After almost 17 years as Director, Eduard C. Saluz will be leaving the German Clock Museum on 30 June 2020. He brought fresh ideas to the 168-year-old institution: gaps in the collection were filled, historical exhibitions were organised from a cultural perspective, and research at the Clock Museum increased in significance.
When Eduard C. Saluz came to Furtwangen in 2003, he already had a great deal of museum experience. Originally apprenticing as a mechanic, during his career he became curator of the popular Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne and subsequently set up the Museum of Music Automatons in Seewen (Solothurn canton) for the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. This included responsibility for the outstanding clock collection in Zurich.
Crisis in the Black Forest clock industry
At the turn of the millenium, the Black Forest clock industry had all but disappeared, after battling the worst crisis in its history. The German Clock Museum, which until then had mainly been an exhibition of current and past trends in clock technology and production, was also forced to change. Saluz altered the exhibition. Instead of explaining how a clock worked, the museum wanted to answer completely different questions: Why had the Black Forest been connected with clock-making for hundreds of years? What part did time and clocks play in our everyday lives?
New direction for the museum
In order to accumulate the knowledge required for this new direction, the museum greatly expanded its library, including other sources of information such as company documents. On the basis of this treasure trove of material, Saluz and his museum team set up a new, culturally oriented, historical exhibition of clocks and the measurement of time, from ancient times up to the present day. The reference point was the most important part of the collection, the largest and most significant collection of Black Forest clocks in the world. Around this core, layered like an onion, are objects showing the history of clocks in Germany and the world, thus clearly demonstrating the part played by the south-German clock-making region in national and international developments.
As an international museum catering both to tourists and those with specialist knowledge, all texts and guided tours are now available in three languages – German, English and French. For Saluz it is particularly important that the museum can also be visited without a guide, which was previously not generally the case.
Every now and again, something very special from the last 300 years is added to the museum’s collection. One such highlight occured in 2003, when the museum obtained from private ownership the original prototype of the popular cuckoo clock, which had previously been presumed lost. Another is the prototype of the first cheap quartz alarm clock in the world, built in St. Georgen in 1970. Fairly unassuming, it nevertheless had far-reaching consequences, because it was here in the Black Forest that the triumphant victory march of electronic clocks began, ushering in the downfall of the traditional clock industry.
The German Clock Museum belongs to Furtwangen University. This is why the museum is not only open to visitors, but also carries out independent research. Under Saluz, 16 books on the history of clocks and time, as well as more than 70 articles for prestigious specialist bodies, have been written. Many of the research findings have been made available to a wider audience in special exhibitions.
Today, thanks to Eduard C. Saluz, the German Clock Museum is no longer just a tourist attraction, but is also a research institute for clocks and time of international significance.