Small shelf clock "Vorderzappler", 18th Century

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by Uhralt, Dec 28, 2018.

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  1. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    #1 Uhralt, Dec 28, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
    My kids acquired this small Vorderzappler clock at an auction in Switzerland as a gift for my birthday. I still need to visit them to pick it up, therefore the pictures are from the auction and rather small. I will post larger pictures once I brought the clock home.

    The clock was probably made in Austria, Switzerland or southern Germany. It is about the size of a typical French carriage clock. The top of the case may be original, the bottom with a drawer seems to be a later addition. The movement has a crown wheel and verge escapement with a short pendulum that swings in front of the dial. Thus the name "Vorderzappler" (front wiggler). The swing is fast and wide, therefore this kind of pendulum is also called a "Kuhschwanz" (cow's tail) pendulum.

    Dating the clock is difficult for me. Looking at the movement with the thick turned pillars between the plates I would think it may be early 1800s. But the brass front in the "Empire" style would suggest that is was made later in the second half of the 18th century. Can anybody help with dating the clock?

    The dial shows some damage around the winding hole and in the 4 o' clock position. Should I leave the dial as is or how could I restore it? I am not sure if the Dial house restores enamel or porcelain dials, they are not mentioned on their web site.

    Here are some pictures. Any comments would be welcomed.

    Uhralt

    Vorderzappler1.JPG Vorderzappler2.JPG Vorderzappler3.JPG Vorderzappler4.JPG Vorderzappler5.JPG Vorderzappler6.JPG Vorderzappler7.JPG Vorderzappler8.JPG Vorderzappler9.JPG
     
    Chris Radano likes this.
  2. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's rather fun. Did they always have the pendulum in front or is it a balance wheel conversion like Dean's renaissance clocks?
     
  3. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    The front pendulum is typical for this type of clock from this region. Therefore I think it is original. I will take a very close look when I have the clock in my hands.

    Uhralt
     
  4. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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  5. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Indeed, the case has some similarities to your clock case, though I think it is much smaller! We seem to be attracted by similar things.

    Uhralt
     
  6. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    Very nice - I’ve looked at buying a couple of these, but decided that I have no idea of what the prices should be - there seem to be quite a number of reproductions, or they go very cheaply. Yours with the baluster pillars wouldn’t be a repro, but I have no idea how to date them and would love to know if anyone can share.. although there are a lot with silvered brass dials, and I would guess that the enamel dial would be slightly later?

    I believe that Zappler means fidget in German, and refers to the fast moving pendulum.
     
  7. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Zedric,
    I have also seen a lot of reproductions, some of them old enough to qualify as an antique because I was looking for such a clock since I started collecting in the 1970s. I believe that this is a really old one. With regard to the dial, as long as I cannot inspect the clock myself, I am not sure if it is enamel or porcelain. When you look at the damaged areas, the layer of white material is much deeper or thicker than what you usually see on an enamel dial. Therefore I think it might be porcelain. With regard to dating the clock it probably doesn't make a difference. Porcelain was invented in China about 500 years before Christ. Enamel was invented much later but already in the 15th century, so clearly a long time before this clock was made.

    Uhralt
     
  8. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    The use of enamel for clock dials tends to be in the 18th century and on, I believe because it was difficult to get enamel to be of good quality on a single piece the size of a clock dial before this time. Hence the French clocks using enamel had individual pieces for each number until the mid 1700s, and English clock dials with enamel, other than the few Battersea enamel ones, are later still.

    Also, for French and English clocks in particular, there tended to be fixed styles followed up until the late 18th / early 19th century, so having an enamel dial could be indicative of a certain period -it certainly is for French clocks in similar styles, eg Capucines, where the enamel dial with no surround leads on to the enamel dial with a bezel but no glass, then eventually to a glass covered enamel dial, with some late engine turned ones. I simply haven’t seen enough examples of the style of clock that you have to know if Austro-Hungarian clocks had similar trends, but would be interested to know if anyone else knows.

    For example, Your style of dial on a French capucine would indicate a date around the late 1700s, but I have no sense if this translates to this type of clock.
     
  9. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I think dating the clock based on the dial and the style of the brass front to the late 1700s is probably quite appropriate. What puzzles me is that the movement pillars seem to indicate an earlier date, maybe early 1700s. I wonder if the front and dial has been exchanged for a more "modern" one sometime during the early life of the clock. It is of course also possible that the movement has been made in the late 1700s in the "old style" and the face of the clock in the "new style" at the same time.

    Uhralt
     
  10. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I've seen those baluster style pillars used on English longcase in the mid 18th century when all the books will tell you they went out in the last quarter of the 17th century.

    I guess the makers in mainland Europe were just as idiosyncratic as the English makers.
     
  11. Jim Duncan

    Jim Duncan Registered User
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    Uhralt - Nice acquisition! A few years ago I purchased a zappler off German ebay. My first one.

    Mostyn Gale in Chapter 190 was educated in mainspring history and manufacture. I sent photos of the old spring in the clock and he gave it an evaluation (see attachment).

    Another clue is the way the inner end of the spring attaches to the winding arbor. Not a good system in my book as it makes for a delicate lip which cannot be too brittle or it breaks, or too soft and it won't grip when wound up. I've seen (in a photo) that system on another clock, but can't remember where/when. Probably on these pages. I only run my clock now and then, but it still keeps time with the old thick spring.

    So give your spring a good look when you service the movement.

    Jim
    zappler mainspring out of barrel.JPG zappler orig spring-1.jpg Mostyn on zappler spring 21Jan17.png zappler dial & both hands.JPG
     
  12. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Hi Jim,

    Thank you, this is very interesting information! I can't wait to get my hands on the clock and I will take a very close look at the mainspring!
    Uhralt
     
  13. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    That method of holding the inner end of the spring is used in my Viennese bracket clock, so it seems to be an Austrian characteristic. Zappler clocks are typically Austrian, I think. When the spring on my clock broke near the inner end I was unable to form a proper lip on the new end. I sent the parts to Dave LaBounty, who was able to do it (actually, he used a new spring, but he had to form the correct end).
     
  14. Jim Duncan

    Jim Duncan Registered User
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    Jeremy - Interesting comments. When I first went to restore my clock I found the mainspring pretty tightly wound once removed, and I was certain it had become permanently bound up. So I ordered a new spring and got an education of sorts in trying to get that small bent lip on the inner end. Think it took me 3 or 4 tries to get a keeper.

    The clock was running OK on the new spring (see photo of old v. new) when I read about Mostyn Gale's experience with old springs. He encouraged me to give the old spring a try, and it worked fine. What it lacked in free diameter it made up for in thickness/stiffness.

    Jim

    zappler new#1 & old springs .JPG
     
  15. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Jim,
    Just in case I need it in the future: How did you successfully make that small bent lip?

    Uhralt
     
  16. Jim Duncan

    Jim Duncan Registered User
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    Uhralt - I haven’t had too much mainspring making experience. From what I recall, it was a matter of getting the temper at the end just right and then bending the ‘lip’ with needle nose pliers (nothing else would fit into that end of the spring.


    The first time I must have not heated the end enough as it broke off while I twisted it. The second time I over-coompensated and over heated the lip to where it wouldn’t hold its shape and retain in the slot in the winder. So I tried again and got it. A bit later I took that spring out and put in the old one back in, so there was maybe 3-5 months running on the new spring before it was removed.


    Be sure to start at the inside end of the spring so that you can keep shortening that end with some slack at the outer end. This assumes that you are using a new spring and not reworking the old one.


    While I had the spring and barrel in the winder I snapped off the winding arbor - it was already twisted. Al Dodson made me a new one, and we decided to make it just a wee bit bigger. See photo.


    I’ll also include some shots of my barrel in the winder which shows several “features” necessary to get the job done. It wasn’t fun at the time, but worked out in the end.


    I wanted to attach a couple brief videos (9 sec each) of the zappler doing its thing, but the 'system' wouldn't let me do it. Maybe I should try again in another message?

    Jim

    zappler spring barrel open.JPG
    zap spring in winder.JPG zappler #3 spring on winder-1.JPG

    zappler old & new winding arbor.JPG



    image.png
     
  17. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Jim,

    Thank you so much, this is very helpful! I hope I won't have to make a new winding arbor, but if it happens I will be prepared. For videos, I think you need to post them to youtube and provide a link in your post.

    Uhralt
     
  18. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I finally managed to bring the clock home from Switzerland. When I took it apart for cleaning I took a close look at the mainspring and the barrel arbor. The arbor has the same typical slit where the lip of the spring fits in. However, the arbor was later converted by filing out a hook to a more modern design that takes a regular spring with a hole. In addition the barrel shows the rectangular cut out where the outer end of the spring was attached. In addition, it now also features a barrel hook. This conversion was obviously done in 1840 by a person with the name "Rudolf Waigel". This is evident from the spring and I detected it when cleaning it. Rudolf Waigel scribed his name on the surface of the spring. The text reads (as far as I can decipher): "Rudolf Waigel in ….(can't read the name of the location)" Some more illegible scribing follows and its ends with "1840". I tried to take pictures of the scribing but finding a suitable lighting was quite difficult. I found this an interesting piece of the history of the clock. I'm still unsure about when in the 18th century the clock was made but the original design of the spring and barrel is very similar to yours. The design of the internal ratchet wheel and clickspring is very similar to that described in the tread that has "Etherington 1710" in its title.

    Zappler2.JPG Zappler3.JPG Zappler4.JPG Zappler5.JPG Zappler6.JPG Zappler7.JPG Zappler8.JPG

    I will post more pictures as the restauration progresses.

    Uhralt
     
  19. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    I have heard that some of the zapplers were made as projects for watchmaking students. From what you've observed of your clock, would it possibly fall into that category?
     
  20. Jim Duncan

    Jim Duncan Registered User
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    Uhralt - Good to finally see the pieces. I like those baluster pillars! Looking at the signed springs I think some filing marks are visible. If you will re-read the text photo in message #11 you may get some notion of dating based on those marks.

    I remember seeing an uhrenkopf bonnet much like yours where the arch is quite peaked compared to the standard arch in the wood. But after looking today I could not find the photo that I recall. It was on a floor clock, but perhaps the style of the period would be similar small clock or large?

    Jim
     
  21. Jim Duncan

    Jim Duncan Registered User
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    Uhralt - Some more thoughts: I noticed that your movement has the pendulum and verge support (horizontal piece) coming off the front plate. My movement that I show in the component photos has the support coming off the rear plate.

    I have one other smaller zappler, this one with a painted dial.l I acquired the clock a few years ago and have not yet taken it apart as it came with nice wet lubrication and little dirt/spider webs that we often see on old clocks. This movement has the verge support off the front plate like yours.

    The nice thing about this clock is that it is signed and dated:
    1704
    V.Z.

    Which Abeler shows to be Vincentius Zimmermann, working in Landshut (Bavaria) during this period.

    It is only one data point for the dating of your movement, but it is a start. Were the French (or Italians?) making ceramic dials that early?

    Jim

    1704 zap wks - bk plate.jpg 1704 zap wks - top.jpg 1704 zap wks - upr RH.jpg
     
  22. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I think that is quite possible. When I look at how simple the face of the clock was made and how many file marks there are on the plates and inside the barrel, it certainly doesn't look like being done by an established master clock maker.

    Uhralt
     
  23. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    That is a beauty! Love the engraved signed plate. There is a lot of similarity of how the verge is held in the front, especially the two pieces behind and in front of the front plate that are held together by two screws. I will post more pictures as soon as I have cleaned the parts. There are two things in my clock that may or may not be unusual. There is a huge stop work on the back of the movement with a wheel almost as large as the barrel wheel. The other thing is that the wheel arbors are decorated. I will show this in the next set of pictures.

    Now that I can hold the clock in my hands I see that the dial is not ceramic but enamel. The counter-enamel on the back is quite crude so it may be an early enamel dial. As Zedric pointed out, this would point to an age of about the mid 1700s. I have the impression that the dial plate and dial may be somewhat younger than the movement based on the baluster pillars and the unusual stop works.

    Uhralt
     
  24. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I just finished cleaning the parts. Here are pictures of the plates and cogs for the verge, as well as pictures of the wheels. On the last picture, if you watch closely, you can see the embellishment of the arbor of one of the wheels. It resembles the one found on the pillars (double lines).

    More pictures to come once I have put everything back together.

    Uhralt
    zappler9.JPG zappler10.JPG zappler11.JPG zappler12.JPG
     
  25. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Here are some pictures taken during re-assembly of the clock. You can see the impressive stop works. It wasn't easy to set the depth of the verge just right. Too low and the crown wheel would bind, to high, and some escape wheel teeth would slip. But eventually I got it right and the clock is running great. I will post a couple of videos of the running clock as soon as I find out how to upload them to YouTube.

    Uhralt

    zappler13.JPG zappler14.JPG zappler15.JPG
     
  26. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    #26 Uhralt, Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
    Here are links to a couple of videos:

     
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  27. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Jim,
    Looking closely at the back plate of your clock I believe that there once was a stop works similar to the one my clock has. There are circular traces of rubbing where the wheels touched the back plate.

    Uhralt
     

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