George's Antique Clocks

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Johann Salfer Calendar Clock


  • Walnut case with heavy brass decorations
  • Runs a week on a winding
  • Circa 1880
  • Key Lock Door
  • Displays the day, date, month, year and moon phase
  • Strikes on the hour
  • Pull repeat and pendulum start

  • Caveats

  • Missing the music box
  • Top Finials are replacements


This is an exceptionally rare Viennese Calendar clock made by the famous Viennese clockmaker Johann Salfer. Salfer is known for making high quality long duration Vienna Regulators. This clock is unlike any Vienna clock I have ever see. This clock had to have been made specifically for someone in the weaving industry. The 4 corner spandrels contain a banner with an aphorism about the industrialization of the weaving industry in Europe. The aphorism reads: Jahre kommen und vergehen, In dem Webstuhl lauft geschaftig, Schnurrend hin und her die Spule, Was er webt, das weiss kein Weber. Translated: Years come and go, The loom is running busy, back and forth purrs the weavers shuttle, What he is weaving, the weaver does not know.

This aphorism by itself does not mean a lot. Thanks to my friend Werner in Bremen, Germany who provided the following history lesson. Once you understand the history behind the aphorism, it all makes perfect sense.

"This aphorism on the clock refers to the time of the hand weaver rebellion in the middle of the 19th century. During the 17th and 18th century the weaver craft using traditional wooden hand looms established in central Europe (Germany, Austria, Czech,etc). In general it was a cottage industry and the whole family including the children were involved. Those people were not rich but by the time they achieved a modest pecuniosity. They developed the typical weavers house with sufficient space for one or two hand looms, the family and some cattle and a small garden for vegetables.

A lot of them became very well craftsmen with their own style and design. They of course know what they are weaving.

This system endures till the beginning 19th century. It breaks down in the years of the industrial revolution. The first mechanical loom was developed in Great Britain around 1800 and together with the steam power the basis for the industrial textile production was founded.

What followed was years of drastic down drifting textile prices and the payment of the weavers soon doesn't last for living. At that time there was no social welfare or any help from the government. In very short time the weaver families fall into poverty and it came to hunger rebellions throughout Europe. A center in Germany was in Silesia where the rebellion broke out in 1844 and was suppressed by the Prussian military. The weaver Families had no other choice, there were no other jobs. If one of them was lucky and could catch a job in a textile factory, the hand weaver now had to care for a cluster of mechanical looms. Now he was in the situation that he really doesn't know what the machine is weaving. He only had to keep them running and had no influence on the style and the design of the product.

The Salter clock seems to be from the second half of the 19th century. It is of course at the time a very expensive piece. Not for a poor weaver. The aphorism seems to be an individual one because it looks engraved and not casted with the applications. Maybe it was dedicated to a factory owner or a wholesale merchant.

From today's point of view the aphorism sounds cynical. Years later when the poverty and unemployment forced the people to emigrate. The government moved and started with programs for industrialization."

Surrounding the dial openings is a hand tooled gilded copper decoration which contains lots of symbolism. There are two female figures. The one on the left is reading a book. This side seems to have an Egyptian/Roman motif. There is an Egyptian style female bust, a basket of scrolls, a closed book and a Roman helmet. She is also holding something in her left hand that appears Roman. The figure on the right is wearing a veil. She is holding a torch in one hand and what appears to be wheat in the other. There is a globe of the world, an open book, and an owl standing on a scroll. She has her foot on a turtles back and a pair of tails coming from under her dress.

If anyone has ideas about the meaning behind the symbolism I would like to hear from you. Please send me an email.

This clock is not for sale.

I am looking for a 6 or 8 tune cylinder music box to complete the restoration. Please contact me if you think you have one that might work.

(C) 2016