Program RECITE II within the project IDC-MEDICI

3rd Seminar on “Transmission of experiences on protection of Public Clocks”


IDC – MEDICI = Ingénierie Du Clocher – Maintien des Emplois De l’Ingénierie du Clocher et de ses Industries (Church Tower and Steeple Engineering – Sustained Employement for Bell Towers Engineers and related Industries)

RECITE = gions & Cités d’Europe (Regions and Cities of Europe)     


Introduction (please also refer to the report on the 2nd seminar – July 2001)

The 3rd seminar took place on 14th, 15th and 16th January 2002 under the auspices of Alain Jouffray, campanologist, director of the I.E.A.C. (Institut Européen d'Art Campanaire: European Bell Institute) and IDC-MEDICI project manager. The participants gathered at the ‘Vincent Auriol’ Training Institute in Muret (Toulouse 31) where Michel Périssas, clock restorer and a teacher in clockwork techniques there, organised the event.


With the experimental projects of RECITE, the European Commission has the following goals:

a  to promote mutual collaboration between European regions by transmission of knowledge.

b  to strengthen the social and economical structures of these regions.


In the IDC-MEDICI project of the I.E.A.C, set up by Alain Jouffray a few years ago, the RECITE II project deals with the preservation of European bell towers together with their furniture.

According to the European conditions, at least 3 other European countries must take part in this project, namely Italy, Greece and Belgium.

For the I.E.A.C, partners in these countries are notably important bell foundries and suppliers of electronic installations namely:

Paccard, bell foundry, Sevrier, France

Indelec, Douai, France

CEM, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece

Martinelli bell foundry, Agnone ,Italy

Clock-O-Matic, electronic clock & carillon installations, Holsbeek, Belgium (recently crossed off the participants’ list).



In principle, the cycle of 3 seminars had been organised for all the persons interested in the subject of public clocks namely companies mentioned above, clockmakers, restorers, teachers in clockwork techniques, collectors and the relevant institutions.

Only France was represented at the 1st seminar, but for the 2nd and 3rd seminars, invitations were also sent out to the relevant people in the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Germany in order to enable them to take part.

At the 3rd and last seminar, non-French speakers, benefited from the services of an interpreter for English and German.

It was not specified that this Dutch interpreter could also help her fellow countrymen.

As the invitations written in French were only sent out a few weeks before the dates set for the seminar, very few participants from abroad were able to make themselves available for participation in the seminar.

In the 2nd seminar, in which approximately 25 people took part, Belgium was represented by the collector Jacques Renders and the Netherlands by both Johannes Wijbenga (a teacher in clockwork techniques) and myself (a clock restorer).

The 3rd seminar saw approximately the same number of participants. Coming from abroad there were Mr. Kostas Giapitsoglou, a Greek archaeologist and manager of the Recite Program in Greece, the restorer Steven Ball from the USA and myself for the Netherlands.

The origin of the participants to this cycle demonstrates that this seminar cannot be considered as being representative of Europe.


The mechanical turret clock within the program RECITE

Projects within the RECITE II programs, set up by Alain Jouffray, deal with the safeguarding of bell towers and their furniture, like bells, carillons, clocks, dials and weather cocks.

During these 3 seminars, the turret clock was placed central to all discussions with activity focusing on how to best improve the conditions or environment in which the clocks currently reside. The attempt was made to focus the discussion around 2 topics:


Topic 1.    The drafting of European regulations regarding the norms and conditions, to which the restorations of turret clocks would have to comply, finally resulting in forming training courses for turret clock restorers. 


Topic 2.    The wish to do a very clear inventory of all public mechanical clocks that may be present in more than 70,000 communes in Europe.


Program of the 3rd and last Seminar

The first topic mentioned above was no longer on the agenda for these three days.

As far as the 2nd topic was concerned, we discussed their concept of a ‘Methodological Guide

on Monumental Bell Towers in its Entirety’ (Towers, Bells, Clocks, Weather Cocks etc), which will be sent to 70,000 European communes. This Guide is destined to make the people with responsibilities in the communes aware of what could be found in their bell towers and should spur the officials on to take care of it and implement its restoration and/or maintenance.

During the discussions focused on Turret Clocks, proposals were made to create this Guide on a CD-Rom. This would allow the identification of existing clocks (or parts of clocks) on a photographic medium.

The foreign participants insisted on the fact that the CD-Rom must be designed in several languages with, for each country, the emphasis put on its specific situation and on pictures of its traditional clocks.

The I.E.A.C. will also ask the communes to fill in the attached questionnaire about the identified clocks and to return it preferably with pictures.

The perspective of a subsidy to contribute towards the cost of the restoration could give these communes the incentive to fill in the form. To the question, whether or not there are existing European subsidy measures, there came no answer.

The idea to publish all the data on the Internet site of the I.E.A.C. was strongly questioned.

This proves the necessity to deal with a European protection first, in order to avoid access to ill-intentioned people interested by purchasing, salvaging or even thieving.

Alain Jouffray noted that the IEAC would not be in a position to deal with such a quantity of files for a really official inventory. It has therefore not been suggested what will happen to these files and who would deal with them.

Participants were asked to comment on this project once finished. Some offered their help and they will receive the CD-Rom for review when it is ready.

The goal is for the CD-Rom to be ready for despatch before the close of the Recite II project in July 2002.


Presentation of the 2nd day

Thierry Buron, in his position as Curator of Antiques and Objets d’Art of Eure et Loire, told us about a French law from 1905, which controls at regional level, the objects situated in churches. According to that law, an inventory of the religious relics of a church must be made and the objects must be kept there. He put forward the idea to have the same approach for clocks and bells in order to avoid their loss.


As representative of Clock Care Ltd., I was asked to explain and comment on the working of the Clock Care System. Controlled via computer it winds the weights of the turret clocks by the means of compressed air and also regulates the function of the clockworks itself in keeping precise time. The most important particularity of this application is the fact that the Clock Care System does not change or interfere with any aspect of the historic mechanism and by this means guarding its authenticity.


The Clock Care System is designed for all types of turret clocks and it can be used in all situations, in the original Clock Towers as well as freely in the confined space of an exhibition. The questions asked enabled me to go into the details of its working.


Michel Bourreau was also asked to present his propulsion system for turret clocks controlled by computer.

With this system the motor weights are put aside. The escape wheel is no longer driven by a weight via the gear train, but conversely the escape wheel drives the gear train by an electrical step motor. Similarly, the fly of the striking part is no longer driven by a weight via the gear train but the fly drives the gear train by a step motor.

The position and the way of assembling of the electrical step motor depends on the way each clock is individually constructed. In this manner Michel Bourreau aims for the reduction of wear of the gear train and enables the clocks to function in situations where they should not work ordinarily.


Alain Jouffray informed us that the I.E.A.C. would purchase both systems for turret clocks that will then be exhibited at the Institute in July 2002. These will show different methods of turret clock automation allowing them to carry on working without having to be wound or adjusted.


To conclude, we spent the rest of the day amongst some interesting turret clocks exhibited on the premises of the ‘Vincent Auriol’ Institute.

In moments like these, clocks themselves are the centre of interest of the discussions and speculations concerning their past with the implementation of repairs and if any modifications are appropriate. Enthusiastic ideas then emerge between clock friends and appointments were made for contacts in the future.


Pilot Project

This time, the program did not comprise any excursion but on 15th January we had the possibility to visit a pilot project carried out in Villeneuve Tolosane.

Filled with enthusiasm after the recommendations of Alain Jouffray, we were all the more disappointed by the final result of this Pilot Project.

The church and its steeple have been entirely renovated and fitted partially with new bells and all electronic equipment.

The old turret clock is restored and located in a room of the town hall amongst the church’s relics and other religious artefacts. It is not, however, in a working order and obviously not in its original steeple. Clock-o-Matic’s electronic installation shows the time outside with electrically striking the hours, sounding bells for melodies or ring these for services.


However, after climbing to the top of the steeple, we noticed that several bells could not work for they had been installed on a temporary base with inadequate materials. In other places, the newly installed and incorrectly fitted mechanism was already broken.

In the discussion, which took place after the visit, it was not clearly explained how such a rough and ready result could have happened after so much planning and prior advice.

From what I understand, the I.E.A.C.’s main role is only advisory.

The commune, as owner of the belfry, financed most of the project with the support of the inhabitants and local sponsors from the industrial and private sectors. The commune was therefore the decision-maker concerning ‘restorers’ and it had the possibility to take the advice into account or not.

This pilot project, as an example for the future of bell towers in Europe, make us realise that long, still, is the way to a positive influence on the quality of the final result.



The Recite II Program will come to a close in July 2002 and the CD-Rom must be despatched to the 70,000 European communes.

Considering the scale of the work still to be done and releasing it in different languages, I doubt the final goal will be achieved within this deadline.

I profoundly regret that this Seminar is the last one of this Cycle. We, participants, will no longer be able to contribute to the final completion of this Guide.

As the Guide is destined to all European communes, a lot more European countries should have been involved in this project in order to be able to talk of a European project.

In various European countries, similar initiatives have been developed at national level. The ones brought to my knowledge are as follows:


-         in the Netherlands: de Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg en de Stichting tot Behoud van het Torenuurwerk (Protection and Conservation of National Heritage and the Foundation for the Conservation of Turret Clocks.)

-         in England: Council for the Care of Churches and the Antiquarian Horological Society,

-         in Germany: the Deutsches Zentrum für Denkmalpflege and de Fachkreis Turmuhren der Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie. (German Centre for the Conservation of National Heritage and the Clock Tower Trade of the German Society of Chronometry)

-         in Poland: the “Clock Museum”


In several other countries the preoccupation for the safeguard and inventory of steeples and their turret clocks exist. This is translated by an ever more important awareness by the relevant institutions and the public.

An extension of the Recite II Program prolonging this Cycle by several seminars is desirable together with the increase of participating countries.

During this seminar the CD-Rom mentioned can be completed then together with European representatives with adaptations from material specific to their countries.

It is a proven fact that such a Guide, if published incompletely will hardly be carried out a second time.

If the I.E.A.C’s initiative (protection of clock towers in Europe) could not be pursued within Recite II, another means must be set up for this initiative, for it is of great interest.

It could take place, if need be elsewhere in Europe, as a symposium for people of the trade, allied professionals, organizations and people interested in turret clocks all over Europe.

An European panel of this kind would give the opportunity to compare and adapt the mutual results of national initiatives.


There is enough work to do in this field, for irreplaceable turret clocks still remain threatened by amateurism, lack of interest and doubtful commercial motivations.



Melgert  Spaander      Clock restorer

Spittaalstraat 10

7201 ED  Zutphen            

Telephone:  +31 (0)575-513724

Fax:            +31 (0)575-511483