3.06 – Clockmaking in Denmark

Last Update: 07-23-2022 @ 03:32

3.06.1 – The Highlights

The long-case floor clocks are named Bornholm in Denmark, after the Baltic Sea Island. In 1745, a ship with a cargo of floor clocks from England ran aground on Bornholm Island. The inhabitants rescued the clocks. And they were entrusted to a turner, Poul Ottesen Arboe de Raenne, to put them back in order. In doing so, he learned enough to start making floor clocks. Then clockmaking was born in Denmark. The artisanal production of Bornholm clocks ceased at the beginning of the 20th century.

3.06.2 – Danish Clockmakers

KESSELLS, Henrich Johann

Born into a large family of Dutch artists in Maastricht, Henrich Johann Kessels (1781-1849) was an apprentice as a blacksmith and a watchmaker in Altona in 1807. Altona was a Danish territory near Hamburg. From 1815 to 1821, he moved to Paris and worked with Abraham Louis Breguet. He worked on more than 140 watches and clocks, including Breguet’s famous “Marie Antoinette pocket watch.” He made the chronometric part of the watch. After a stay in London with the Muston brothers, he returned to Altona in 1823, where he specialized in precision astronomical clocks with King Frederik VI of Denmark’s support. At the Altona Observatory, he worked with the astronomer Heinrich Christian Schumacher (1780-1850). In 1827 he was knighted in the Order of the Daneborg. He officially became a citizen of Denmark in 1830. He was admitted the year after to the Royal Society of Sciences in Stockholm as a foreign member. He died of cholera near Bristol, England, in 1849.


Georg Kratzenstein was a Copenhagen clockmaker in the 18th century. He authored an article on a clock operating under temperature variations. Four rods of four feet connected by levers vary in length, made in an alloy of tin and copper in a proportion of three parts to one. A pinion that wounds the clock links the last lever. The accuracy was such that the movement produced a combined action of 1/6 to 1 inch for a change of 5 degrees. (Smith, Ed., 1988)

KYHL, Henrik

Born in Elstykke to a father who made wheels, Henry Kyhl (1793-1866) apprenticed as a watchmaker in Copenhagen. In 1818 he opened a workshop specializing in tower clocks, where he perfected the mechanics over the years. He will also do a lot of municipal politics.


Peter Mathiesen (1696-1768) was born in Dollerup. He worked with Christian Christensen, a watchmaker, in Hillerød in 1724 when he was accepted to the Smiths’ Guild without meeting all the requirements. He established his workshop in Copenhagen on the Vimmelskaftet, which would become Denmark’s largest watch and clock company from 1729 to 1754. In 1755, he was co-founder of the Copenhagen Watchmakers Guild. He was a member of the Council from 1758 to 1760. Mathiesen’s specialty is the floor clocks and the large bell tower clocks. He will also maintain two large clocks in the royal palaces.


Jens Olson (1872-1945) was born in Ribe, Denmark, to a Weaver father. He wanted to turn him into a locksmith. He became interested in mechanical objects, especially clocks, from an early age. According to his father’s desire, Jens continued to be interested in clocks after an apprenticeship as a locksmith. He dreams of repairing the defective clock of the Danish poet J.C. Hauch. And above all, he dreams of building multiple clocks capable of giving time and planets’ rotation.
In 1897 he moved to Strasbourg, where he was fascinated by the clock of the Pink Granite Cathedral. He then went to Switzerland, where he devoted himself entirely to watchmaking. After an 18-month stay in Paris and five months in London, he returned to Denmark as Cornelius Knudsen’s establishment superintendent. At the same time, he had his workshop in the house where he settled in 1805 with his new wife.
At 50, he completes the calculations for the sidereal clock that he still dreams of building and submits them to a luminary in the field that approves them. It will take him 20 years to raise funds to build his clock. In 1943, Denmark was under German occupation, but the Copenhagen Institute of Technology provided a workshop. Unfortunately, he died in 1945 without completing it. However, his co-worker, Otto Mortensen, took ten years to complete and prepare the documentation to be published in 1957. Since its launch on December 15, 1955, it has been in function. It is considered one of the most accurate mechanical clocks in the world.


Niclaus Radeloff was in precision watchmaking in the 17th century, just before the pendulum appeared. He perfected cross-beat with long, highly flexible arms that absorbed shocks. He also proposed using balls rolling down a slope that activated a rotating cage to produce a constant force. A Radeloff clock, according to these principles, would be part of the collection of the National Museum of Copenhagen.


Olaf Roemer (1644-1710) was the first to promote epicycloidal teeth for clock wheels and cycloidal wheels for crown (transmission) wheels. Christian Huygens was aware of Radeloff’s work as he alluded to his work by talking about Rodaloff’s wheels in a presentation.

TVITSMAN, Mette Magrete (1741-1827)

Mette Magrete Tvitsman (1644-1710), daughter of blacksmith-watchmaker Christen Jensen (1703-1781) and Johan Ahlert Tvitsman’s wife, a watchmaker, was the first woman to produce clocks in Denmark. About thirty of her clocks have been preserved.

3.06.3 – Danish Clock Manufacturers

The artisanal production of Bornholm long-case clocks has grown so much that the clock manufacturers of the capital Copenhagen have complained about too many Bornholm clocks on their market. This improvised craft was extinguished in the late 19th c., with the clocks market’s arrival from the Black Forest, France, and America manufactured by the chain. Nevertheless, a few watchmakers have made their mark.

JØRGENSEN, Jørgen (or Jürgen Jürgensen)

Jørgen Jørgensen (1745-1811) was born in Copenhagen to a family of servants of Adelgadem, he learned his trade as a clockmaker from Johan Jacob Lincke, who apprentices from 1759 to 1765, and he perfected his art during his travels through Europe from 1766 to 1772. In 1768, he was at Le Locle in Switzerland and worked with J. F. Houriet. He stayed in German countries, where he even Germanized his name by writing it Jürgen Jürgensen, which later remained in the family. On his return to Denmark, he set up a watch company in 1773. In 1781, together with his partner Larpent, he made high-quality pocket watches. In 1784, he became a watchmaker at the court of King Fredrik VI.


Like his father, the senior son of Jürgen, Urban Jürgensen (1776-1830) traveled to Europe to learn watchmaking craft. In 1797, he studied precision watchmaking with Frédéric Houriet in Le Locle, Switzerland. In 1798, he introduced the cylindrical steel escapement. He also studied with Abraham-Louis Breguet and Ferdinand Berthoud during a stay in Paris. He also went to England, attracted by chronometers’ manufacturing. He studied with Arnold in London in 1799.
He then returned to Switzerland, where he married in 1801. In the same year, he introduced a two-metal thermometer. At the end of that year, he returned to Denmark, where he became an essential developer in the Danish clockmaking industry. He stayed there for two years before returning to Switzerland for two years. During this period, he received several honors and had a Swiss-born son, Jules Frederik. In 1804, he published General principles concerning timekeeping by clocks and watches.
His father died two years later, and he took over the company’s management in Denmark. In 1811, he created a company specializing in chronometers, precision, and observation instruments. He was admitted to the Danish Academy of Sciences in 1815. In 1822, he announced a double-wheeled escapement chronometer. He was made Knight of the Order of Daneborg in 1824. He experimented with several types of brass and platinum balances during his career. He proposed using gold for balancing marine chronometers, of which he manufactured several copies for the Danish Navy.


At the death of Urban in 1830, his two sons, Louis Urban and Jules, took over the business under Urban Jurgensen and Sonner’s name. Jules Frederik Jurgensen (1808-1877) was born in Geneva, Switzerland. This son of Urban took over managing his father’s business in Denmark while his older brother traveled the world like his father. Jules Frederik will eventually do the same, starting with England, which fully developed the spring balance.
From 1834 to 1836, Jules introduced precision watchmaking and improved the manufacturing quality of watches and chronometers at the Le Locle factory in the canton of Neuchâtel, where he settled and married. In 1836, the company, now Jules Jurgensen Copenhagen, was awarded the Grand Medal at the Copenhagen Industrial Exhibition. In 1852, his brother Louis Urban received two medals for the chronometer’s reinvention at the Great Exhibition in London. The rest of the story is in Switzerland, where the company still exists. It is based in Bienne, a new building reflecting Danish charms and design.


“Lauritz Knudsen – founder of the same name – left Odense in 1893 and established himself in Copenhagen as a prolific chronometer maker. Lauritz Knudsen quickly realized that electricity would radically change society and focused early on developing and producing electrical installation equipment. To this day, it’s still Lauritz Knudsen’s (also mentioned LK) primary business area. (…) Lauritz Knudsen died in 1917. He left behind a thriving company with several hundred employees. The company became a limited company, and it chose to build a new, large factory outside the city – on a cabbage field on Haraldsgade, Østerbro. In 1921, Lauritz Knudsen commissioned his new factory in Haraldsgade. Lauritz Knudsen developed into something of an institution in Danish business – and at one point, Lauritz Knudsen employed over 4000 employees. The period up to the end of the 1960s was also characterized by expansionary development in terms of product. Lauritz Knudsen produced everything electrical, from irons, radios, speakers, electric stoves, and electric watches to electricity meters, electric distribution boards, and high voltage equipment.
In 1968 Lauritz Knudsen merged with its main competitor on the Danish market, NES in Valby, and changed its name to LK-NES. The NES addition was later deleted but still hangs on in the minds of many Danes.
In 1986 Lauritz Knudsen moved outside the city once again. This time to the Industrial Park in Ballerup, where the company established its current headquarters. During the same period, Lauritz Knudsen had production in Ballerup and an assembly plant in Sorø.
In 1990 Lauritz Knudsen was taken over by the Danish NKT group, and a new international strategy was laid. With the desire to strengthen its position as one of the leading producers of electrical equipment in Europe, Lauritz Knudsen, and the Finnish Ahlstrøm Group’s electrical equipment division merged in 1995 into a 50/50% Danish-Finnish owned electrical group called Lexel A/S.
In 1999, Lexel joined the global French energy group Schneider Electric as an independent group.
In 2000, Lauritz Knudsen opened a new manufacturing in Ringsted. The assembly plant in Sorø was closed, and the most significant part of Lauritz Knudsen’s production was assembled in Ringsted. The factory is considered one of the most modern factories in Europe within its territory.
In 2003, Lexel A/S became an integral part of Schneider Electric.
In 2004, the company changed its name from LK A/S to Lauritz Knudsen A/S. Later in the year, the new company moved the entire production to Ringsted.
In 2005, Lauritz Knudsen and Schneider Electric Danmark A/S merged into one legal entity. Lauritz Knudsen became a division in Schneider Electric Danmark A/S.
In 2007, Schneider Electric and Lauritz Knudsen will be integrated into one joint company in Denmark and a joint address in Ballerup.
In 2009, Lauritz Brandes Knudsen as Lauritz Knudsen by Schneider Electric. In 2015, Schneider Electric moved to a new eco-friendly domicile at Lautrupvang 1, Ballerup.”
(Source: Vores historie: En spændende udvikling – Lauritz Knudsen (lk.D). Translate from Danish with Microsoft Translator and revised with Grammarly by Bordloub).


Scherwin & Schluter, a Copenhagen horological instruments company, was registered with the U. S. Trademark and Patent Office on February 8, 1910, with a graphic trademark represented by a big sheep.


The watch brand Siduna has been around since the late 19th century. The trademark was named after Sidon, the Phœnician city where the alphabet and decimal numbering was invented. It applied to pocket watches and chronometers made in Bienne, Switzerland, which received several medals at World’s Fairs. But it was not until 1929 that it was registered in Copenhagen, and on February 19, 1946, with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office. The company continued to import wristwatches from Switzerland with its brand, made by Titoni, Felca, Sylvan Kocher and Co. or Bernard Dubois SA, until the late 1970s. In 2016, a new company, Woodshores AB, owns the brand and distributes worldwide the Techné and Siduna brand watches assembled in a Copenhagen factory with movements imported from Switzerland and parts (boxes, dials, hands, and bracelets) designed in Denmark but manufactured elsewhere in Europe and overseas.


In 1924, Clemen Jurgensen, a watchmaker by trade from Silkeborg, made horn loudspeakers at home, sold under the Element brand through a wholesaler. In 1925, he established an assembly line in the center of Copenhagen. His brother, a cabinetmaker by trade, became a partner, and the speakers named Den Nye Danske (The New Danish). An acquaintance of Jørgensen, Peter L. Jensen, the founder of Magnavox and the Jensen Radio Manufacturing Company, suggested he take the name Telavox. The clocks appear in the Vanlese plant production, established in 1929, because the radios’ valves became increasingly rare in Denmark during the Second World War.
Production of clocks began in 1942 and lasted until 1952. More than 150,000 Telavox clocks will be produced in a dozen models and four types of movements. The peculiarity of these electric clocks was that they used a bimetallic balance, making them more accurate than many clocks on the market. When the company was sold in 1952, it was divided into two parts, radio on one side and clocks on the other, under the name Clementa. Those clocks were electric. Production continued until 1977 under the new owner. For more technical details, see the archives of a now inactive blog: Telavox Blogspot.

Next: 3.07 – Clockmaking in France

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