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A Black Forest “Souvenir” Clock

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This small ‘windmill clock’ was probably made by Black Forest makers for the Dutch market, to be sold to holidaymakers and tourists (the photograph shows the clock as it came into the workshop - the dial is 15cm high, 10.4cm wide). The colourful dial is made of a piece of minimally ‘shaped’ plywood, into which the design of a windmill and tulip fields has been ‘pressure moulded’, before being painted. The clock came in for overhaul some years ago. The owner remembered buying it in Holland as a boy, when he was on a singing tour of northern Europe in 1937. Usually, small Black Forest clocks of this type are very difficult to date accurately, though a progression of minor changes to manufacturing methods and materials may allow one to ‘guestimate’ an age to around ± 15 - 20 years, so it was interesting to have an actual date for it.

The main components of the movement are shown in the photograph… before cleaning! Many of these cheaply made movements have plate pillars with ‘twist-tabs’ on them to secure the back plate to the front plate. These tabs are a very quick way of assembling the clock movements, but limit the number of times the plates can be separated and reassembled before cracks develop in the metal of the tabs, risking breakage next time they are twisted!

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This clock had clearly been apart on more than one occasion, and one of the four tabs had developed fatigue cracks. I dealt with this by straightening the tab, cleaning the cracks, and repairing them with hard solder, then drilling all four tabs to accept clock pins in the traditional way. The small photograph shows the cracked tab, the larger photograph, the front plate with the tab repaired.

I am always reluctant to alter the originality of a clock movement, but the alteration is clear, and has been documented. The collet of the windmill sails could not be removed from the extended arbor of the escape wheel; the rivet had to be broken to remove the sails so that the dial plate could be taken off. With the dial off, the movement could be removed from its small wooden box and dismantled. Punching up of some pivot holes by a previous repairer was evident. However, after burnishing the pivots, carrying out some re-bushing and cleaning all parts, the clock ran very well once reassembled (final photograph). A new collet was turned up for the windmill sails and these were riveted into place, the hole in the collet was then broached to fit the escape arbor where it extends through the dial plate.

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We do not know how long the makers of these clocks might have expected them to last, and although of relatively low value in monetary terms today, this small clock is now back in good working order, some 75 years after it was originally purchased.

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