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A Chance Encounter in Mr Baumgartner’s Clockwork Emporium

by Eddie Sng on September 1, 2014

I do believe things happen for a reason – that a higher order has things aligned and that coincidences as we know are written in the stars. Who would have thought that in my recent trip to Switzerland, I discovered how small this world is.

 

I was in the picturesque Switzerland recently on a business trip and stayed at the Waldstatterhof Hotel, Brunnen by Lake Lucerne. I noticed after check-in that there was a showcase of vintage clocks at the hotel lobby but didn’t really pay much attention at that point of time.

The clocks on display at the Waldstatterhof Hotel.

The clocks on display at the Waldstatterhof Hotel.

Then one evening, we had some time off and I decided to check out the clocks in the showcase. I called the clockmaker and it turns out that he lived 10 minutes away from the hotel and had kindly arranged to pick me up. The curious thing? His name is Mr. Gerhard Baumgartner. Hmm… Mr. Baumgartner, I thought to myself.

He came within 10 minutes and after settling into his car, he told me he came from a family of watchmakers. Bingo, I thought! So I had to ask – are you related in anyway to Felix Baumgartner of Urwerk? And of course, he is father of Felix. Coincidence, right? These days, Baumgartner Senior restores vintage clocks and he was gracious enough to show me his home, atelier, and collection.

Mr Baumgartner Senior, with one of his vintage clocks on display at his home.

Mr Baumgartner Senior, with one of his vintage clocks on display at his home.

Above is a picture of Mr. Baumgartner, standing beside his Swiss pendulum clock in his living room. Mr. Baumgartner was nice enough to share with me two very well restored clocks – both “Officer” carriage clocks. First up, a French oval carriage clock in gilt-brass. The dial is enamel and comes with Breguet hands.

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Mr. Baumgartner Senior spends much of his time restoring these beauties. Which is why he spends most of his time in his atelier which is at the basement of his home.

He has several very interesting vintage clocks as you can imagine. I myself am a newbie to these and Mr. Baumgartner took time to explain each one to me. Some of these clocks date back to the 1800s. The first clock here is a full calendar moon phase from Switzerland. Fully restored by Mr. Baumgartner. The one beside it is a Swiss Carriage Clock with a beautiful enamel dial.

Some of the clocks that were restored by the talented Mr Baumgartner Senior.

Some of the clocks that were restored by the talented Mr Baumgartner Senior. The one on the left features a full calendar moonphase, while the one on the right features an exceptional enamel dial.

We have another Carriage Clock – but this one features a quarter repeater and alarm function. Notice the chord at the side? Well it is supposed to activate the repeater. The clock also has a Silent function which can be activated by putting the lever at the top-most position.

Yet another carriage clock, this time with a quarter repeater and an alarm function.

Yet another carriage clock, this time with a quarter repeater and an alarm function.

Next, an English Striking clock. The restoration was done so well you can see all the components cleaned and gleaming. This one is not for sale – this was given as a gift to Mr. Baumgartner. Beside it is the floor standing French Observatory clock from Paris. Again, the restoration is complete and in good working condition.

Both the English Striking clock (on the left) and the standing French Observatory clock (on the right) are exceptionally restored by Mr Baumgartner Senior himself.

Both the English Striking clock (on the left) and the standing French Observatory clock (on the right) are exceptionally restored by Mr Baumgartner Senior himself.

Perhaps the oldest clock in the house is this English “grandfather” clock from the 1800s. I highly believe that the wooden case is engraved, in oak.

An English grandfather clock, made in the 19th century.

An English grandfather clock, made in the 19th century.

And then it was time to visit his atelier. Here, Mr. Baumgartner showed me some of the parts he is cleaning and restoring.

Mr Baumgartner's atelier, where all the restoration works are carried out.

Mr Baumgartner’s atelier, where all the restoration works are carried out.

This particular clock that he was showing me is rather interesting – it features moving automatons. Notice how one hand is missing – Mr. Baumgartner will have to make one to finish the final product. One interesting feature would be the “waterfall” feature at the top of the clock dial will move up and down and when seen from a distance seems like water falling down, whenever the sonnerie chimes.

One of the more interesting clocks on restoration- there is a feature that depicts a waterfall when the sonnerie chimes.

One of the more interesting clocks on restoration- there is a feature that depicts a waterfall when the sonnerie chimes.

I have never seen so many well restored vintage clocks before and I am thoroughly impressed. What impressed me even more was the hospitality I received from Mr. Baumgartner. He brought a total stranger into his home and took patience to explain to me all that he is doing. Incredible knowledge and even more amazing skills to restore such golden oldies.

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And by the way, if you are looking for a vintage clock, do check Mr. Baumgartner out at [email protected] 

Eddie Sng is well-respect blogger and collector in the world of horology. We thank him for his contributions, and we do invite all of you to take some time to peruse Eddie’s blog at http://ticktockforever.blogspot.sg/

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4 Comments
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  • September 29, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Absolutely right Raymond! In fact, I believe Felix is also into clocks although he is now more consumed with his work at Urwerk 🙂

  • Raymond Shon
    September 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Utterly charming story, thank you! What’s really charming is that “Papa” holds on to tradition by restoring clocks from three centuries ago and the son looks to the future with Urweck. If that kind of thing happened in a book it would be accused of being a cliché, and yet here it is!

  • September 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Yes Kunal, you are absolutely correct. There is definitely more to the world of horology than just watches. In fact, I hope some of the clocks do make a strong comback. For example, JLC still has a very nice stable of clocks like the Atmos. And also plenty of vintage clocks available. I happen to have the baguette clock – a rare find in excellent condition.
    I am glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers!

  • Kunal Khemka
    September 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    How charming. I love old clocks. I have two of my own.

    Thank you for showing this. There is much more to the world of horology than just branded watches. Clocks have a special place too.

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