Beethoven and the Art of Horology – The Watches of Beethoven – Part 1

Published in Neue Beethoven Studien Vol 9 (2011) – Luigi Bellofatto (Bovisio Masciago) – Armando Orlandi (San Biagio di Valpolcevera – Genova) Beethoven and the Art of Horology. The watches of Beethoven, Tobias Haslinger and Alexander W. Thayer Part 1: The watches belonging to Beethoven

A. Pocket watches

In Fischhoff’s copy of the Verzeichnis des Beethovenschen Nachlasses found in the estate of Otto Jahn and then passed to A.W. Thayer, it states that: (1)

Die Auction fand statt 5. Nov. 1827 am Kohlmarkt No. 1149 hintere Stiege 2. Stock, unter Leitung des Schatzmeisters Anton Grafer Gesammtertrag 1140 f. 18 C.M. Gerichtliche (oder Berichtliche?) Inventur und Schatzung iiber das Verlassen-schafts Vermogen des den 26. Marz 1827 mit Testament verstorbenen Herrn Ludwig van Beethoven, Tonsetzer No. 200 in der Alservorsadt, seel, durch 8 Tage.

In the paragraph “An Praziosen”, is the following entry: 1 silberne Minutenuhr 8 f. This statement shows that Beethoven had at least one silver (pocket) watch but following long and extensive research on the subject, interesting results have emerged regarding other watches and clocks that Beethoven owned during his lifetime.(2)

The first instance in which a pocket watch owned by Beethoven is mentioned and described in any publication, appears in the issue of The Musical Times dated 15 December 1892 (p. 17), in an article devoted to Beethoven memorabilia: BEETHOVEN’S WATCH. This watch, now in the possession of G. W. Davy, Esq., is supposed to be the one which is known to have been sent by Moscheles from London. The case is of silver and of foreign manufacture, while the works are of English make. The maker, George Prior, was also a well-known violoncellist, and it is not too much to suppose that he was known to Moscheles. Another reason for favouring this supposition is that in the filigree covering of the interior works is the figure of a lyre.

The maker, George Prior, was working in Prescot Street, London between 1765 andl810. There is also a picture of the watch (plate 1). Recent research has discovered that this watch is now part of the Applied Arts Collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (U.K.) (3) It was donated to the Museum by Ralph Griffin, MA on 14 December 1929.(4) The case is of Continental design, and was made especially for this movement. The movement is small for the case. There is a plain silver disc to close the case opening and support the movement, and a decorated band of silver fitted under the dial. These details suggest that the case was made to fit an existing movement.

The square to set the time can also be seen on the hand clutch. As with most English watches of that time, the winding is at the rear, directly on the fiise-cone. The small chiselling for opening the rear case to wind the watch can be seen to the right. In accordance with the custom dating back to the sixteenth century, balance cocks originally had a simple, elongated form and were secured at the centre by a key. In the eighteenth century they were decorated with elaborate chasing and engraved with animals, flowers, leaves, human heads, etc. The majority of these balance cocks can be distinguished by their form:

– English, which were round with a large fastening foot.

– French or continental, which were round or oval with lateral lugs for the fixing screws.

The fact that a lyre was engraved on the watch does not signify that it belonged to or was made for a musician or composer (e.g. Beethoven), because the lyre, due solely to its shape, is depicted on the verge cocks of many watches manufactured by Prior and others. Possibly Prior was influenced by his activity as cellist; and there is another watch (a female chatelaine) by Prior that displays an allegory of Music, both on the movement and in the excellent enamels of the case.

The following details confirm that the movement was modern for its day and valuable:

– Blued steel end piece and diamond end stone, foot engraved; polished steel balance with slide plate engraved.

– The silver regulator dial has radial Arabic figures, 10, 20, and 30.

– The polished steel case bolt has a conical end, in slot in plate, rib under dial and with cylinder escapement, brass wheel and train planted clockwise.

– The dial is white enamel on copper with counter enamel and three feet; it has a ladder minute ring, dots at 5 minutes, and thick bars at quarters, vertical Arabic chapter.

– The hands are gold with arrow head and poker.

– The pendant stem is slightly tapered, top bulbous, stirrup bow with bulbous ends.

– The key is embossed, contemporary and bimetallic, cast brass with three holes in handle and swivel top.

It is interesting to observe the barrel bridge engraved with the lyre (and also horns and axes), as was noted in the article of 1892 (‘Another reason for favouring this supposition is that in the filigree covering of the interior works is the figure of a lyre’). The presentation case is of dark mauve leather decorated with a blind tooling frame and a design on the lid. There are two catches, one of which is missing. The inside of the lid is lined in white silk with “L. van Beethoven’s/Taschenuhr” in gilt lettering, the base section in deep mauve velvet with a recess for the watch and a trough for the pendant and key. It can be dated to the mid 19th century, some 40 years after the watch was manufactured (around 1800). A second silver pocket watch believed to be owned by Beethoven is mentioned in two articles which appeared close to one another in two different journals. The first one is from Neue Freie Presse dated 16 June 1925 under the title Eine merkwurdige Beethoven-Reliquie and reports:

Bei einer distinguierten Konzertmeisterwitwe G. in Norddeutschland hat sich eine silberne Taschenuhr erhalten, die ehedem in Beethovens Besitz gewesen zu sein scheint. Diese Uhr wurde noch vom alten Konzertmeister G. erworben, im Tauschwege. Es ist eine kleine Taschenuhr von netter Ausstattung und aufien mit der alten Jahreszahl 1797 versehen. Innen tragt sie das ungarische Wappen. Auf dem sonst glatten Deckel ist in alter Schrift eingraviert „Ludwig van Beethoven”. Das Ganze entspricht der Zeit um 1800 und hat fur uns nur den einzigen Mangel, dass der Name des Vorbesitzers nicht bekannt ist, von dem der Konzertmeister G. die Uhr in Berlin bekommen hat. G. hatte den Namen nicht schriftlich festgehalten und ihn einfach vergessen. Durch den Tod des Konzertmeisters ist jede Erinnerung abgerissen. Nun versucht man es, in der Oeffentlichkeit auf die immerhin sehr beachtenswerte Sache aufmerksam zu machen, um vielleicht das vollstandige Pedigree der Uhr doch noch festzustellen. The second article is from the Dresdner Anzeiger dated 25 July 1925, written by Dr. Arthur Schurig, and entitled Nochmals Beethovens Taschenuhr.

Irgendwer (hier die Konzertmeisterwitwe G. in Norddeutschland) besitzt eine silberne Taschenuhr mit einer Gravierung auf dem Deckel ,,1797“. Ob diese Zahl wirklich 1797 entstanden ist, weifi niemand. Wann irgendwer die Uhr in Besitz genommen, weifi niemand. Sie hat auch nicht feststellen lassen, ob die Uhr wirklich 1797 bezw. vor 1797 angefertigt ist. Eine weitere Gravierung lautet: „Ludwig van Beethoven”. Ob diese zweite Gravierung gleichzeitig mit der Jahreszahl 1797 eingekritzelt ist, weifi niemand. Im Jahre 1797 pflegte sich der Meister noch immer „Louis van Beethoven” zu nennen.Drittens ist ein Wappen eingraviert. Irgendwer behauptet: „ein ungarisches“. Die kleine Miihe, feststellen zu lassen, welche Familie die Wappen gefuhrt hat, ist unterblieben.As mentioned above, Beethoven’s ownership of this watch is not certain although the material (silver) and the description could confirm that it is the one recorded in the Nachlass list.

The Beethoven scholar Theodor von Frimmel reported an entry in his Beethoven Handbuch on Beethoven’s “Taschenuhr”, revealing the name of the current owner, Emmy Gutsche:

Bei Frau Emmy Gutsche in Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg) befindet sich eine nette Taschenuhr, die als ehemaliger Besitz Beethovens erworben wurde und wahr-scheinlich jenes Stuck ist, das im Nachlaßverzeichnis Beethovens vom Uhren-schatzmeister Ferdinand Leichtl mit 8 Gulden bewertet worden ist. („1 silberne Minutenuhr“ lautet die Inventarangabe. Vgl. Frimmel, „Beethovenstudien“ II, S. 177.) Die Photographien der Uhr bei Gutsche, die mir vorliegen, zeigen den glat-ten Silberdeckel mit der gewifi nicht neuen Gravierung: „Ludwig van Beethoven”, ferner das Zifferblatt und einen Teil des Inneren, auf dem ein ungarisches Wappen undeutlich zu erkennen ist.

Unfortunately he did not give any technical description of the watch or any history of it, as this was apparently unknown to him and to Frau Gutsche, but at least there is one photo of it in the collection of Stephan Ley5 and further three photos in the collection of the Beethoven-Haus. 6

The photos may have been taken in the same period as the above-mentioned articles (1920-1930) and one (shelf mark B 738/a and Ley, Band VI, Nr. 11417; see plate 2) shows the pocket watch placed on small pillow with the clock face with Roman numbers, two Louis XV style hands and a great square to set the time clearly visible. It is interesting to note the large and sturdy protective outer case, military style, for preserving the fragile internal case, which is beautifully decorated reminiscent of river pearls, and the hole at the top for the stem where it is hinged.

This ring is much flattened, reminiscent of a style more French or German than English. The handwritten words on a back of a photo (shelf mark B 738/a) attributes the ownership of this watch to Gutsche:

Uhr silber mit Schutzdeckel (Vorderan-sicht), Silberknopfchenrand auf rotlich-braungeflammter Emailleunterlage und Jah-reszahl 1797. Angebl. Taschenuhr Beethovens. Besitzerin Frau Conzertmeister Gutsche Doberan i.M.

The other photo (shelf mark B 738/c) is more interesting since it shows the opposite side of the object, with the large square (it is also possible to see the wear on the border due to continuous use), and the great military type hinge, to facilitate the bezel opening (plate 3).

The words “Ludwig van Beethoven” are engraved by burin, horizontally under the winding hole, and it is reasonable to surmise that it was done by a local German engraver, due to the Gothic block letters, small flourish and a rough “B”.

The other photo, (shelf mark B 738/b) depicts the watch with the verge opened, showing its large silvered shell and the hole to reach the square. It is also possible to see the reverse of the movement lying beneath the case.

Unfortunately it has proved impossible to ascertain the provenance of the movement, but one may still admire the impressive decorations of the plate and the fine decoration of the verge cock, here patterned with a design of two angels supporting a coat of arms, that is the official Hungarian emblem (plate 4). The rear part of the watch’s protection appears to be plate 3. Gutsche pocket watch> back view> made of burnished metal or metal covered Beethoven-Haus Bonn, B 738/c with a thin layer of black or red leather, possibly decorated with a crown of river pearls and interrupted only by the point of the pendant. The description reported by Stephan Ley on the back of the photo is quite interesting:

Taschenuhr aus dem Besitz Beethovens; auseinander genommene Einzelteile des Gehauses und Uhrwerk. – Anonyme Fotografie. N.B.: Vgl. zur Identifikation der Uhr B 738/a; verso handschriftlicher Vermerk: „No. II Oben: Riickseite v. Schutzdeckel -rotlichbraungeflammt Emaille mit Silber-knopfchenrand dieselben sind nach links durchgehend und ungehammert.

Unten: Uhr mit aufgeklappten Werk. Auf schon gravierter Platte befinden sich 6 gro-fie Rubinen die figiirliche Darstellung i. d. Mitte ist aus Silber und tragen 2 Engel mit Fliigel eine Krone anscheinend 7 zackig das Wappen ist langs fein gerippt und hat links 3 Striche. Daneben sieht es aus wie ein zweigeteiltes Kreuz auf Krone Innenseite Gravierung ROST SALZBURG. Salzbg. ist mit dem Pinsel auf der Platte nachgezogen da die Schrift so klein und daher undeutlich war.“

Stephan Ley, who very probably saw this watch, added important information as to its dimensions; the name of the maker (a certain Rost of Salzburg), and that the movement had six large rubies. This last detail is most interesting, as at the end of the 18th century most watch movements used brass buckles instead of jewels (except on the verge cock); so this small distinction indicates that it is a movement of considerable elegance and value.

The dimensions of the watch are reported on the verso of a photo (shelf mark B 738/c; see plate 3) with the following handwritten note: Riickseite der Uhr (silber) mit vollem Namenszug. OriginalgroSe der Uhr mit Schutzdeckel: 7 1/2 cm, ohne Ring ohne Schutzdeckel: 6 1/2 cm. Grofie d. Wer-kes: 4,07 cm.

The watch was shown in Vienna in 1927 at a wonderful and valuable exhibition that ran during the Centennial celebrations of the death of the German composer, and its catalogue entry at item 488 reports: (8)

Taschenuhr, vielleicht aus B.s Besitz. Aufien ist die Jahreszahl ,,1797“, auf dem Riickdeckel das Merk [sic] „L. van Beethoven” eingraviert. Besitzer: Frau Kon-zertmeister E. Gutsche, Bad Doberan.

This watch, which was acquired by Gutsche in 1916, is believed to have been owned by Beethoven, but as Frimmel noted, this cannot be confirmed. Gutsche himself did not know the identities of any of its owners since Beethoven, so was probably not told about them by the person who sold it to him. If this is indeed the watch owned by Beethoven, it may also be supposed that it is the one that Nicolaus Zmeskall von Domanovetz (1759-1833)9 gave to Beethoven as gift.

A few letters and conversation notes show that Zmeskall was strongly involved in watch affairs and in a purchase of a good repeating watch, as discussed in a further section of this article.

Although it has not been possible to confirm the authenticity of Beethoven’s ownership, it can reliably be said that the characteristics of the watch are consistent with those manufactured in Germany at the end of the 18th century, which would authenticate the date 1797 engraved upon it. Unfortunately we are not able to identify or confirm which was the “Silberne Minutenuhr” listed in Beethoven’s estate as the one belonging to Mr. Davy or the one to Mr. Gutsche, or if either actually belonged to Beethoven at all. A third pocket watch believed to has been owned by Beethoven is now in a private Austrian collection and it was made by Jean Etienne Piot. Since 1836 this watch has been in the possession of a (since 1836) noble family in Austria whose ancestors (father and son) moved from Koblenz to Vienna in 1801. The son became a colleague of Stephan von Breuning in the Hofkriegsrat. The father married Anna Katharina Wistorff from Koblenz who was a cousin of Beethoven’s mother.

Joseph Willibrord Mahler made several portraits of members of the family in Vienna. At that time the family was in close contact with Joseph von Henikstein who was on friendly terms with Beethoven. There is no document concerning the watch neither in the family nor in Beethoven’s estate. According to an old tradition in the family, this watch was a gift from their ancestors to Beethoven. But it is not likely that Beethoven gave back the watch (and three other items) during his lifetime. The watch was exhibited in a Mahler exhibition of the Historische Museum in Vienna in the 1960s where it was attributed to Beethoven according to the family tradition without official confirmation. This watch has an enamelled dial, engraved with Arabic numbers, with minute and quarter hour markings, the winding hole at 2 o’clock and with its brass protection, and the name of the maison J. Et Piot10. It can be dated around 1770-1790. The production of this firm was limited and not particularly well known, as they manufactured traditional tbauches, and all with the fusee-cone escapement and chain, as this watch probably belonging to Beethoven. The movement and its parts are rather “spartan”, with a simple decoration of the verge cock, and a silvered disc engraved with “Avance” and “Retard” and the verge without any decoration except the name of the maker. The case is more interesting, spherical, and decorated with pentagons, that seems to be made of brass (or gold) made, with the number “29”, just under the opening button of the double case. The base of the mechanism is fixed by four big steel screws, and the hinge with two screws. Then the watch does not have the protection glass, as was usual for this type of watches, and as a consequence the hour hand is damaged; it is missing the last part of the hour hand.

B. Beethoven’s Tischstanduhr preserved at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.

The only clock surely owned by Beethoven is kept at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn and it was given to Beethoven as gift from the Princess Christine Lichnowsky. It came into Anton Schindler’s possession after the death of the master, as did many of his other personal belongings:

Unter den vom Verfasser aufbewahrten Reliquien befinden sich:

a) eine Pendeluhr in Form einer umgesturzten Pyramide mit einem kleinen

Frauenkopf von Alabaster. (Ein Geschenk der Fiirstin Lichnowsky).11

It was then purchased by the collector Carl Meinert. Car lMeinert (1844-1913) was a cloth manufacturer (Tuchfabrikant) in Dessau and moved to Frankfurt am Main in 1904 after he retired. He sold the Beethoven items to the Beethoven-Haus in 1898, all the relics (“Leuchter; Landschaft aus Beethovens Haaren, Spazierstock, 2 Brillen, Standuhr, Stahlfeder, Gansefeder, Monokel, Brutus, Tischglocke, Kosaken als Briefbeschwerer, Rasiermesser, 2 Petschaften und die Visitenkarte samt Druckplatte”), together with two letters and the autograph manuscript of the Moonlight Sonata (Op. 27, no.2). It is listed in the catalogue of the Bonn Beethoven-Exhibition of 11-15 May 189012 as:

Standuhr Beethoven’s in Form einer umgesturzten Pyramide, mit Frauenkopf als Bekronung. Bes.: C. Meinert in Dessau.

It is also mentioned in a book on the Beethoven-Haus collection, published in 1904, as being part of the collection at that time:13

Eine Fulle kleinerer Gegenstande, zum Teil vom Schreibtisch Beethovens, fruher im Besitze von A. Schindler, spater Hauptstiicke der Sammlung des Herrn K. Meinert in Dessau und dank dem hochherzigen Entgegenkommen des Letzteren 1898 fur unsere Sammlung erworben […] Eine Abbildung davon ist diesem Berichte beigegeben […]

4. Standuhr Beethovens in Form einer umgekehrten Pyramide, und mit Frauenkopf als Bekronung.

The clock’s dimensions are circa 38.5 x 13.5 x 14.0 cm. It stands on a base with bronze lion’s paw feet, and is surmounted by a small ivory bust reminiscent of the portraits of Roman empresses.

The description in German by the Beethoven-Haus, which is useful for the details, reports:

Uhrgehause in Form einer umgesturzten Pyramide auf bronzenen LowenfuSen und flachem Sockel; Bekronung in Form einer antikisierenden weiblichen Biis-te (in der Art der Portrait-Biisten romischer Kaiserinnen); Zifferblatt Porzellan mit Glasdeckel; nebst zugehorigem Schliissel. Osterreich, 1. Viertel 19. Jahrhun-dert. – Holz, Gips, Metall.

This clock with dial charge on the six, eight days spring and contemporary movement ‘demi carre’ national production, was probably possessed by Beethoven during the years 1815-1820.

The style is pre-Biedermaier and it is without any alarm or striking works at the hour or half hour, as was in use at that time, and needless to the German composer due to his deafness; it could be dated around 1810.

A photo of it is included in the Ley Iconography (Ley, Band VI, Nr. 1140) where it is possible to observe that one of the four gilded brass flowers around the clock case (the one at the bottom right) is missing (plate 5).

It is already missing in a very early photo of the late 19th century.14 Today the clock has two flowers missing, both at the bottom; it is possible that this second loss occurred in 1969 when the museum was restored and a new permanent exhibition was established. It may have Lbeen that the clock was restored at the same time as well.

This restoration, as is possible to compare from the actual sight of the clock and the photo in the Ley collection, made repairs to standard damage to clocks of this type: damage to the enamel on the winding hole, at hour six, and at hours nine and three. Very probably the suspension was replaced as well, as it is possible to observe that the disc of the pendulum is staggered with respect to its usual and natural collocation at the centre of the window.

The small bust on the top of the clock could represent a Roman empress or maybe, as was popular in other objects of the same period, a simple female representation of the Roman Virtus (virtue), or as Cornelia or Lucretia; examples of marital fidelity.

C. Beethoven’s Kommodenstanduhr preserved at the Pasqualatihaus in Vienna

This is a second clock that was certainly owned by Beethoven and came from his personal collection at Heiligenstadt.15 It was presented to the Wien Museum (Historical Museum of the City of Vienna) by the secretary of the Vienna Beethoven Society, Josef Bock-Gnadenau in 1896.

It is supposed to have been placed above the small chiffonier (Nachtkastchen) that was recalled by Gerhard von Breuning when he drew the plan of Beethoven’s last lodging16, as it is shown in some photos dating from the 1920s (plate 7).17

It is listed along with the Nachtkastchen in the catalogue of the Vienna centennial exhibition of 1927 at item “422. Standuhr” as belonging to the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, which took a major role in this exhibition. It had been previously shown in the exhibition at the Stadt Wien in December 1920 and listed in its catalogue at item 252.18

It is made of metal, with a wood base and columns of cherry wood. Its dimensions are 29 x 18 x 10 cm, and it is inscribed (in German) “Messingwerk mit Hakengang, Gang-dauer 1 Tag, Gehause Kirschholz, Messing-trommel”.

It is a fine example of an “economic” German product from the end of the 18th century: a national clockwork with a little simple pendulum “a goutte”, and it is most likely to have been made between 1785 and 1795. The enamelled dial, protected by a round glass, is of interest. As was typical of the period it has Roman numbers, but those at the quarters are Arabic, in imitation of a contemporary French style.

The dial is screwed to the clockwork by two small (and un-aesthetic) screws at the three and the nine; and it is possible to observe that it has the usual damage caused by prolonged use: the breaking up of the enamel portion under the charge hole, and the break of the opening hinge at the nine, as may be noted in many examples of clocks of the same period.

On the back there is a brass and mercury-gilded grid that partially hides the fabric net used to protect the works from dust, and which acted as sound box in clocks with striking works.

D. The Standuhr shown in two early 20th century photos of Beethoven memorabilia

There are two interesting and rare photos that show some furniture and Beethoven memorabilia, most of which still exists. In both of them it is possible to see the above-mentioned Nachtkastchen and the clock upon it, but what is most interesting is the presence of the it standing in two different positions. The first photo (part of the collection of Dominique Pr6vot, president of the A.B.F., Association Beethoven France), shows the dock in a big wooden Morbier-type case with large glasses and the weights visible (plate 8). It is reasonable to suppose that it dates from around the early 19th century, having a white enamel case, Roman numbers, and very prominently a large brass ring nut at the centre of the hands. The winding of this clock is mechanical, done by pulling on the two chains that carry the pine-cone weights. In this type of clock a wheel-revolving ferrule was used to set the morning alarm. The alarm, moved by a “T” hammer, struck a gong. In fact, though partially hidden by the decoration painted on the wooden base, there is nevertheless visible a large gong, absolutely typical for this type of movement. The other photo (Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Ley, Band VI, Nr. 1144, Standort: XXX) shows the same clock correctly leaning against the wall (plate 9). From these two photos (plate 8 and 9) it is not possible to determine the duration of the winding, but as is customary for this type of clock (known as a ‘Schwarzwalder’), it is likely to be for eight days. Some other information that probably refers to this clock is offered by Breuning himself in his book where he reports:

Aus jener Zeit stammt eine noch in meinem Besitze befindliche Schwarzwalder-Uhr, welche Beethoven damals meinem Vater schenkte.19

Thus it is possible to infer from this information that this clock was given to Breuning as gift from Beethoven, which would explain why it is not listed in Beethoven’s estate which was written after his death. However, the clock is mentioned later in the catalogue of the exhibition held in the Stadt Museum in 1920 and in the Centennial one, again in Vienna in 1927, under the chapter „Koje Hausrat Beethovens”20 as belonging to the grandson of Beethoven’s close friend, Stephan von Breuning:

419. Schwarzwalder Uhr. H. Dr. Stefan Breuning, Wien. Geschenk B.s an St. v. Breuning

Unfortunately there appears to be no further information or any reliable confirmation that the clock shown in these photos is really the one owned or used by Beethoven and later given to Breuning.21 E. References to watches in Beethoven’s correspondence and conversation books There are a few references to watches or clocks in Beethoven’s conversation books. The first is dated at the end March 1819 and is in the Heft 2, Bl. 8r where Beethoven wrote:

Papier Balbier- / mefier – Erzherzogl [iche] / quittung – uhr – / Hosentrager / losch-papier22.

The meaning of this sentence can be explained by reading and integrating it with another note written on the internal cover of the Heft 3, dated November 1819:

Die uhr heute abhohlen / FedermeSer / Zahnpulw.[er]23.

The last sentence is related to the previous one, but unfortunately it is not possible to understand which type of fixing led Beethoven to take the watch to be repaired. However, due to the long waiting time, it is reasonable to surmise that the fixing required replacement some parts that were not available in the mender’s, such as a broken verge due to a fall, or the fusee cone chain.

It may also be supposed that Beethoven had talked about the purchase of a new watch, as he notes in the same book, a few pages later (Bl. 30v):24

UHRMACHER: Die Rep[etier] Uhr N 3 Gold / mit goldnen Blatt gantz / gute Arbeit 250 f.25 – Eine mehr ordinaire Rep[etier] Uhr 180 – Die 2 silb: [ernen] Uhren 80 f – kommt auf 100 f – Eine gute – 40 f – ordinaire 30.

It is also possible to deduce that if Beethoven had purchased one of the above watches, the one listed in his Nachlass could be either the “ordinaire” one for 30 f or the other priced at 40 f. Beethoven seems to have been interested in and fascinated by the repeater watches, which were very popular and much in use at the time, even though they tended to be very expensive. In a letter to his friend Count Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz dated December 1815, Beethoven wrote:26

Lieber Zmeskall!

Es wird der bekannte Uhrmacher Wohnhaft gleich an der Freyung zu ihnen kommen, ich mogte eine sehr gute repetiruhr haben, er verlangt 40 # – da sie sich gerne mit d.[er]g.[leichen] abgeben, bitte ich sie, sich auch von meinetwegen damit abzugeben, und mir eine Vortreffliche Uhr auszumitteln –

Freyung, the place mentioned in the letter, was one of the most enchanting locations in Vienna, surrounded by the splendid palaces of Harrach, Ferstel and Kinsky. It was in the previous year that the first public performance of Beethoven’s trio for piano, violin and cello, op. 97 took place. During the time that Beethoven was there he maybe knew about the watchmaker mentioned. However, we do not have a record of Zmeskall’s reply or if the object had actually been purchased. A watchmaker is mentioned in another letter which Beethoven wrote to his friend Zmeskall in 1816:

Lieber Z!

[… ] ich brauchte einen Bedienten, u. HauShalterin u. Bediente kostete zu viel, zudem fand ich sie mehrmal bey ihrem Manne unten beym Uhrmacher in mei-nem Hause, ja sie wollte sogar eben von da mit ihm ausgehn, da ich sie doch brauchte, daher liefi ich ihn wiederkommen, da ich der wohnung halber Sie behalten muste, hatte ich ihn nicht genommen so war ich um so viel mehr betrogen worden –27

A watch plays a part in Beethoven’s family history on two sad occasions: the death of his brother Karl and the suicide attempt of his nephew Karl. A watch (“Eine Silberne Sack Uhr, eine grofie schone alabasterne u. eine kleine ohngefahr vor 4 Jahren wurde vertauscht gegen andre d.[er] g.[leichen]”28) was listed in the inventory of the estate of Ludwig’s brother, Kaspar Anton Karl who died on 15 November 1815 of tuberculosis. An extract from the inventory was communicated by Dr. August Schmidt to Alexander W. Thayer and reported in the third volume of his Life of Beethoven:29

Praciosen, eine silberne Uhr – 25 fl.

In his letter to Anton Pachler dated 22 April 1816 30 the composer mentioned his intention to be accompanied to the Alsergasse where the estimate of his brother Karl’s estate31 would be determined; it seems therefore that the inventory had not been made before the above-mentioned letter.

It is well-known that Kaspar Karl, in his will, assigned guardianship of his son Karl both to his wife and to Ludwig, (31) apparently with the hope that in their concern for the boy the two would put aside their long-standing animosity. They did not, and the cumulative effect of years of bitter wrangling contributed in no small way to the nephew’s decision to attempt suicide. Another watch was involved in that tragic incident. On 5 August 1826, the nephew Karl pawned his watch, bought two new pistols and drove to Baden. Next morning he went to the Helenenthal, one of his uncle’s favourite spots, and discharged both weapons to his temple. Fortunately neither bullet penetrated the skull, and when the injured young man was found he was carried back to Vienna, to his mother’s house. There is no trace today of these two watches. If they still exist they have been lost.

E. Iconography

Iconographical evidence is very scarce: in fact there are no known paintings or other pictures showing Beethoven with a pocket watch nor are there drawings of any clock. However, Joseph Eduard Teltscher drew some sketches of the composer dying and in one of these it is possible to see the internal part of a pendulum of a wall clock, and in an easy position to wind from the bed (plate 10). There is no trace of this clock today, but it could be also identified as a barometer. In one of the three paintings by Isidor Neugass32 (1780-1847), precisely in the Brunsvik copy, it is possible to see a chain but it may just as well be connected to an eyeglass as to a watch. Max Unger had the opportunity to admire this painting in Mrs. Jenny Finaly’s house in Florence and reported the following description:

Die vom Bildoval freigelassenen vier Ecken sind erdfarben, der Ovalgrund dun-kelgriin. Grundiert war das Portrat violett; das sieht man an einer abgeblatter-ten Stelle. Der braune Mantel bedeckt die rechte Schulter, und von der linken gleitet er eben herab. Rock oder Frack: jedenfalls dunkelblau. Zwischen der wei-fien Weste und dem weifien Hemd ist etwas Erdbeerfarbenes, doch tritt das gar wenig hervor. Was zuerst als eine das Hemd iiberquerende Kette erscheint, ist keine Kette. Es sind zwei Ziige eines goldgelben Bandes, deren jeder seinerseits aus zwei sehr lose umeinander sich schlingenden Bandchen besteht.33

The second painting is the portrait kept at the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna, recently restored (shelf mark B 39116). The artist is not known nor is the date, but it appears to show Beethoven at about the age of 35. What it is interesting is the long dark chain visible from a buttonhole at the top left towards a hidden jacket pocket at the right. This is the only (although doubtful) iconographic testimony we have today. Another source is the portrait of Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven (brother of the composer, well know to be a “land-owner”) painted by Leopold Gross in 1841. Although the portrait was not realized until fourteen years after the composer’s death, a large gold pocket watch chain is clearly visible.

Part 2: The pocket watch belonging to Tobias Haslinger

Robert Haslinger, or Tobias as he is better know, was born in 1787 in Zell (near Zell-hof, Austria) and died on 18 June 1842 in Vienna. He was an editor and a close friend of Beethoven. After spending his boyhood in Salzburg, he was trained in music by Franz Xaver Gloggl in Linz. In 1810 he was living in Vienna where he dedicated most of his time to music, and his works for piano were published, largely thanks to his friend’s publishers in that town. In 1813 Sigmund Anton Steiner (1773-1838) engaged him as manager of his art and music shop and two years later he became Steiner’s partner. On 11 March 1826 Haslinger became the director of the company and obtained a license to trade under his own name. Later he employed fifty people at the premises in the Paternostergasschen, and was followed into the business by his son Karl (1816-1868).

Beethoven’s correspondence contains many letters and notes addressed to Haslinger. The earliest known is dated 1815 and the last is dated 7 December 1826. Beethoven wrote for him the canon “O Tobias! O Tobias! Dominus Haslinger! o! o!” (WoO 182) and other musical sketches, which may be found in the letters (WoO 205 c, g-k). Many of Beethoven’s own works were published by Haslinger. Haslinger visited Beethoven during his last illness and was one of the torchbearers at his funeral. The pocket watch belonging to Tobias Haslinger is now in possession of Armando Orlandi (plate 11). It has a diameter of 53 mm and a weight of 97 grams. The gilt brass verge movement with round pillars and elaborately pierced full-width cock is signed by Bevil, Ipswich 20195. Bevil was a watchmaker who was very active in London and Ipswich at the end on the 18th century and during the first 30 years of the 19th century. The verge is decorated with a flower pattern so well refined that it is reminiscent of the contemporary productions of Markwick Markham; it is also worthy of note that its movement is identical to other contemporary watches made by Robinson in London (one example dated 1833 is still existing) and it is possible to confirm that the ibauche used for the Haslinger watch was of a type largely used by watch makers due to its durability and adaptability. The dial is of ivory enamel with Roman numbers and it is decorated with a miniature landscape painted in oils depicting a castle on the bank of a small river. On the back of the case is the inscription “T. Haslinger Wien. 1824”, whose style is similar to that used for inscribing watches made in Great Britain at the time, rather than the gothic script used in Germany (plate 12). This is yet another possible, if tenuous link between Beethoven and Great Britain, bearing in mind that 1824 was year of the first performance of the 9th Symphony (op. 125). In this instance Moscheles might have been the main agent in the acquisition and delivery of this handsome gift. There is no any sign of warranty. It was customary to engrave some reference to a repair on the inside of the watch case (in this instance of gilded brass) but there is no evidence of any such engraving, so it would seem that the watch has not needed repair sincel824. Inside the back of the watch case there is small piece of paper with handwritten words (plate 12), very difficult to read: “Fu[e]r meinen / Freund Tobias / Seit [?] 1824” and followed by an undecipherable signature, maybe “Schumann” (surely not Robert!).

Part 3: Gold pocket watch belonging to Alexander Wheelock Thayer

Every reader will be aware that history’s most important, most revered Beethoven scholar is the American Alexander Wheelock Thayer (born in South Natick, Massachusetts, October 17 or 22,1817; died in Trieste, Italy, July 15,1897)34. He wrote his monumental and authoritative Life of Ludwig van Beethoven in three volumes which were published in German in 1866, 1872 and 1879, which is an extremely detailed and accurate portrayal of Beethoven’s life. His English manuscript was translated by his friend Hermann Deiters (1833-1907), whom he met when he was in Bonn in 1860s. Thayer’s adoration of Beethoven seems to have developed while he was at Harvard, and Beethoven had been dead for only 16 years by the time Thayer graduated from Harvard to take up position as a law librarian.

In 1849 he travelled to Germany, collecting material for this work. He returned to the US in late 1851, joining the staff of the New York Tribune. In 1854 he went again to Europe where he spent much of the remainder of his life. In 1862 Thayer was appointed to the US Legation in Vienna, and in 1865 he became consul in Trieste, a position he held until his death. Thayer earned his living as the United States Consul in Trieste, which then was part of the Austrian Empire. During his many years there, from the end of 1864 to 1897, he resided in an apartment on the second floor of the Palazzo Ralli at via Belpoggio no. 2, on the coastal drive, and when he died, he was buried in Trieste. While based in the city, Thayer sought every opportunity to return to Austria and Germany to work on his monumental biography of Beethoven.

It was during these last years in Trieste that he purchased the gold pocket repeater watch he used until his death. The peculiarity of this watch was that it was designed to be used by people with sight or eye problems as it had a movement that struck the hour on demand by activating a slide. During the latter 25 years of his life Thayer indeed suffered from headaches and problems with his eyes; an ailment that started in 1852 while he was employed as journalist for the New York Tribune, and when he had to spend much time working at night without adequate light. This eye problem is reported in many of the letters Thayer sent to his friends; an example may be found in a letter dated 1 January 1876 where Thayer wrote: My dear Deiters, and now we write 1876! Oh, how tempus fugit! I hoped to send you the rest of the third volume before this, but for the last two months my official duties have increased as never before, and in December I had a sad time with my eyes. In another letter to his translator Hermann Deiters dated 4 January 1878 he wrote:

I am and have been for some five weeks engaged upon the year 1819, but at this season I have so many and such constant interruptions from official duties, that for six, eight, or ten days at a time, I must leave Beethoven to his fate. The pressure on my time, my eyes and my brain will soon be somewhat less, and the hope is vivid that the work will go again more rapidly. And again in April 1882 while he was working on Beethoven’s sale of the Missa So-lemnis Thayer sent a detailed description of this event to Deiters for inclusion in the work, as confirmed in his letter dated 3 April 1882: My eyes pain me much, and I ought not to attempt writing; but there is one subject on which I must put you in the right. It is the very unpleasant and sad matter of Beethoven’s sale of the “Missa Solemnis”. In a letter dated Christmas Day 1891 again to Deiters he wrote that he had entered my 75th year under unlucky auspices; for besides my old head trouble, my eyes suddenly failed me and for weeks. [… ] My mind was in sad confusion. I could not think that it is, I was incapable of pursuing a train of thought […] writing letters (as at this moment) strains my eyes and cannot be long continued. In a very touching letter written to Grove on 17 November 1892 Thayer expressed:

Some years ago, I forget how many, you proposed to give or obtain for me pecuniary aid. I refused then, and do now, to accept charity -1 have (God knows how!) battled my way 75 years, and which to still remain in harness. I can live, if no calamity occurs, upon what I have (using my capital) until the end comes. But I must abandon the hope of finishing the Beethoven book, for I cannot pay an assistant, nor can I go away now and then to recruit. [… ] Head and eyes grow louder and louder in their warnings to stop. I obey. The above references show that Thayer had a serious and chronic problem with his eyes, hence his use of a chiming watch. This watch is designed to “repeat” the time by the activation of a small slide on the right side. It repeats the hour (grande son-nerie) and the quarter (petite sonnerie), with two different bell sounds (plate 14).

Although Thayer never spoke about his watch in any of the 300 extant letters which have been studied, it was mentioned in his testament. Thayer died in Trieste on 15 July 1897 and his will was filed (no. 45351) in the afternoon of 16 July 1897 at the Middlesex Probate Court in East Cambridge, as resident in Natick (his native town). Lawyer Jabez Fox, the husband of Thayer’s niece Susan Elisabeth, was named as executor and formally appointed 21 September 1897. The will was dated and signed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer on 26 January 1897 in the presence of Messrs J. B. Rovelli, Max von Jablonsky and Basil Bryce, all living in Trieste.35 At item three of the will Thayer wrote: I give and bequeath to the son of my said niece Susan E. Fox my gold repeater watch. In contrast to other objects he owned (Beethoven memorabilia, paintings, manuscripts and collectables), Thayer mentioned specifically his gold watch in his will, as he considered it something important enough to pass on to his successors. The watch is a typical Hunter of generous dimensions with a diameter of 50 mm and weighing 115 grams. It still has its original box, made of cherry wood and violet velvet with the following inscription (plate 15):

Repetition remontoir AMI Sandoz & fils 91504

The watch still has its splendid gold chain from the same period (marine net type) with snap-hook, “T” buttonhole and safety ring. The colour is slightly different (a darker yellow) and the weight is 38 grams. The chain of this watch is visible in a photo of A. W. Thayer dated 1897, the last year of his life. The watch case is made of 18 carat gold and has on the back a typical design of a shield, into which the owner’s initials would usually be engraved. On the other side there is an anonymous “guilloche” pattern. Inside the cuvette are the following words which identify the watch type: Repetition Remontoir Ancre leves visibles 22 rubis Balancier compensateur Spiral Breguet N°99550 The pocket watch has striking mechanism for the hour and the quarter, a Crown watchmaking; the lever for pallets is visible on the upper part of the movement and it has 22 jewels (rubies). The balance is constructed of two different materials, steel and brass, to compensate for thermal expansion and contraction.

The balance-spring is a „Spiral a Breguet“ type (from the name of the well-known watchmaker who invented and patented this type of balance-spring), and the last number is the manufacturer’s serial number for this design. It is possible to observe evidence of at least seven repairs, noted on the internal part of the watch case. From the tags it would appear that Thayer had a trusty watchmaker, since four of the seven have the same tag or acronym: A13084, A30853, A31327 and A43347. The last is PW57374. The remaining tags read 412873pdl and 425412. These tags were used by watchmakers as a record of when the watch was repaired and as a warranty. There is another engraving near the hinge which is difficult to read and yet another inscription behind the dial with the following words: “decl896”. This is the only inscription where it is possible to ascertain the exact date of a repair, i.e. December 1896. It may be presumed that it was the last one, since Thayer died in July the following year and during the last months of the life he was very ill and spent most of the time in his apartment.36
It has been recently checked and repaired by Armando Orlandi; it was shown at the Special Exhibition on A. W. Thayer at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn (19th May to 5th September 2010): “Dedicated to Beethoven, the MAN” Beethoven’s biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer. The dial is of white enamel with Roman tunes and second hand at VI. Two of the three pointers are decorated with three small diamonds.

The house of A M I Sandoz37 & Son was active in Geneva in the 19th century and there are records that mention it from the 1820s through to the 1870s. In 1835, the business was operating from No. 55 Rue Rousseau in Geneva, as watchmakers that specialized in beautifully crafted complicated pieces. The firm was also registered as winner of a silver medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878. The British Museum keeps a Sandoz watch having a chronometer movement from the end of the 19th century with cut, compensated two arm balance, helical hairspring with terminal curve and decorated bridges in the form of a bird with outstretched wings.


The first mechanical escapement: the verge escapement. Since the two pocket watches belonging to Beethoven and the one belonging to Haslinger had the verge with fuse cone and chain mechanism it would be pertinent to describe this particular type of escapement. From the beginning of the 16th century the verge escapement remained in use unchallenged for over 250 years. It derived its working principle from the mechanisms of big belfry clocks, already in use in the 13th century. After the introduction of the balance spring in 1675 by Huygens, there was an improvement in watch precision, thanks to autonomous oscillation. Notwithstanding several experiments thought to have been carried out mainly by Perron, the decline of the verge began at the start of the 19th century, when a new protagonist, the cylinder escapement, emerged to supplant it.

The escapement effectively has two tasks: to brake the speed of the gearing, and at the same time to give to the balance wheel a periodical push, possibly homogeneous, thus giving a regular oscillation to the movement. This oscillation is divided into three phases: 1 phase of impulse 2 phase of completion 3 phase of return or beginning. It is interesting to note that in Beethoven’s time the majority of verge wheels were made of brass and the verge itself of steel.

The attached picture (plate 16) is taken from the Encyclopedic Methodique, published in Padua (Italy) in 1787 and shows parts of a classic verge movement. This particular one was made in France, but the type was manufactured in several other countries. Fig. 7 shows the complete movement of a typical watch at verge; at three quarter view with a chiselled verge cock; the great fusee-cone (picture B), and the wheel with a vertical cog, known as the Catherine Wheel, the name probably derived from the martyr St. Catherine of Alexandria who was famously put to death on two large wheels. Fig. 9 shows the fusee-cone (F) with the large fusee-cone chain (H). This fusee includes a “winding stop” mechanism to prevent the mainspring and fusee from being wound too far, thus causing the chain to break (G), and very important, the barrel of the spring that contains the spring itself (Fig. 10). The reason for this somewhat complicated construction was that springs were made concentric, as shown in Fig. 10, as at the time it was not yet possible to manufacture the S-type spring.

The spring had much more power at full winding than it had after it had been discharged, thus accelerating the movement of the watch for the first hours after winding, then progressively decelerating. The fusee-cone chain, wound on the fiisee-cone, which narrows gradually, balances this traction, homogeneously distributing the power of the spring. Fig. 12 shows the barrel with the wide bottom grooves of the fusee, winding from the bottom to the top. In Fig. 11 it is possible to see the method used to adjust the time to the mechanism. Usually the lever (t) together with the small wheel (s) was placed on a large aluminium disc, (at the time aluminium was considered a valuable material), and engraved with “Avance” and “Retard”, or in the watches manufactured in England “Fast” and “Slow”, a practice still used today in the modern “remontoir” (automatic and mechanical) watches.Fig. 14 shows the balance wheel (B), the spiral, and the long “foliot” of the verge, with its two blades that act on the escapement wheel shown in Fig. 16. At Fig. 17 the escapement wheel is shown from the side. In this type of mechanism there were usually 13 tilted teeth, which is the case with Haslinger’s pocket watch.

Then it is impossible to not admire the amazing workmanship that went into the construction of the fusee-cone chain. Each section is hand-made from single figure-of-eight links with passing holes. Because the fusee-cone chain was usually in traction and therefore under tension which was released when the watch was discharged, it is easy to appreciate how much this particular part was prone to breakage, thus necessitating the attentions of a watchmaker.

Beethoven mentions in his conversation-books that he had to take his watch for repair; in fact it appears that the watch had a tendency run slow at a rate of about 10 minutes per day, as can be evidenced from an example from a conversation with Oliva in 1820:

es ist halb zwey Uhr, wenn Sie zum Blochlinger wollen so bleiben Sie hier und ich finde Sie nach Tisch in der Stadt Ihre Uhr geht zu spat, es ist mehr als Vi zwey Uhr38 ich muss ungefahr noch eine Stunde zu Hause sein; – nach Vi zwolf Uhr komme ich zu Doll Ihre Uhr geht 10 Minuten zu spat, es schlagt eben dreyviertel auf eilf Uhr Sie konnen hienaus gehen und wir treffen uns um 12 Uhr39

During Beethoven’s lifetime (1770-1827), the art of horology was subjected to considerable evolution. It was due both to historical influences and to the influence of Abraham Louis Breguet, whose work was at the peak of its excellence during the period 1794-1823. He was born in 1747 at Neuchatel (Switzerland) and he stands as far to the forefront of horology as Beethoven does for music: Breguet was the most important and intuitive figure in horologic history, as his innovations such the anti-shock system for the balancer verge or cylinder, the perpetual calendar, the “gong clock” etc., show. External influences also have to be taken into consideration, especially the continual wars, first within Revolutionary France and then during the Napoleonic era against the powers of the Entente. These conflicts, apart from some short breaks of a few months, ran from 1789 to 1815. As result of military demand, the watchmakers were requested to improve the mechanism of their products, and also to improve upon ballistic calculation in artillery. It was during that time that the French introduced the system of Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribevaul. Other important and active contemporaries were Bergmiller in Paris, and the Robert family. Also during this period there was a considerable demand for mechanical dolls, the Flotenuhr (musical clock) and the first metronome. If Breguet was the foremost exponent of the art of mass horology, Pierre Jaquet-Droz from Neuchatel was the foremost innovator in the manufacture of the mechanical automaton. While visiting the museum in Neuchatel one may find much of interest so far as mechanical music is concerned:

Cette “Musicienne” possede un corps, une tete, des bras et des doigts capables d’accomplir differents mouvements naturels. Elle est apte, en outre, a executer sur un petit orgue cinq morceaux differents avec beaucoup de precision: la tete et les yeux peuvent bouger dans toutes les directions. Elle peut regarder, alternativement, la partition et ses propres doigts. A la fin de chaque morceau, la gra-cieuse musicienne fait la r£v£rence au public, en bougeant la tete et en inclinant le corps. La gorge bouge egalement, comme si elle respirait, et les spectateurs ont reellement cette impression.40

The museum also exhibits Flotenuhren, which are horological instruments able to reproduce music written on rolls. This coincidence leads directly to the fact that Beethoven was a friend of Count Deym (1752-1804). He was an eclectic person who was forced to leave Vienna after killing an opponent in a duel, and he returned only in 1790 to open the famous “Gallery of the Wonders”, otherwise known as the Ka-binett of the Hofstatuarius Muller. The Gallery was a great success, so much so that in 1796 it had to be reorganized within larger rooms, including the so-called Miillersches Kunst Cabinet.

In a newspaper of the time the following report appears:

Eine Schlafende auf einem Bett, das des Abends durch alabasterne Lampen sanft beleuchtet wurde und hinter demselben ertont die entziickendste Musik, die fur den Ort und die Vorstellung eigens komponiert wurde.41

Beethoven composed some pieces for Flotenuhr (WoO 33). The first, an Adagio assai in F, is the best known and it perfectly depicts the image of a sleeping girl. The second is a Scherzo in G major, the third an Allegro in G major. (The fourth and fifth are respectively Allegro non piu molto and Allegretto (Minuetto). They are perhaps composed for piano.) More interesting is the Grenadiermarsch for Flotenuhr (Hess 107), written somewhere between 1809 and 1819, and described by G. Kinsky in his article Beethoven und die Flotenuhr: mit einem ungedruckten Marsch des Meisters written in 1927.42 This march was transcribed to a roll for Flotenuhr and was preserved in the Heyer Museum in Cologne (rif. Roll 7, No. 2061). The first two sections, consisting of 20 bars, are not Beethoven’s, but were composed by Haydn and transcribed by Peter Niemecz. This is an interesting twist of history, since Haydn himself wrote music for Flotenuhr (Hob. XIX: 1/6). The rather limited quality of the music aside, Beethoven’s favour towards this type of mechanical instrument shows him to have been well in touch with the wider cultural Zeitgeist of the late 18th century and the first part of the 19th.

The friendship between Beethoven and the “Hofmaschinist” Johann Malzel (Malzl) (1772-1838) is well documented. The term “machinist” usually referred to an inventor of musical clocks. In fact Maelzel manufactured automata, Flotenuhren, and the well-known Panharmonicon. Beethoven allegedly composed the piece.

Wellingtons Sieg (The “Battle Symphony”, op. 91) specifically to be played on this behemoth mechanical orchestral organ in celebration of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over the French at the Battle of Vittoria. Rewritten for orchestra, it was first performed in 1813 and later caused a bitter conflict between the two men, when Malzel claimed ownership of the piece. Previously, during less contentious times, Malzel had constructed several ear trumpets to attempt to help Beethoven with his hearing.43

The Panharmonicon44 could imitate all the regular orchestral instruments as well as produce sound effects such as gunfire and cannon shots. To judge from the two surviving photographs, preserved in Alexander Buchner’s seminal monograph, Vom Glockenspiel zum Pianola, the style of the Panharmonicon was similar to many later mechanical orchestras, with pinned barrels storing the note information, and a variety of pipes and percussion producers. Prince Esterhazy may have been wealthy enough to employ Josef Haydn and his merry men, but orchestrators provided the lower strata of fashionable society with a neat and uncomplaining substitute for hungry musicians.

In 1815, Malzel constructed and patented a portable metronome, to this day known as Malzel’s Metronome. The metronome had been invented earlier (about 1812) by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel, and Malzel used several of Winkel’s construction ideas. The metronome is an instrument that was originally pyramid-shaped, with a clockwork pendulum mechanism used to indicate the exact tempo in which a work should be performed. It has a double pendulum whose pace can be altered by sliding the upper weight up or down. The sliding bob indicates the rate of oscillation by means of calibrations on the pendulum. The system was so simple and perfect that it was not subjected to modification until the 1970s when the introduction of electronics consigned the clockwork metronome to antiquity, if not complete disuse.

Ludwig van Beethoven was the first well-known composer to indicate specific metronome markings in his music, as reported in a table entitled Die Tempo’s sammtlicher Satze aller Symphonien des Hrn L. v. Beethoven vom Verf selbst nach Maelzels Metronom bestimmt from issue no. 51 of the Allgemeine musikalische Zei-tung,A5 dated 17 December 1817, but many performances of his music still vary widely from his tempo indications, particularly in slow movements.

In conclusion it can be said that Beethoven, during his life, was a man of contemporary eighteenth-century culture, both in his music and in his private life, choosing a watch a vergue (typical of the 18th century), appreciating the Spieluhr and the mechanical organ, using antiquated spectacles and wearing big neckties a la Titus.


TDR 5, p. 579.
For a first and preliminary description of Beethoven’s watches see Armando Orlandi: Beethoven et l’art de l’horologerie, Beethoven, in: Beethoven, la revue de l’Association Beethoven France, Nr. 4,2005, pp. 34-39
Accession Number: M/P.l & A & B-1929 (Applied Arts Department); Reference Number: 77467.
The Museum Poldi Pozzoli in Milan owns a pocket watch donated by Bruno Falk in 1973, made by Prior and contemporary with that of Beethoven.
Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Stephan Ley: Beethoven-Ikonographie, Band VI, Nr. 1141.
Beethoven-Haus Bonn, shelf mark B 738/a-b-c.
Ley wrote the following note: “Taschenuhr // Original // Frau E. Guttsche, Doberan”.
Fuhrer durch die Beethoven-Zentenarausstellung der Stadt Wien: Beethoven und die Wiener Kultur seiner Zeit, Wien 1927, p. 102.
Zmeskall was an excellent cellist and a close friend of Beethoven, as is revealed through a large number of correspondences
Jean Etienne Piot was born in 1758, son of the watch maker Jean David, active in Geneva; his firm was merged with the one of Francis Panchaud, probably around 1779-1780, and later with Jean Adam Panchaud from 1790 to 1801 circa.
Schindler/Beethoven III 2, p. 372.
Katalog der mit der Beethoven-Feier zu Bonn am 11.-15. Mai 1890 verbundenenAusstellung von Hand -schriften, Briefen, Bildnissen, Reliquien Ludwig van Beethoven’s sowie sonstigen auf ihn und seine Familie bezuglichen Erinnerungen, Bonn 1890, p. 30.
Verein Beethoven-Haus in Bonn: Bericht uber die ersten funfzehn Jahre seines Bestehens 1889-1904, Bonn 1904, p. 66.
Ibid., p. 65.
The Heiligenstadter Beethoven-collection that was taken over by the Wien Museum in 1896 consisted of more than 300 objects. The clock has the Inv. Nr. 116.421.
Luigi Bellofatto: Beethovens letzte Lebensstunden und das Schwarzspanierhaus. Einige neue Erkennt-nisse aus dem Nachlass von Alexander Wheelock Thayer, in: BBS 6 (2207), pp. 7-32.
Die Moderne Welt 11 (1920), Nr. 9, p. 7.
Fuhrer durch die Beethoven-Ausstellung der Stadt Wien, Wien 1920, p. 47.
Alfred Christlieb Kalischer: Aus dem Schwarzspanierhause: Erinnerungen an L. van Beethoven aus seiner Jugendzeit von Gerhard von Breuning, Berlin-Leipzig 1907, p. 45.
Fuhrer durch die Beethoven-Zentenarausstellung der Stadt Wien: Beethoven und die Wiener Kultur seiner Zeit, Wien 1927, pp. 89-90.
The authors would be interested to receive any further information about this clock, which would be of much value towards the continuing research on Beethoven’s clocks.
BKh 1, p. 41.
BKh 1, p. 83.
BKh 1, p. 97.
It is interesting to compare the prices of watches with prices of other items, which were always reported by Beethoven in his conversation books of the same year: a razor cost 5 f., a hat 15 f. A journey from Modling to Vienna cost 8 f., much more than the average price of a book (from 3 to 8 f.).
BGA 869.
Inventory from Ludwig van Beethoven’s hand, Beethoven-Haus Bonn, collection of H.C. Bodmer, HCB Br 278.
Alexander Wheelock Thayer: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leben, vol. 3, Berlin 1879, p. 506.
BGA 927. Dr. Anton Pachler was a lawyer and the brother of Dr. Karl, who married the amateur pianist and great admirer of Beethoven, Marie Leopoldine Koschak
Kaspar Karl lived with his wife Johanna on the Vorstadt Alsergrund no. 121.
This painting was made in 1806. There are two versions of it: one originates from the possession of the Lichnowsky family and family tradition claims it to have been made by the order of Beethoven’s patron Prince Karl von Lichnowsky. The second version was made for the Hungarian aristocratic family Brunsvik, who were also close friends of Beethoven’s. The two versions differ from each other mainly in the coloring of the clothes, and in one little detail: in the Brunsvik version, a ribbon on the front of Beethoven’s shirt can be seen, on which a lorgnon (monocle) must hang. This ribbon (it has sometimes been interpreted as a watch chain in literature) is missing on the painting belonging to the Lichnowsky family.
Max Unger: Die Beethovenbilder von Neugass, in: Zeitschrift fur Musik, 102 (1935), p. 1212.
For more information on A. W. Thayer’s life, see Luigi Bellofatto: Alexander Wheelock Thayer. Neue Quellen zu Person und Werk, in: BBS 5 (2006), pp. 7-69.
“In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand in the presence of three witnesses, and declare this to be my last will, Alexander Wheelock Thayer, on this twenty-sixth day of January 1897”
It has been recently checked and repaired by Armando Orlandi; it was shown at the Special Exhibition on A. W. Thayer at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn (19th May to 5th September 2010): “Dedicated to Beethoven, the MAN” Beethoven’s biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer.
The history of the watchmakers Sandoz begins in 1530 with the birth of Johannus Sandoz di Lode, at NeucMtel in Switzerland. In 1870, Henry Sandoz founded the company Odin with Jules E. Sandoz, becoming the first family watchmakers. Their intention and scope was to manufacture repeater and chronograph watches and they then went on to become pioneers in the standardization of their product. In 1920 the company Henry Sandoz changed its name to Henry Sandoz & Fils when Henry’s son Hermann joined the business. In 1926 Henry Sandoz & Fils moved its factory to Le Chaux-de-Fonds, in the canton of NeucMtel. Towards the end of the 1920s the Sandoz company expanded and became very well-known, extending its business as far as India and Pakistan and manufacturing more than one million watches per year. In 1938 the company changed its name again to H. Sandoz & Co, and then to Bezzola &      Kocher until 1971, when it settled upon the definitive name of Compagnie des Montres Sandoz S.A. which is still in use today.
BKh 2, p. 142.
BKh 2, p. 241.
Charles Perregaux: Les Jaquet-Droz et leurs automates, Neuchatel 1906.
Theodor von Frimmel: Beethoven-Handbuch, Leipzig 1926, vol. 1, p. 434.
Beethoven-Almanach der Deutschen Musikbucherei auf das Jahr 1927, hg. von Gustav Bosse, 1927, pp. 320-332.
Malzel also constructed a trumpet automaton and a speaking doll with moving eyes.
The information on this instrument is very scarce, but it seems to have been one of a number of pan-harmonicons. One was sold in Paris in 1807, one was taken on a tour to the New World, but sank somewhere between Havana and Philadelphia on 21 July 1838 along with its creator, and one survived at the Industrial Museum in Stuttgart until it succumbed to the ravages of the Second World War.
AmZ 19 (1819), Nr. 50 vom 10. Dezember 1817, pp. 873-874.
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