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The Last One of his Trade / Der letzte seines Standes

The Tower-Watch Maker



In the town of Rothenburg "ob der Tauber" a man is still practicing a trade which, like few others, has gradually changed the life of our fore-bearers. Time was no longer just marked by the first rooster cry in the early morning followed by sunrise, noon and finally sundown. Events were no longer ordered "before" and "after" as the first public clocks appeared in the towers of churches and city halls and their ringing "told time" to the people in the fields surrounding the village.

Robert Duerr belongs to the small group of tradesmen who can tell about the hay days of the mechanical tower clock. He himself has built two of those large cast-iron machines right at beginning of his career and there is no tower in this area of Germany which -as long as it is decorated with a clock- he has not climbed several times in order to update the clocks with ever changing technology.

At the beginning of his apprenticeship clocks were mechanical monsters which had to be adjusted manually. Today the mechanisms are small black-boxes controlled by wireless signals which move clock hands and sound the bell. Accordingly his trade has changed as well.

Heritage sites are providing the kind of work orders where Robert Duerr can still draw from his traditional skills and knowledge. The restoration of the 300 years old tower clock of the "Spitalkirche" in Bad Wiesheim is an example. Master clockmaker Duerr worked for a half a year in order to make the clock's gears work smoothly again, governed by a 12 meter long pendulum.


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