinating history. Part 1 of this post is here.

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During Easter, we drove up to the Black Forest area of Germany. We visited the German Clock Museum (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum) on our way back from Baden-Baden. The museum is in Furtwangen, a small town just off the Black Forest high road (Schwarzwaldhochstraße, see our post here).

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The museum is housed in a very humble-looking modern building. It is located in a residential part of town (the town is so small that I don’t know if there is a non-residential part). Honestly, on the outside, I thought it looked like the library of a local high school.

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This region of Germany has a long history of making clocks – it claims to be the birth place of the cuckoo clocks.  See Wikipedia – cuckoo clock.

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There is an extensive display of the many styles of cuckoo clocks made over time and ample documentation about the history of its development. The clocks shown below are of the Bahnhäusle style, designed by Furtwangen clockmakers in the mid-1800’s.

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The museum traces the historical development of time-keeping from simple mechanical devices to clocks as most of us would recognize, to atomic clocks with a digital LED output.

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More wall-hanging clocks …

Furtwangen-9The collection includes many made in the last century.

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According to the atomic clock, we were there at 5:34 pm, Monday, April 1, 2013, 91 days or 14 weeks into the year.

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Apparently, many of the old mechanical clocks also produce music. We were treated to a demonstration of its function which was rather entertaining except the museum guide spoke German to the visitors who were mostly Germans.

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The museum did provide us with English guides which were helpful.

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There were many grandfather clocks and some very fancy decorated clocks.

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As many pieces were displayed behind glass, it was difficult to take pictures due to the reflection (in this case, two layers).

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I particularly like this clock (photo below) which shows the mechanism behind a minimal white enamel dial and gold filigree hands, all encased in an engraved glass dome (engravings hard to see in photo). Wouldn’t mind having this on the mantlepiece.

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In part two, we will look at watches.

Baden-Baden is the city we stayed for 2 nights on this long weekend trip to the Black Forest. The city is well-known for its spa and casino. It is a fancy resort town, particularly popular among Russians, so much so that there is even a museum of Fabergé eggs here.

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The ambiance reminds me of Evian just across the lake from us except this town seemed bigger (see our earliest posts about Evian here and here).

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Caracalla spa is the biggest spa in town. Next to it was a traditional roman spa where absolute nudity is expected.

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Bathing outdoors in the winter time must be nice. It was not exactly warm when we were visiting.

B-Baden-14We did not go to either one of the above-mentioned spas because our hotel has a small outdoor spa of its own which is connected to an indoor swimming pool. We spent a couple of hours bathing before dinner.

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The fountain of the hotel is fed by warm spa water as evidenced by the mist.

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“Baden-Baden” means city of Bath in the state of Bath. Hence, there are lots of “Bad Hotel” (spa hotel) here in town.

B-Baden-10We took a funicular up to the summit of Merkur which in theory should afford us a panormic view of Baden-Baden.

B-Baden-22But the weather was not cooperating, unfortunately.

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We had dinner at a touristy Bavarian bar and eatery – Gasthaus Löwenbräu – run by the Löwenbräu brewery.

B-Baden-5The Gasthaus had a nice beer garden which was empty – it was too cold to sit outside.

B-Baden-6The food was standard tavern fare but the dark beer was very tasty and not too heavy.

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More to come on Baden-Baden.

Wars throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th century resulted in Freiburg being occupied by the Austrians, the French, the Swedish, the Spanish, and various German states. Much of the city, except the cathedral (the Muenster) was destroyed by bombing during World War II.

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After the war, the city was rebuilt according to its medieval plan. There were a few canals in town which created nice small neighborhoods for exploring on foot. This is Gerberau along the Gewerbekanal.

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No idea why there is a stone crocodile in the middle of the canal.

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Freiburg is famous for little streams (Bächle) that run through the pedestrianized parts of the town. See also the town hall photo in the previous post, here. This bächle leads from the main street to the cathedral square (Münsterplatz).

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The water from the bäcle was supposed to help quickly put out any fire that broke out in the city. We saw some similar water channels serving the same purpose in Takayama, Japan. Freiberg kept these bäcle when the city was rebuilt after World War II。


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The Whale-House (Haus zum Walfisch)- a gothic town house built in 1500’s in the city center with a long story if you care to follow it on Wikipedia in German. This is the back of it – we have not yet figured out the origin and meaning of such a psychedelic pattern as was used here and in many other doors or window shutters in Switzerland and these parts of Europe.

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Notice the pattern in the lower half of this gate, it was cleverly designed to give the illusion of extra depth in perspective and a recessed smaller gate.

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Examples of decorative metal bits near the top of a nearby window.

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Our guide book mentioned this figurine on the Whale house. Notice the goitre (caused by iodine deficiency) on the neck which was quite common in the Middle Ages.

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Nice shopping street (Konvikstrasse) with hanging wisteria – imagine when it is blooming – must be very pretty.

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The main theatre of the city – ” HEART OF THE CITY”. We wondered if the two letters were malfunctioning or switched off by design.

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Freiburg is a pleasant city – we enjoyed our stay except that it was freezing cold on both days. It was supposed to be Spring.

Over the four-days Easter weekend, we went on a road trip from Lausanne up to the Black Forest area (Schwarzwald) of Germany. We took the A12, A1, A2 then cross into Germany onto the A5. Our first stop was Freiburg where we stayed overnight.

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Freiburg is located in the southwest of the state of Baden-Württemberg on the southeastern edge of the Upper Rhine Valley and the western foothills of the Black Forest.

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Freiburg was founded in 1120 as a free market town (hence its name, “free borough”).

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The history of the city is a fascinating read, if you have time. I glanced at it on Wikipedia and noted that it was a commercial center (silver mining, richest in Europe in the 1300’s), a learning center (founded in 1457 with the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, it is one of the classic German university towns), a Catholic stronghold against the protestants, and an environmentally-friendly city.

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Freiburg has a number of sister cities (university town mostly), as shown on the cobble-stoned town hall sqaure (Rathausplatz)

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Begun in the Romanesque style, the cathedral was continued and completed in 1513 for the most part as a Gothic cathedral.

freiburg-9 Due to the soft nature of the stones used in its construction, the church is constantly under repair. See the gargoyles ?

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When we walked into the church, it was packed due to Good Friday service.

Not only there were three statutes in front of the church, the entrance and its walls were studded with numerous figurines depicting various events from the bible.

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More about Freiburg to come later this week.