The Watchmakers of Zagreb

more than a year ago

Note: The text has been prepared in cooperation with the kind assistance of Mrs Vesna Lovrić – Plantić, with our thanks.

One of the charming things about Zagreb is the survival of craftsmen’s workshops of the kind you don’t see so much any more. And one of the traditional crafts associated with the city, one with a history half a millennium long, is watchmaking.

Some of the oldest documents testifying to the watchmaker’s trade relate to the maintenance of the city’s public clocks, such as the ones on the Zagreb Cathedral and on St Mark’s Church. However, at that time it was locksmiths who built and repaired clocks. Only later did those who chose to specialize become clockmakers. Since those were the days when German was a lingua franca in these parts, these craftsmen were known as “Grossuhrmachern” (German for “clockmakers”). It was only in the second half of the 18th century that clockmakers started to work on small household clocks and watches.

A fascinating example of a hand-made clock in Zagreb which you can see at the top of the Zrinjevac park crowns a beautiful meteorological observation post. Look closely and you’ll notice that instead of numbers 1 to 12 you’ll see 1 to 24. A curiosity indeed. This clock was built by Wilhelm Koenig, one of the many well-known clockmakers of that time who came to this part of the world from other parts of the Habsburg Empire and settled here.


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