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Batch CXLII. Schwarzwald, Tuesday May 22, 2018 NO. 47
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Tales from the Black Forest - The Astronomical Clock in Schramberg

If you can’t immediately read the time on the Schramberg town hall clock, this isn’t necessarily due to an overindulgence of Monkey 47. A quick glance at the astronomical clock tends to cause confusion. Instead of two hands, it has three, there is a revolving disc with the signs of the zodiac, and what looks really strange is that the clock face does not display the hours from 1 to 12 but to 24.
To find out what time it is, you need to focus on the hand that is decorated with a golden sun. This shows the local time in Schramberg, and the numbers 0 and 24 indicate when the sun reaches its highest point at midday. So once it reaches 12, it is around midnight and you first have to work out how many times the clock has just struck. If the hand is pointing at 23, it will take another hour for the sun to reach its highest point. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, the local Schramberg time displayed by the clock differs from standard Central European Time by a full 26 minutes. This all makes it rather difficult to use the timepiece at the top of this Black Forest town hall on a daily basis. When people look up to it, you then usually see them consult their own watches, accompanied not infrequently by a bewildered shake of the head.

Schramberg’s elaborate and meticulously detailed town hall clock was built by the Ulm tower clock factory, Philipp Hörz, in 1913 and, to the trained eye, displays a great deal more than just the time. Inside the circle of numbers revolve the twelve gold leaf gilded signs of the zodiac, which the sun dial passes through once a year. The second hand has a spherical moon, which takes just a month to pass through the star signs. This small moon is half gilded and half black and it revolves around the hand’s axis, so you can also use it to establish how full the moon will be at night. The dragon hand is a real highlight. If the sun or moon come in close proximity to it, a solar or lunar eclipse can be expected.

The astronomical clock is actually accurate if you know how to read it. However, it has not escaped the unabated march of progress. It was fitted with an electronic movement, although several power outages rendered it responsible for subsequently showing the wrong time. An expert noticed this during its 100-year anniversary and then reset the clock, which was very difficult to reach. The fact that this had hardly been noticed beforehand is probably due to the prevalence of “normal” timepieces in Schramberg. After all, this is the home of Junghans – Germany’s most distinguished clock brand. And these clocks tell you exactly when the time has come to round off an eventful summer’s day in the Black Forest with a nice relaxing gin and tonic.

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