New design approaches
The outstanding design may have been inspired by 17th-century French clocks that indicated the time with two framed numeral discs or wheels. It is also possible that the digital-display stage clock of the Scala in Milan has been the role model. For his Five-Minute Clock, Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes took an innovative approach with two fabric-lined drums with printed numerals, driven by a wheel train behind a frame with two windows. The clock indicated the hours with Roman numerals I to XII and the minutes with Arabic numerals from 5 to 55 with a blank minute aperture at the top of the hour. When we designed the outsize date after the refoundation in 1990, we adopted this concept for the display, the left-hand aperture also remained blank from the first to the ninth day of the month.
Gutkaes designed and built the clock together with his employees, including his partner and later son-in-law, Ferdinand Adolph Lange. The reason why they implemented the clock with numeral drums is not known, but the most plausible explanation is that the display had to be legible all the way to the rear rows of seats. The drums that had a diameter of about 160 centimetres could accommodate numerals that were roughly 40 centimetres high. The space in the proscenium above the stage was not sufficient for a similarly easy-to-read analogue display.