There can be no better occupation that sawing wood beside the Zaan’.

The timber sawing industry in the Zaan region reached its optimum during the 17th century. Following the patenting of crankshaft applications in 1592 (Cornelis Corneliszoon of Uitgeest), by 1700 there were about 180 timber mills (and more than 400 hundred other mills) in the Zaan region. Due to the fact that there were no guilds in the Zaan region, workers from other areas were able to establish themselves in the region. This was one of the reasons why the Zaan region became the first industrial area in Europe and the industrial area for nearby Amsterdam which had increased its development during the golden age. Freedom of religion fitted into this commercial climate. The maxim Nu Elck Syn Sin (‘to each his own’) characterized the Mennonite outlook in this region.

The Origin of Zaan Clocks
Shortly after the introduction of the pendulum by Christiaan Huygens (1656), a regional pendulum clock was introduced in the Zaan region. The production of these clocks dated from around 1670 to 1730. Zaan clocks were probably derived from the West Frisian wall clock. This clock stood on four legs, the so-called stool, whereas the Zaan clock stood on two brackets which are attached to the wallboard.

Poor Man’s Clocks
The poor man’s clocks were probably produced for local use and were generally not signed. They were made of untreated oak wood and painted in the style of local traditional furniture. They were fitted with one hand and the weights were usually cylindrical in form.

10. Poor man’s clock.
(click on image to enlarge)

Few examples have survived and the value of those that have survived has therefore become relatively high. A few clocks which were specially made for Mennonite churches are known. These have an extra option whereby the clock can be seen not only from the church but also from the adjacent vestry.

Rich Man’s Clocks
Rich man’s clocks were usually made from oak with an ebony, rosewood or walnut veneer. Brass was used abundantly both in the case and for the ornaments. The chapter ring was made of silver-plated brass and attached to the velvet covered dial. Weights were generally pear-shaped.

10a. Rich man’s clock.
(click on image to enlarge)

This type of Zaan clock was produced for sale outside the Zaan region. It is known that many were rented as alarm clocks. The rich man’s clock was used as model for the mass-produced Zaan style clock found in many a Dutch living room since the fifties.

Long case Clocks
Names of various Zaan clockmakers appeared on so-called long case clocks from the second half of the 18th century onwards. This luxury type of long case clock was so called because the one meter long second pendulum with anchor escapement and the weights were both placed in the foot of the clock. The case was usually made of oak veneered with walnut or mahogany wood. The hood was usually decorated with ornamental open fretwork similar to Amsterdam examples. Zaan long case clocks differed from others of the same period as they were signed whereas other long case clocks were usually sold as half-finished products.
Some of the few Zaan long case clockmakers were:

 Maker  Place
Cornelis van Rossen
Pieter Jans de Vries
Jan de Vrie
Reijn de Jong
Dirk Tijhuizen
Melsert van der Meer
Jan Koogies
Op de Koog


  1. Thank you for the article. I got one of these clocks and never espected to be so well informed about it. Thanks again.

  2. i have one of these clocks that need to be restored i have always thought it was beautiful but knowing these little extra things just made me love it more.

Why not leave a comment, if you can hardly resist the urge to do so?