The first Black Forest wooden clocks were made in the second half of the 17th century. However, due to constant wars, clock making could not establish itself as a separate trade until about 1730.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Black Forest wooden clocks were popular worldwide and could be successfully manufactured, which was not least due to a well-established division of labour. Thus, the actual clockmaker obtained subcontracted parts from (wood) frame makers, foundries for bells and gear blanks, chain makers and sign painters. The involvement of the many trades quickly resulted in high productivity through specialization and industrialization of processes and procedures. As production numbers increased, so did the number of employees. Around 1840, about 600,000 wooden clocks were produced annually, and about 5,000 people were employed in the associated factories. For distribution and export, the clock manufacturers used the existing distribution network of the glassmakers, who were also located in the Black Forest, and who distributed their products (and also the Black Forest wooden clocks) at home and abroad via so-called glass carriers. Black Forest clock dealers quickly established themselves in many European countries.
In 1850, the government of the time founded the first German watchmaking school in Furtwangen to provide training for smaller craftsmen and thus increase the region’s sales opportunities. At the same time, the first larger watch factories were established, as a result of which the first centers of watch production developed in the Black Forest in towns such as St. Georgen, Triberg, Furtwangen, Titisee-Neustadt and Lenzkirch. From 1880 onwards, the Württemberg part of the Black Forest with Schramberg (Junghans) and Schwenningen (Kienzle) also developed into a world centre of the clock industry. Junghans’ robust W10 alarm clock movement, for example, enabled the well-known manufacturer to rise to become one of the largest watch factories in the world. Through the alarm clock production as a whole, the Black Forest covered 60% of the world export of large clocks before the First World War. Afterwards, however, the permanent economic crisis of the 1920s caused problems for the manufacturers, and the Second World War also interrupted clock production.
The Second World War itself survived the clock industry at the locations in the central Black Forest largely unscathed. As early as 1949, 85% of pre-war production had been achieved again. However, the sharp rise in real wages had a devastating effect on the earnings of the watch industry from the 1960s onwards, and the invention of the quartz movement also caused problems for many traditional manufacturers. However, the resulting market consolidation also enabled some manufacturers to successfully establish themselves in today.
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