The Dutch Connectiom
(A short history of the Dutch clock)


By: Pier van Leeuwen, curator of the Museum of the Dutch Clock (about the author)


1. Introduction
2. Dutch authors
3. Museum collections
4. Historical survey: Middle Ages and Renaissance.
5. The 'Golden Age': Christiaan Huygens and collaborators.
6. The origin of the longcase clock.
7. Carillons and regional clocks.
8. Precision timekeepers and 'designer clocks'.
9. Conclusion.

The history of the Dutch clock is explored by reference to the literature and typical examples in museums and private collections. The relationship between the Dutch clock and English and French clocks is also briefly discussed.


A review of the literature appears to indicate that authors in the English language have distinguished the importance and specifics of Dutch clockmaking much at a much earlier stage and with rather more verve than their Dutch colleagues. This phenomenon is shared in other areas. Great Dutch architects like Berlage and Dudok, and even the old masters of the 'Golden Age of Dutch painting'seems to attract greater interest abroad than in the Netherlands itself.

Dutch authors.

The best nown Dutch authors, amongst others writing in the English language about essential history of Dutch clocks, Dr J.L. Sellink in his survey of Dutch antique domestic clocks (1973) and Dr R. Plomp in some splendid articles in Antiquarian Horology of 1971, 1972 and 1974, but mainly in his important case study of Early Dutch spring driven pendulum clocks (1979). Other Dutch authors, writing in their mother tongue, and setting a premier standard in Dutch horology are C. Spierdijk in his books on clocks and clockmakers (1962) and watches and watchmakers (1973) as well as Jaap Zeeman having written the first survey of the Dutch stool clock (a popular regional style Dutch domestic wall clock) (1969) and of the Dutch longcase clock (1977), as well as his compilation of exhibition catalogues in 1967, 1969 and 1983. In 1970 the late collector and connoisseur Enrico Morpurgo ('our own G.H. Baillie') compiled a list of Dutch clock- and watch-makers from the year 1300 onwards. He also mounted the most important temporary exhibition of highlights from the Dutch clock history in Amsterdam in 1956, the same year the Science Museum London organized a 'Huygens Tercentenary Exhibition' on the occasion of the 300 year celebration of the introduction of the pendulum clock by Christiaan Huygens.

Museum collections.

In the Netherlands there are at least three major museums which specialize in antique clocks. These are the Dutch Gold, Silver and Clock Museum in the silver-town of Schoonhoven (with a large international collection of clocks and watches), the most entertaining National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ in Utrecht, and last but not least the small but charming Museum of the Dutch clock in Zaandam (with its quintessential representative survey of Dutch clock history). For the Schoonhoven collection only a poorly illustrated catalogue exists by G.H. Faddegon (1955). The Utrecht collection is splendidly described by Dr Jan Jaap Haspels (1994) and the one from Zaandam by Prof C. A. Grimbergen (1991). Apart from these three clock museums important clock collections can be found in the National Museum of the History of Science (The Boerhaave Museum) in Leyden, The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the Municipal Museums of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, and also the Frisian Museum and Museum Het Princessehof in Leeuwarden, which next to Haarlem, The Hague and Amsterdam the other focal point in Dutch clock industry.
Furthermore, important Dutch clocks can be found in foreign museum collections like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Paris Louvre or German museums in Dresden, Kassel, Munich, Stuttgart and Wuppertal. There are of course some Dutch horological masterpieces in London, in the Science Museum, the British Museum (Ilbert Collection), The V&A and Museum of the Clockmakers' Company at the Guildhall.
One of the major private collections is the eminent Vehmeyer collection, described in a marvelous illustrated book/catalogue in 1994, containing at least twenty-five Hague clocks, sixteen Dutch longcase clocks, apart from a few Dutch Renaissance table clocks, late seventeenth century maritime watches and eighteenth century bracket clocks. A smaller but interesting collection is that of the Boom-Time Foundation on display in museums in Haarlem, Utrecht and Zaandam and described in a catalogue in 1999 by ir Jan Boomsma.

Historical survey: Middle Ages and Renaissance.

To give you a short introduction to the history of Dutch clockmaking I hope I can show you some examples and maybe demonstrate some of the characteristics as well as their similarities with British timekeepers.
We will probably never know whether my fellow countrymen by the names of Johan Lietuyt and the Uneman (or Vrieman) brethren John and Willem, being invited by King Edward III of England in 1368, were actually responsible for the famous turret clocks of |Salisbury and Wells, or (as others claim) that these illustrious mediaeval timekeepers were crafted by blacksmiths from Bruges, where Bishop Erghum who commissioned these dinosaurs of turret clocks, originated. However the document preserved in the British Library proofs the international claim to fame of Dutch clockmaker-blacksmiths even by royal standards.
Dutch turret clocks are documented as early as 1367 in Maastricht in the most southern province of Limburg, right at the border of both modern day Belgium and Germany. The oldest surviving turret clocks on Dutch soil probably are the clock in the Lanscroon in Maastricht (dated approximately 1400) and the church clock, dated approximately 1420, of the small village of Winkel in the North of Holland. (Holland by the way being not synonymous with the Netherlands, but originally the historical power centre of the (Northern) Netherlands).
A smaller turret clock, dating from about a century later and now in the museum in Zaandam, demonstrates very clearly the vertical verge escapement and foliot or balance bar with adjustable weights on top, typical for the mediaeval concept of variable hours, derived from the sundials of the ancients.
Another mediaeval turret clock worth mentioning (known from the illustrated books by H.A. Lloyd, E.J. Tyler and C. Jagger) was made in 1542 by the clockmaker Heynrick Vabrie of Breda in the southern province of Brabant. This is the oldest known Dutch turret clock with musical drum made for the church of St. Jacob in The Hague, but now on display in the Museum in Schoonhoven.
The oldest preserved Dutch domestic clock is referred to as the Barentsz clock, (Fig. 1) because of its use during an unfortunate nautical expedition seeking a North passage to China by a captain Willem Barentsz in 1596. This clock, rediscovered on the Island of Nova Zembla (modern day Russia) and now on display in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, proofs to be of fifteenth century gothic origin, both in style and type of construction, with its retaining buttress like shaped corner posts, peg-alarumdial, balance wheel and count wheel similar to those described in the Almanus Manuscript of 1480 from the Augsburg City Library, very skillfully transcribed by John Leopold.

fig. 1. (click to enlarge)
Th Barentz clock the aeliest known domestic Dutch clocl. (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

A portrait of a gentleman from Burgundy by a follower of Rogier van der Weyden from c. 1440, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp and depicted by H.A. Lloyd (1958), is claimed to portray the first spring-driven clock-movement. It is however without doubt that the centre of the earliest watchmaking industry was concentrated in Bavaria (ref. the famous Nuremberg egg-shaped watches). (There was e clockmakers guild in Nuremberg as early as 1565.) Important early Dutch watchmakers from c. 1600 onwards are the Frisian watchmaker Vibrandi of Leeuwarden and the Haarlem-based Salomon Coster. Exquisite examples of their work can be found in museum collections in Amsterdam. The Ashmolean Museum shows two oval Vibrandi watches out of a total of eight Dutch watches. (David Thompson, 'Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Part I' Antiquarian Horology, September 2000). An example of a later Vibrandi watch can nowadays be seen in the Museum in Schoonhoven. Coster also made small horizontal table clocks of the Bavarian type, known from the Vehmeyer collection.

The 'Golden Age': Christiaan Huygens and collaborators.

Salomon Coster moved from Haarlem to The Hague in 1643 and his greatest claim to fame is as the maker of the first pendulum clocks, the so-called 'Haagse klokken' (Hague clocks). Coster worked under the directions of the outstanding homo universalis of seventeenth century Dutch science with the guttural name Christaan Huygens, astronomer, mathematician, physicist and optical scientist. Strangely enough, in contrast to the English, the general Dutch public is completely unaware of the international scientific significance of this inspiring genius. In preparing this paper I came across an article at the BBC website in which I may have found a reason for this omission. It read that the English like Huygens because Huygens simply liked the English, and by the way disliked the Dutch.

fig. 2. (click to enlarge)
An example of a 'Hague'spring wall clock by Salomon Coster, c. 1657, the case veneered in turtle-shell. Collection of E.J. van der Molen, on loan to the Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

fig. 3. (click to enlarge)
Detail of the clock in Fig, 2, the signature reads 'Salomon Coster Hagae Met Privilege'.

fig. 4. (click to enlarge)
View of the striking movement of the clock by Salomon Coster, shown in Fig. 2, with Huygens'cycloidal cheeks.

fig. 5. (click to enlarge)
View of the tandem barrel for the two trains of the clock by Salomon Coster.

Unfortunately, amongst horologists I still encounter anything but consensus, just as Huygens must have experienced, introducing as his original ideas, his inventions and mechanical improvements, like the construction of the pendulum clock, his endless rope, the balance spring, the remontoir or his equation and maritime timekeepers. There were the claims by rivals as Simon Douw of Rotterdam and contemporary Galileo followers concerning his pendulum system or by the French Abbé de Hautefeuille and the English inventor Dr Robert Hooke concerning the invention of the balance spring.
May be we must leave our romanticized preconception of 'eureca-like', out of the blue inventions by solitary hermits gazing at swinging candelabras. To me it seems that Huygens was much more of a modern scientist. He read proceedings by fellow-researchers, traveling abroad to learn about new concepts, combined and perfected components that already existed, and was interested in market monopoly and earning credit from it. In the end Huygens obtained fellowships of both the Royal Society (1663) and the French Académie des Sciences in the year of the great London fire (1666). As an educator I look forward to a Dutch broadcasting company making a dramatized documentary television series for a larger audience, on the life and work of Christiaan Huygens, in the vein of the outstanding Longitude film or documentary.
It was the Frisian mathematician Gemma Frisius, who in 1530, in his De principiis astronomiae et cosmographiae (On the principles of astronomy and cosmography) proposed for the first time the use of an accurate timekeeper for determining longitude at sea. The Netherlands and Great Britain, both being seafaring nations, shared an essential interest in this matter, as they did in practical science in general and in trade. In 1627 the Dutch government set a reward for a functioning marine timekeeper for determining longitude. Huygens, like the eighteenth century English instruments maker and one time Leyden based Henry Sully, designed maritime timekeepers. Unfortunately neither the prototypes after Huygens by Jan van Call, Johannes van Ceulen, Severijn Oosterwijck and Isaac Thuret, nor the one by Sully lived up to the expectations. It needed the persistent life's work of a John Harrison. However Huygens'balance spring did turn out to be the crucial element for all movable clocks and watches.
To return to Salomon Coster, the Boerhaave Museum in Leyden has his oldest signed and dated Hague pendulum clock of 1657, depicted in Antiquarian Horology of June 1954. Other examples are on display in the Chicago Museum for Science and Industry and the museum in Zaandam (Figs 2-5), while further examples exist in the Science Museum London and the Vehmeyer collection. It must have been a similar clock Coster sent to Ferdinand II de' Medici in Florence in the same year. Next to Van Call, Coster was the first clockmaker granted the privilege (see Fig. 3) of applying Huygens pendulum system. He also adapted the turret clocks of the church at Scheveningen and the Utrecht Dom to work with a pendulum.
Other clockmakers working for Huygens were Severijn Oosterwijck, Johannes van Ceulen, Pieter Visbagh and the French clockmakers Isaac Thuret and Claude Pascal. Hague clocks by all of these makers exist in the Vehmeyer collection.
The museum in Zaandam also shows an early Hague clock (courtesy of the Boom-Time Foundation) signed by Severijn Oosterwijck, who also manufactured microscopes for Huygens and was the initiator of the Hague clockmakersguild in 1688. For the president of the Royal Society, William Brouncker, he manufactured the oldest known timekeeper with a seconds hand, dated 1663 which is now on display in the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. The Boerhaave Museum in Leyden preserves a rather similar early wall clock, showing hours, minutes and seconds, manufactured for Huygens by Isaac Thuret a Paris, c. 1670. Both clocks are more or less identical with the design in Huygens' 'Horologium Oscillatorium' of 1673.
Johannes van Ceulen, another member of the Hague clockmakers guild, is best remembered for his Huygens-planetarium with balance spring of 1682 in the same museum of the History of Science in Leyden, and depicted in Antiquarian Horology of March 1955 and in H.A. Lloyd's Collector's Dictionary of Clocks of 1964. He also manufactured small drum-shaped marine watches with balance spring, suspended according to the system of Giralomo Cardono, examples exist in the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Kassel (Germany) and the Vehmeyer collection. Hague clocks by this productive craftsman are on display in the Boerhaave Museum, the museums in Schoonhoven and Kassel, the Frederiksborg Museum in Hillerod (Denmark) and of cause in the Science Museum London, which shows much resemblance to an unsigned Hague clock with later painted scene, owned by the Boom-Time Foundation and exhibited in Zaandam.

fig. 6. (click to enlarge)
A later example of a Hague clock by Pieter Visbagh, c. 1685, Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

fig. 7. (click to enlarge)
Signature plaque of the Hague clock by Pieter Visbagh.

The fourth great Dutch Huygens collaborator was Pieter Visbagh, co-founder and first Deacon of the Hague clockmakers guild. Hague clocks of his can be seen at Hofwijck Castle (where Huygens lived) near The Hague, the Boerhaave Museum in Leyden, the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the Guildhall in London, the German National Museum in Munich and the museum in Zaandam (Figs 6-8). An exceptional example is his clock with a handsome painted face by Cornelis van Poelenburgh, portrayed on the cover of the issue of Antiquarian Horology of December 1969 and in the book by Dr Plomp some ten years later. The Hague clock by Visbagh in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum is supposed to have been owned by Michiel de Ruyter, an admiral of the Dutch republic who invaded the Thames near Chatham and took the flag-ship 'The Royal Oak' during the Anglo-Dutch sea wars.

fig. 8. (click to enlarge)
Hague clock by Pieter Visbagh, view of the striking movement, with fretted and decorated back cock, countwheel and iron striking 'gate'.

The spring-driven Hague clocks with their delicate bob pendulums swinging between cycloidal cheeks have severe black cases in modest rectangular or classical architectural shapes, adorned with pediments and columns. A later feature is the skeleton dial on a black, blue or red velvet background. The signature is usually engraved on the movement and/or on a small plaque below the dial. Sometimes Van Ceulen and Pascal add the name 'Hollandiae' (from Holland) to the inscription 'Hagae' (from The Hague), which demonstrates their clocks were meant to be exported. After 1685 the signature can also be beautifully sawn-out as an arabesque to decorate the clock's face. This feature can be seen on examples by Van Ceulen, Visbagh and other Hague clock makers, like Laurens van Blade, Bernard van der Cloesen and Johannes Tegelbergh or Joseph Norris, the English clockmaker working for several years in Amsterdam.
Hague clocks were of decisive influence in the development of the English bracket clock and the French pendule religieuse, mainly through the Coster-trainees and mediators John Fromanteel and Nicolas Hanet. The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century English and French pendulum clock highly influenced the later Dutch table clock.



 The origin of the longcase clock.

In his catalogue of 1956 Morpurgo writes about what he calls the most noble of horological discussions, namely the origin of the longcase clock. He comments that the Dutch claim this type of clock to have sprung from an English origin, while the English claim it to be from a Dutch one. There is of cause the fact that the London-based clockmaker from Flemish ancestry, Ahasuerus Fromanteel I , send his oldest son John to work for half a year in Coster's workshop, immediately after the invention of the pendulum clock had been revealed. Within the same year, the Fromanteel workshop in London was producing pendulum clocks and longcase clocks. Some authors also point out the severe 'Hague style' of the early English longcase clocks, such as those by Fromanteel. On the other hand, English clockmakers moving to Holland, like Ahasuerus Fromanteel and his two oldest sons (John and Ahashuerus II) or his pupil Joseph Norris could easily have introduced this novelty from their home country. The By the way, Morpurgo (of Italian descent) however concludes his remarks with the view that the longcase clock has Italian roots.
The oldest known Dutch longcase clock is signed by the fine instruments maker of the Leyden university, Anthonius Hoevenaer, dated c.1675-1685. (Figs 9-12). (Thus about a quarter of a century later than the oldest known example by A. Fromanteel from c.1660 in the commemorative exhibition 'Horological Masterworks.')

fig.9. (click to enlarge)
The earliest known Dutch longcase clock by Anthonius Hoevenaer, 1675-1685. Collection Boerhaave Museum, on loan to the Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

fig. 10. & 11. (click to enlarge)
The longcase clock by Hoevenaer, details of the dials.

fig. 12. (click to enlarge)
Early Dutch longcase clock by Anthonius Hoevenaer, view of the movement from the back, split plates for

 This exquisite slim weight-driven black clock, with a short pendulum, five dials and elaborately ajour-sawn, gilded foliage-decoration is on display in the museum in Zaandam, but is the property of the Boerhaave Museum, which also owns a wall clock by Hoevenaer (more or less similar in construction as the wall clocks by Oosterwijck in Chicago and Thuret in Leyden). The Zaandam Hoevenaer clock (definitively one of my favorites) is one of the earliest examples in a European museum showing hours, minutes, seconds, date and lunar phases.
Like the eighteenth century table or bracket clocks, the early Dutch longcase clocks show much resemblance to their English counterparts, with their cherubim-spandrels surrounding the arcaded dial, on which, as a national feature the Arabic minute-numerals from 20 to 40 are shown upright in stead of upside down. In the eighteenth century the Dutch clockmaker could easily order English parts as components for their stylish timepieces or even have their cases decorated with English marquetry veneer.
Some late seventeenth or early eighteenth century baroque Amsterdam longcase clocks, like examples by Fromanteel and Norris, or Pieter Klock and Steven Huygens, show a carved coif on top of the hood. Later eighteenth century Dutch longcase clocks excel in voluptuous burr walnut or mahogany veneered Louis XV or XVI cases and often popular moving imagery like fishermen and sailing ships automata, musical works or intricate astronomical features such as lunar and tidal indication, or even planetarium or planispherium dials. The museum in Zaandam exhibits a rare longcase clock movement with planetarium-face by Dames Starre of Hoorn, surrounded by depictions of the four elements (on loan from the Boerhaave Museum, which houses also the monumental 'Leyden Sphere' by English clockmaker Stephen Tracy), and a complete Amsterdam longcase clock by Gerrit Knip (Figs 13 & 14) with planispherium-face and world time table, an interesting gimmick for the wealthy Amsterdam merchant with stocks in the East- and West Indies Trading Company.

fig. 13. (click to enlarge)
Amsterdam longcase clock by Gerrit Knip. Collection Rembrandt Society, on loan to the Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

fig. 14. (click to enlarge)
Longcase clock by Gerrit Knip, detail of the dial.

Appropriately this longcase clock is surmounted by an Atlas figure carrying the celestial globe, copied from the monumental sculpture by Arthus Quellinus for the Amsterdam Town Hall (currently the Royal Palace at Dam square). Knip is also known for a handsome large musical bracket clock in the museum in Utrecht.


Carillons and regional clocks.

The popularity of musical clocks is yet another characteristic of the country of 'the singing bell towers'. The peak of the construction of turret carillons occurred between 1630 and 1670 with the clockmakers Jan Becker van Call, making musical turret clocks for, amongst others, the Town Hall of Delft and churches in Rotterdam and Darmstadt (Germany), and especially Jurriaan Spraeckel, making (or revising) clocks for at least eight major bell towers like the Utrecht Dom, the Bavo in Haarlem, the Martini-tower in Groningen, the New Church of Kampen, the cupola of the above mentioned Amsterdam townhall, as well as the Zuider, Wester and Old Church of Amsterdam, where the most distinguished Dutch composer and William Byrd contemporary, Jan Pietersz Sweelinck, played the organ. Bells for these clocks were cast by the Hemony family.

fig. 15. (click to enlarge)
Stool clock by François de Mey of Amsterdam, with musical work. Collection Rembrandt Society.

fig. 16. (click to enlarge)
Stool clock by François de Mey, detail of the movement. The maker's signature is visible on the front piller stand.

The oldest known Dutch domestic clock with musical work, made by François de Mey of Amsterdam, c.1685, is now in the museum in Zaandam (Figs 15 & 16). This brass wall clock resting on a wooden frame and demonstrating certain similarities to the lantern clock is also an exceptional example of the regional wallclock known as the stool clock (stoelklok). The baroque Zaan stool clock, representative for the villages along the river Zaan between Amsterdam and Alkmaar, known as the Zaan region, was made between approximately 1670 and 1740. A unique Zaan clock in the museum in Zaandam (and a recent acquisition) uses the weight of the movement itself as power source for the going and striking train with prominent striking Jack on top of the two bells for both the Dutch striking on the hour and half hour (Fig. 17). It is dated 1678 and signed by Kornelis Michielsz Volger, the founder of the Zaan clock industry, in which families like Koogies and Van Rossen participated. Volger is also known for his turret clocks, like his younger nephew Dirck Jacobsz, of whom an early stool clock was described in Antiquarian Horology of spring 1991.

fig. 17.
Rare Zaan clock by Kornelis Michielsz Volger, dated 1678. The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

The Zaan region didn't recognize either guilds or other protective regulations for craftsmen. Zaan clocks often have a motto on the brass bell fret reading 'Nu elck syn sin' (Everymen to his idea) which expresses the dominant mennonite or humanist view of tolerance and mutual respect, or maybe just liberal opportunism.
The eighteenth century Frisian stool clock has a painted face, a lead bell fret and mermaid figures attached to the case. The museum in Zaandam owns various examples of the Frisian stool clock, like this beautiful example by Bauke Haanstra of Sneek, dated 1736.
The extremely popular (specifically in Friesland) regional wall clock of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was the so called staartklok (or tail clock). In common with the Amsterdam longcase clock the staartklok has a longer pendulum and an anchor escapement, as applied by the English clockmakers William Clement in the oldest known longcase clock (1668), also part of the exhibition 'Horological Masterworks', and by Joseph Gibb in the turret clock for Wadham College, Oxford (1670), now on display in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

Precision timekeepers and 'designer clocks'.

The nineteenth century also brought advanced precision timekeepers such as a mantel clock with compensation pendulum of 1840 by Cornelis van Spanje in the museum in Schoonhoven, a regulator with compensation pendulum by Hermann Friedrich Knebel (c. 1840) (Figs 18 & 19) or marine chronometers by Knebel, Andreas Hohwü, J.P. Dupont & Zoon and Abraham de Casseres (c. 1880-1910). Good examples of chronometers like these are to be found in the Boerhaave Museum or the University Museum of Utrecht or the museum in Zaandam.

fig. 18. (click to enlarge)
Regulator by Hermann Friedrich Knebel. Collection Van Braam-Minnesma on loan to Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam.

fig. 19. (click to enlarge)
Regulator by Hermann Friedrich Knebel, the movement.

By the time of the early twentieth century, Dutch clockmaking definitively had lost its dominant position to countries like France, Germany and Switzerland. Now running on foreign movements it only is the artistic value of some of the Dutch clock cases by designers like H.P. Berlage, Jan Eisenloeffel, Hildo Krop and Theo Nieuwenhuys, working in contemporary styles like the elegant Nieuwe Kunst (the Dutch version of Modern Style or Jugendstil), the expressionist Amsterdam School or flamboyant Art Déco, which makes these timepieces highly collectable.


I hope this short overview of Dutch masterpieces in clockmaking has given you an impression of a rather underestimated chapter of our cultural heritage. It is not only my task as a curator to maintain this heritage, but also to propagate its cultural role and significance to a much broader audience. For this, I am much obliged to the Boom-Time Foundation in initiating a new program for the development of a international website with a digital catalogue of Dutch signed clocks in public collections. This website, under the working title of, combines data about timekeepers scattered over the various collections in Dutch and foreign museums and (hopefully) also substantial private collections.
The Dutch of the seventeenth century were an industrious, prosperous but also a severely religious people. The Hague clock perhaps summarizes best these characteristics. Trade made them open minded to different perspectives and possibilities. Great men like Descartes or Comenius found refuge in this country and brought their ideas. Sometimes Dutch culture seems a Babylonian hotchpotch and not a real national identity in its own right, at best a marriage of convenience between a restless movement and a sheltering case. But in this eclectic spectrum lie the tools for continuity: Survival through adaptation. Perhaps this we can learn from the history of the Dutch clock; perhaps this reveals the true identity of the 'Dutch connection'.
In a proverbial domestic scene by Jan Steen (Fig. 20) a monkey can be detected interfering the order of things by lifting up the weight of a wall clock and in this way visualizing a seventeenth century proverb which found a less-moralizing equivalent in our modern and true saying 'time flies when you're having fun'.

fig. 20. (click to enlarge)
'Monkey business' after Jan Steen (Museum of Arts, Vienna)

In Calvinistic terms it implied a warning not to neglect our serious duties. As admirers of antique timepieces we tend to freeze time in order to preserve it like a stylized natura morte. But contrary to the 'monkey-business' the purpose of a going train, a movement is without doubt to run. The responsibility for our cultural heritage is an active one of maintaining and development. That's why I prefer to end my talk with yet another moralistic image, not of a monkey but of an old wise man (Fig. 21). In spite of its sexist implication it illustrates my demanding yet fulfilling work as a curator and maybe of us all as conscientious horologists.

fig. 21.
 'C'est toujours a recommencer'
(A. van de Venne, 1658).

There is a title to the image which reads in the French version:
'Un horologe entretenir, Jeunes dames a gré servir, vieille maison reparer, est toujours a recommencer'. Or roughly translated: 'To keep a clock running, to please a lady, to repair an old house, it all sums up in starting again all the time'.
Now that's Huygens' 'endless rope' for you!

(Oxford, March 29th 2003)

Source: Proceedings of the Fiftieth Anniversary Convention of The Antiquarian Horological Society, Keble College Oxford, March 2003.

About the author :

Born 1958 in Delft, Pier van Leeuwen studied as a graphic artist at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Haghe and later as e museologist at the Reinwardt Academy in Leyden. From 1989 he worked with a number of Dutch museums in various capacities including those of exhibition designer, consultant and curator.
In 1997 he became Curator of The Museum of The Dutch Clock in Zaandam, which now exhibits the most complete survey of the history of the Dutch clock. Pier has several publications to his name including those on such subjects as Dutch Designer Glass, Modern Sculpture in Zaanstad and the painter Thijmen Moll of Huizen.
In 2002 Pier started a project for the Boom-Time Foundation in Utrecht, building a website for a virtual catalogue of Dutch signed clocks which will be on-line in 2004.

More links:

Dutch Gold, Silver and Clock Museum.
National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ.
Museum of the Dutch clock.
National Museum of the History of Science.