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Gustav Becker and the 400 Day Clock
Gustav Becker commenced clock making in 1850, in Freiberg, Silesia on a small inconspicuous scale. His efforts were certainly rewarded as in 1852 he won a gold medal for his designs that brought his reputation to a peak and business boomed.
Up until 1880 most of his clocks were of the weight-driven wall clock style but as of this year he introduced spring driven shelf clocks and his catalogues of that period showed over 400 models!

In 1885, Gustav Becker died, but such was the reputation of the company and products that business momentum carried on right through until 1926 when GB was absorbed into the Junghans Company, who continued to market clocks under the GB brand until 1935.

In 1885, Gustav Becker died, but such was the reputation of the company and products that business momentum carried on right through until 1926 when GB was absorbed into the Junghans Company, who continued to market clocks under the GB brand until 1935.
Gustav Becker is what might be called a "quiet achiever" as there is substantiated evidence that he developed a 400-day clock and tried to commercialise it as early as 1875. This clock had a cylinder escapement with a disc pendulum and is known to have been produced in small numbers up until 1901. Since this design pre-dates the German patent system it was not patented.
This GB design became the standard and basis upon which the 400-day clock developments from 1880 were founded. The similarities are easily seen in the picture above.

The patent for a torsion pendulum and escapement was issued to Lorenz Jehlin in 1877 and it passed to Anton Harder in 1880.

Harder initiated development work on a clock based on this patent and used several existing clock-makers to perform this work. GB was one of these and from 1880 to 1882 and their clock contained a cylinder escapement and/or a crown wheel and verge escapement. These were expensive to make and were not energy efficient in a clock of such a long duration.

Harder did not accept this prototype and passed the development work over to Schatz and Wintermantel who found success through the adaptation of the Graham Deadbeat escapement.

This ended the input by GB but ultimately, when Schatz and Wintermantel released the first commercial 400-day clocks for sale in 1882, apart from the deadbeat escapement, everything else was of the GB design ! Despite this Anton Harder was able to obtain a very specific patent over the design.

There is no recorded acknowledgement of the use of the GB design nor of any dispute by GB! Was there some some sort of "gentleman's agreement" here?

In 1877 the Harder patent ( now under the control of deGruyter ) lapsed thus allowing other clock-makers to commence production. Many did and copied the Jahresuhrenfabrik clock exactly.

Gustav Becker Co. took their time and commenced production of a Harder patent 400-day clock in 1902. Ever since they started clock production GB had put serial numbers on their clocks and this continued with the 400-day clocks. The serial numbers that were applied to the earliest production 400-day clocks are around 1,632,650

Every clock made by GB had a serial number stamped onto the back plate. The following is a year / serial number list for dating GB clocks. Considering that Gustav Becker was involved with the early development and prototypes the list starts at 1880.

1880 260,000
1885 500,000
1890 800,000
1892 1,000,000
1900 1,500,000
1913 1,850,000
1923 1,860,000
1925 1,945,399
1926 2,244,868
1927 Restart at 0001 due to take-over by Junghans.

GB commenced production with a disc pendulum and introduced a 4-ball design in 1915, however GB was the only company to supply disc pendulums after WW1, in fact they never stopped supplying disc pendulums ! An excellent review of the GB disc pendulums is in the Torsion Times Vol. V, No.2 , pp 42 - 50.

GB was innovative in the continuing development of the 400-day clock. These included :

 

  1. Suspension guard, a flat strip mounted on the back plate. 1908
  2. Unique 4-ball pendulum, 3 similar designs. 1915
  3. Pallet and escapement peep holes, in front and back plates. 1916
  4. Finial crest vertical screws replaced by a tab. 1919
  5. Unique special beat adjusting top suspension bracket. 1921
  6. Lantern pinions. 1926 ( Under Junghans" control )

 

The quality of the GB 400-day clock was excellent and the company's reputation survived long after the death of the founder, Gustav, in 1885. Unfortunately he did not live to see the real boom and commercial success of his clock design in the early 20th century. There can be no doubt about the reputation of GB as even today, 100 years later the GB brand clock are held in high esteem.

GB concentrated on the standard glass domed model with range extension to the larger bandstand/louvre model, a wall clock, 4-glass regulators in brass and wood, an Empire style, and the only 400-day skeleton clock ever made.

Despite what appeared to be a progressive and innovative company GB was absorbed into the Junghans Company in 1926. Junghans continued to produce 400-day clocks to the GB design and marketed under the GB brand until 1932.

Thus ended the 30 years of 400-day clock production by Gustav Becker, a man, and his company, who had more to do with the design and production of the 400-day clock than he is given credit for. This may be corrected in the very near future.

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