The manufacture of clocks and watches is perhaps the most celebrated of Switzerland’s industries. One of the best-known manufacturers is Beyer Chronometrie whose founder was Matthäus Beyer who began to make clocks in the German town of Donaueschingen around 1800. In 1822 his grandson Stefan Beyer moved to the Canton of Zurich. The company opened its first shop in Zurich in 1860, and in 1877 moved to premises in Bahnhofstrasse, the city’s most fashionable shopping district, where they still remain, although not in the same building.
The museum is on the ground floor of the company store. Its core is a collection acquired by Theodore Beyer. It includes a comprehensive range of non-mechanical means of measuring time, including shadow sticks, sun dials and hour glasses. Its principal strength is its many clocks from the late Gothic and Renaissance periods. One outstanding example is an automaton clock made about 1640 with a lion and a dog. The eyes of both animals move with the beat of the movement. There are several marine chronometers including examples by the Swiss pioneer Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807). The collection also includes examples of work by the most eminent contemporary makers of clocks and watches, as well as a comprehensive selection of timepieces made by the Beyer company and others working in the Canton of Zurich.