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Happy Birthday, Beyer Clock and Watch Museum!

On March 11, 2021, the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum celebrates a milestone birthday: exactly 50 years have passed since it opened in 1971.

Since then, the first and (to this day, the only) museum on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse has provided hundreds of guests a year with insights into the history of timekeeping. The permanent exhibition shows clocks, watches and other timekeeping devices from antiquity to the present. It is constantly being added to and modernised in terms of presentation and museum technology. Just in time for its big anniversary, the interior of the Museum was completely refurbished last summer, and now presents the almost 300 clocks and watches on display in an even better light.

Theodor Beyer, collector and founder of the Clock and Watch Museum.

The Beyer Watch and Clock Museum was founded by Theodor Beyer, father of René Beyer, who ran the family business from the mid-1950s until the 1980s. Theodor Beyer was not only a watchmaker and watch retailer, but also a passionate collector. With unwavering perseverance, he built up an ever more extensive collection which he kept in several storage rooms in Zurich. Time and again, his great specialist knowledge and his network of family and business contacts brought him particularly valuable and rare treasures. When the opportunity arose in 1971 as a result of rooms becoming vacant, Theodor Beyer made his collection accessible to the public by setting up a private Watch and Clock Museum below the shop at Bahnhofstrasse 31. Theodor Beyer maintained his growing collection of watches passionately and meticulously. Each clock was given an inventory number and recorded with details of the maker, date, technology and origins.

 

Repairs to collection items were also documented on the master sheets. He divided the collection into numerous sub-collections that feature categories such as pocket watches, table clocks, wall clocks, chronometers and pendulum clocks. Theodor Beyer was encouraged and supported by his wife Annette, who herself owns a valuable doll and automaton collection. In addition to their business and collecting activities, Theodor and Annette Beyer also advised other museums such as the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul and the Swiss National Museum.

 

The Museum of Time Measurement in the 1970s.
The Museum of Time Measurement in the 1970s.

In 1975, Theodor Beyer became co-founder and first president of Chronometrophilia, an association of clock and watch collectors that publishes two journals on antique timepieces each year. When the Museum was renovated and modernised in the mid-1990s, it gained two important new additions: one of the first church clocks in the Canton of Zurich, the largest clock movement in the Museum, which has been ticking away the hours loudly ever since; and the Pendule Sympathique, an extremely rare combination of pocket watch and table clock. The table clock uses a mechanism invented by the famous watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet to synchronise the smaller pocket watch so that it tells the time accurately to the minute.

Since the death of museum founder Theodor Beyer in 2002, his son René Beyer has been running the Museum. Annette Beyer’s Automata Collection and another special collection of electronic clocks and watches may be viewed by appointment at a different address. In addition to the permanent exhibition on the history of timekeeping, the Clock and Watch Museum on Bahnhofstrasse regularly hosts special exhibitions on the history of watchmaking and contemporary topics. Important items from the collection are regularly shown on loan at national and international exhibitions. Events such as guided tours of the Museum, readings and lectures add colour to everyday Museum life; likewise drinks receptions in a fascinating ambience or visits by school classes. As a publicly accessible collection of clocks and watches from all eras, the Clock and Watch Museum also fulfils an educational role. For several years now, the Museum team has been working to record the collections in a database and to digitise Theodor Beyer’s master sheets with the aim of preserving this valuable information and making it accessible to interested parties. In times like these, when travel is limited, these efforts are becoming even more important.

 

The «Pendule Sympathique» - table clock and pocket watch by Abraham Louis Breguet.
Theodor Beyer with René Beyer and Muriel Zahn-Beyer in the museum.

Access to the museum is currently limited. If waiting times are unavoidable, we thank you for your understanding. Due to the ban on gatherings of more than five people, no tours or events will be held until further notice.

We look forward to your visit!
The Museum Team

Beyer Chronometrie