The astronomical clock is a unique exhibit from Goethe’s youth. Johann Wolfgang became acquainted with it on his visits to the house of court councillor Wilhelm Friedrich Hüsgen, where he was given writing instruction together with Hüsgen’s son. The court councillor had the clock’s case and movement built in 1746 based on his own design.
The “wonderous clock” made a lasting impression on Goethe, for it did not only tell the hour: Brass rings encircling the very top show the day of the week, the month, and the year. Below these, the time can be seen on the clockface in the middle, on the right the progression of the phases of the moon, and on the left the sun’s position within the twelve signs of the zodiac. At the very bottom there is a bear-tamer with a dancing bear, which falls on its back six hours before the clock will stop to indicate that the clock needs to be wound.
He had a clock made to his specifications which was a marvel, at least for those times, since it not only indicated the hours and days, but also the movements of the sun and moon. Regularly every Sunday morning at ten he would wind it himself, which he most certainly could do, since he never attended church.
Goethe: From My Life. Poetry and Truth, part 1 , book 4