Grandfather clocks through the centuries

The history of Grandfather clocks through the centuries

Long before the warm wooden case of the grandfather clock there were large mechanical behemoths that graced city squares and church towers.
These enormous clocks spurred the thinking of many clockmakers. It would still take more than 100 years for the large gears of the church clocks to morph into a timepiece that could be used in the home, but it’s hourly chime was a welcome comfort to many communities.

Heavy weights provided the movement for most of these mechanized clocks.

It wasn't until the development of the pendulum that the atmosphere for grandfather clock development began.

History records the names of two men who are credited for the introduction of the pendulum. The first name is Galileo. A friend of this famed scientist, Vincenzo Viviani wrote,
"One day in 1641, I remember that the idea occurred to him [Galileo] that the pendulum could be adapted to clocks with weights or springs, serving in place of the usual tempo, he hoping that the very even and natural motions of the pendulum would correct all the defects in the art of clocks."

The problem for Galileo was that he was unable to conduct the experiments he had in mind.

He was in his 70's at the time and blind.

In 1657 Christiaan Huygens published his findings in relation to a pendulum-based clock with which he had been working.

Both men considered the pendulum to be the most stable method to keep accurate time. It should surprise no one that the pendulum continues to be used in beautiful grandfather clocks in this new millenium.

In Grandfather clocks through the centuries the pendulum was used in multiple clock configurations. Many clockmakers settled on the more visibly pleasing Longcase (later to be called grandfather clocks).

In Germany, family clockmakers were developing another iconic timepiece.

The cuckoo clock featured a short pendulum that swung much faster than the Longcase clock. It's distinctive bird sound and hinged door that opened only at the beckoning of the cuckoo bird delighted many and was more affordable than the Longcase clock. Perhaps the long-term success of German clockmakers had to do with the colder climate and the many hours they had to spend indoors.

It was the success of the cuckoo clock that led to a similar commitment to craftsmanship in German-made mantle and grandfather clocks. German clockmakers are responsible for multiple patents that improved these stately clocks. Those innovations often became the new standard of excellence adopted by clockmakers throughout the world.

Another beautiful attribute of many German clocks is the intricate carvings

that can make a clock something that blends brilliant artistry with exceptional time keeping.

Many premier clockmakers in the 21st century can be found near the Black Forest of Germany with a tradition that has been passed down over many family generations. Mass assembly may have made certain products less expensive, but the quality and attention to detail remains the hallmark most often associated with grandfather clocks through the centuries.

Should you find a Black Forest style antique clock from Germany

you will have found a rare treasure indeed and one worth cherishing.

With the advent of quartz and electronic clocks we may have finally solved the question of a more precise timepiece, but in our technological gain is it possible we have lost the artistic appreciation of heirloom quality? Dedicated clockmakers the world over are working every day to ensure the joy of grandfather clocks remains something that isn't simply thought of in relation to history past.

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