The Poor and Rich Man’s Clock – Nu Elck Syn Sin and the Dutch Zaandam Clock (#021)

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20130908 - C002 - Dutch Warmink Zaanse Clock 08 The Dutch Zaandam clock is arguably one of the most iconic and symbolic horological creations ever made.  It is clearly Dutch, carries clear historical symbolism and is one of the most pervasive reproduction clocks found all over the world.

It resonates the Dutch expereince during the post European Protestant Reformation period in the late 1500s to early 1600s. The Mennonite church emerged during this period in North Holland.  In the Zaan region these reformed Christian believers weaved their clock and woodworking skills with their faith.

The Zaan region, near Amsterdam, became an industrial area in the 1700s, inviting the establishment of this unique style of clock making.  Mennonite freedom of religion characterized this climate, which influenced the maxim typically found on this style clock,

“Nu Elck Syn Sin” – “To each his own”

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Nu Elck Syn Sin is Old Dutch, which is no longer in use and not recognizable in the modern Dutch language. However, it is believed to be in reference to the Mennonite desire for freedom of religion and to practice their version of a “reformed’ faith in peace amongst other Reformation movements.  The Mennonites were persecuted during this time.

Click here to see examples of Zaandam (Zaanse) Clocks

Shortly after Christiaan Huygens (1656) created the first pendulum clock in Holland, Zaan clockmakers adapted this innovation in the Zaan region in 1670.

Map - The Netherlands b

Zaandam Clocks originate from the Zaan Region of North Holland

What is the proper name for this Dutch clock?  They are more typically known as Dutch Zaandam Clocks.  However, this title is not entirely correct.  Zaandam is the main municipality (capital) of this region.  The clock was produced throughout the Zaan River region of North Holland.  For this reason the proper name for this clock is the Dutch Zaanse Clock: “of the Zaan River.”   

The first Zaandam clocks were less ornate and made for Mennonite churches.  These were known as “Poor Man’s Clocks.”


Poor Man’s Clock (ca 1688), One of the oldest known clocks of the Zaan region; from a Mennonite Orphanage of Koog Zaandijk Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands

They were not like the higher quality Hague Clocks of the same period, but were well made.  For this reason, the Mennonite craftsmen began producing a more ornate version of the Zaanse clock for sale in Amsterdam and larger Dutch cities.  A “Rich Man’s Clock” was designed for commercial export out of the Zaan region.  This ornate, walnut veneered, brass and velveted decorated clock is what is most famously recognized as a Zaadam or Zaanse Clock.  In it clearly emerges many of the characteristics of its Mennonite orgins.

Rich Man’s Clock (ca 1740),  Jan Koogies Worerveer An original example characteristic for the late period of Zaanse clock production in Holland.  Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands

Rich Man’s Clock (ca 1740),
Jan Koogies Worerveer
An original example characteristic for the late period of Zaanse clock production in Holland.
Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands

The “Rich Man’s Clock” design was mass produced in the early to mid 1900’s.  This became the signature style for the  Warmink Uhren clock company.

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Reproduction Zaanse Clock (ca 1960), Warmink Uhren Warmink produced clocks from 1925-1990 in Almalo, the Netherlands

The typical center piece is the brass ornamentations.  A crown displays the Mennonite theological virtues of Faith, Charity and Hope.  Lions and a coat of arms represent Amsterdam, Alkmaar or Holland.  These clocks were designed and made for people in these North Holland metro areas.  A Horseman pendulum represents service to the king.

Many think that the top finial is of Jesus carrying the world or of Hercules, but it is of Atlas of Greek Mythology.  The Atlas symbolizes Amsterdam as a city of trade. He carries a celestial globe with all the stars, constellations and planets.  At the time, Amsterdam considered itself as the most important city in the world.  This same Atlas is found on display at the royal palace in Dam square in Amsterdam.

Although much of the symbolism found on the Rich Man’s version of the Zaanse clock seems to counter the Mennonite faith and desire to live apart, it’s primary purpose was for sale to well off Dutch in Amsterdam and Alkmaar.

Zaanse Clock RopeHow can you distinguish an original – of the Period – Zaanse clock?  Originals did not use chains to power the clock.  They used weaved rope or twine.  Also, originals did not use mechanisms with two vertical front and back plates.  They used a “bird-cage” style mechanism with four vertical pillars.

Indeed, the Dutch Zaandam clock is a wonderful clock to centerpiece in any collection, if not for it’s asthetic beauty, then for its historical value for conversation.

Post021 Polishing Brass C037Restore the luster and shine in your clock’s Brass Weights and Ornaments.  I’ve tried several commercial and homemade products. Semichrome provides the best results. Apply it with a soft polishing cloth or paper towels. Clean the the black dirty build up with Formula 409.

Find out more info on the Dutch Zandaam clock at these sites:

Nu Elck Syn Sin: Zaans Clocks from the 17th and 18th Century, by Prof C.A. Grimbergen
A great article on the Dutch Zaandam Clock

The Dutch Connection: A Short History of the Dutch Clock, by Pier van Leeuven
A great article on Dutch Clocks in general

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A crown displays the Mennonite theological virtues of Faith, Charity and Hope

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The Atlas symbolizes Amsterdam as a city of trade and the most important city in the world.

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Lions and a coat of arms represent Amsterdam or Holland.

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Brass cherubs, hands, turned columns and a silvers dial are mounted on a black velvet surface.

021 Pendulum

Pendulum Horseman representing service to the king.

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Brass weights in the shape of pears.

021 - Atlas in Blue Amsterdam

Atlas in the Blue. Artus Quellinus’s Classicist Sculpture, Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Cast 1619-1680.

R005 Profile - Zandaam Clock - ThumbnailDownload a Free profile on the Dutch Zaandam Clock.
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46 Responses to The Poor and Rich Man’s Clock – Nu Elck Syn Sin and the Dutch Zaandam Clock (#021)

  1. Ced Marsh July 13, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

    G’day G.
    I have a Schippertje pendulum moon phase clock which ticks over just fine but unfortunately stops at 10 minutes to the hour (any hour). I have gone so far as to remove the minute hand to see if it might be a hands-touching problem but -same thing.
    Had a look at the cog wheels to see if there might be a little dirt there but all looks clean.
    Any ideas?

    • G.Palos July 13, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

      G’day Ced! Hard to tell. But it seems you completed a reasonable triage.
      To go further, I’d remove the mechanism and place it in a test stand to observe the behavior. This way you may be able to pin point the root cause.
      A closer examination of the wheels and pinions may also be needed to find defects. Since it consistently stops at a min increment it might be a problem with the Center Wheel, its arbor or the Canon Pinon the minute hand is attached to.
      In any event it may require a complete disassembly, cleaning to find the root cause in a defected part.

  2. Daniel June 7, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    I have a reproduction Zaanse clock hanging on my wall and being of Dutch birth but having lived in Australia most of my life had always wondered about the symbolism of the clock. The only pieces I was sure of was that the figure holding the globe was Atlas and the meaning of “Nu elck syn sin.” Had no idea that the Mennonites were behind this timepiece. (By the way, the phrase “nu elck syn sin” is the same in modern Dutch, just the spelling has changed. Modern Dutch spells it “nu elk zijn zin”.)

    • G.Palos July 13, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      Daniel, thank you for the great insight on the term.

  3. Gunnar Thorsen February 15, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    Hello! Your article on Zaandam clocks is wonderful, thank you. I was especially interested in the symbolism found on these clocks, and have a question regarding one of them. You say that the horseman pendulum represents service to the king. Rule in the Netherlands by a Spanish/Hapsburg king was ended in the southern provinces in1648, and in the north before that. The Dutch didn’t have a king again until the monarchy was restored in1815. As many original Zaandam clocks with horseman pendulums were made in the period when the Dutch had no king, how can this be the symbolism of this pendulum?

    • G.Palos May 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

      Gunnar, Thank you for the insight! This information with provide by the curator (Pier Van Leeuween) of the Museum of the Dutch Clock in Zaanse Schans. He attributed the design as a sort of marketing by the Mennonites clockmakers to appeal to rich buyers in Amsterdam and Alkmaar during the late 1500s and Early 1600s. This seems to be consistent to the Period of William I and the Orange-Nassau family. It may be even more related to the Dutch Revolt during that period. This is certainly not definitive, but it seems plausible. I haven’t been able to find another understanding. Thank you again,please comment further if you think of more clarity on this.

  4. Dianne January 3, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    I have inherited a poor mans clock but cant get it to stay running. Dont know when the last time was that it ran. Is there a user manual on line?

    • G.Palos January 17, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      Dianne, There are no specific “users manuals” for these clocks online. Those on paper are hard to find. Your best bet is to go through some general trouble shooting through info found on sites like (

      If your online help aids don’t work, your best avenue is to find a local clock repair shop in your area.

      There are other avenues, but start with this to see if it gets your clock to come alive again.

      • Tony Edwards April 25, 2016 at 3:36 am #

        Hello, I have a Zaanse wall clock with quartz pendulum chime movement. The clock does not work. Do you know where I can buy a replacement movement for the clock?

  5. beverly November 26, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I just bought a clock because it was beautiful right now it does not work but I am buying a few pieces that it was missing .I think I might have made a mistake tho my clock is a rich mans clock one of the things I thought that was missing because of seening pictures was the pendulum so now I have purchased one but I cannot see where it would go can you help me out I copied this picture from this site because it is the same clock that I purchased if you can help me out on either a picture where the pendulum goes or maybe I am still missing a piece for it thanks

    • G.Palos November 26, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

      Beverly, I’m happy to help. It would be best to send pictures to this email: to provide you more precise help.
      The care you need when replacing parts for these Zaanse clocks is that many parts are specific to a size and style of the mechanism and case. The clocks have many sizes and mechanics which would call for very specific parts. Most can be found. Most helpful are pictures from the back of case and of the mechanism.

  6. Donna October 27, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    I just inherited a reproduction Zaanse clock. What decade would it be from if it has a delft blue tile behind the clock face and also a delft tile with a windmill on it behind the swinging pendulum?

    • Donna October 27, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

      …and also… it chimes once on the half hour as it should, but it also only chimes once every hour. Just one “ding” on all the o’clocks. How can I make it do the right number of ‘dings’ for the different hours?

      • G.Palos October 28, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

        Donna, there could be several reasons this occurs…mostly related to a problem with the “strike train,” which is the part of the mechanism that moves the clock to strike the bell.
        The clock would have to be examined to see the fault. Pictures or a video of the mechanism and strike train is helpful. But, to see the strike train in action, the mechanism would have to be removed and placed on a test stand.
        You can try to take a video through the side glass, but the part of the machismo that needs to be looked at is directly behind the Clock face and hidden, if not removed from the case.
        If you want to try you can send me pictures or video to:

    • G.Palos October 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

      Donna, the Zaanse Clocks with the Delft tiles are generally found on the Warmink clocks of this style from the 1960-80s. They were very popular due the uniqueness of the Delft craft. But they are a significant separation from the traditional Zansee style – a touristy marriage of North Holland clock making with Dutch Pottery from North Holland. But, they seem to be very collectable still and popular. I’ve seen them drive the price higher by as much as 25-30% more than a normal Warmink. Especially if one is in good condition.

  7. Donald October 1, 2015 at 8:59 am #

    I absolutely love this website and all the information. !!!! I have learned a lot about my Zaandam wall clock. I love the very detailed information and the great pictures.!!!! Couldn`t wait to down load some of the much needed information.Thank you so much for emailing me back in regards to my question. I will be getting back to you. Donald

  8. Donald Coleman sr September 29, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    Sir I have a Zaandam wall clock. We recently moved to Texas, I forgot how I locked the chains so we could move. My son and my wife hung up the clock and it will not tic toc at the pendulum while hanging on the wall. There are two brass screws right in back of the chains. Are they for releasing the chain drives. Both chains are locked and will not ratchet. Can you advise what is locking the ratchets. Thank you Don Coleman Sr.

    • G.Palos October 1, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

      Glad I can help!

  9. Jan Van Dijk September 26, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    I have just inherited our family Zaanse Clock and it’s in great condition. Great write-up, thanks!

  10. Joan Gibbons September 1, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    thank you so very much…much appreciated!

  11. Joan Gibbons August 31, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    I love your comments. I have two of the Zaandam clocks. The bigger one I have worked well until I pulled the weights to wind it. and the pulleys were free flowing it didn’t do the clicking to wind it. My brother-in-laws wife is from Holland and they bought it for me and he said there is a set screw on the pulley but he can’t work with it , he has bone cancer and can’t lift his arms. was wondering if you have any suggestions, or how I might be able to reach them, unless something else is wrong…..I have the two chains tied together in the gears. Greatly appreciated in advance. Thanks

    • G.Palos August 31, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

      Hello Joan, by your description that when you pull on the chain it free flows and no clicking sound seems to point to a problem with the Ratchet (Chain) Wheel, which where the chain rests and controlled. The mechanism would need to be completely removed and serviced. Unless you know how to do this, it would be best to take it to a clock repair shop. Hopefully I understood your problem.

  12. Lise June 8, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Hi, I have the clock that looks like the poor and rich man’s clock with chains. The face has turn a dirty brown after I used Brasso cleaner. It was a silver colour before, could you recommend something to bring back the silver colour or should I just keep using Brasso. Would I need to purchase a new face for it and if so could you direct me to a web site where I would find one.

    • G.Palos June 8, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      I think you are referring to the “Chapter Ring” with the number markers for the time? If so, I usually avoid using a polish on this since it is normally not made of brass and possibly made of aluminum or a silver’d metal. For this it is best to just use a glass cleaner or Formula 409 to clean it.
      The Brasso my have caused the Aluminum coating to react and oxidize. Try cleaning it with Formula 409 incase the brown is simply a grime mixture that should come off with a cleaner.
      It is hard to say with seeing the problem.

  13. Ulrike June 1, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    We have just purchased the Zaanse Clock we have it ticking but the ringers time is out by three hours, how can we fix this? and I need to give it a good cleaning what should I use?
    Any suggestions to make this work?

    • G.Palos June 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      Getting it ticking and alive again is a great start! It also sounds the hammer is striking the bell, but the hour (number of strikes) is off by 3 hours. This can easily be solved by just moving the hour hand to the correct hour.
      For example, If the hour hand is at 12 and the clock strikes 3 times, after the striking is complete, advance the hour hand to the 3. If the time is actually 12, then just stop the clock for three hours and restarted the clock again at 3 to get it to the correct time.
      If the Strike is 3 hours behind (the hour hand is on 12 and it strikes 9 times); do the same thing advancing the hour hand to the nine and waiting 9 hours to start the clock.
      The easiest way to clean the clock is:
      For the walnut wood use a Automotive Hand Cleaner without Pumice (I like DL Permatex Hand Cleaner). This cleaner is very effective to clean years of dirt and grime build up. You can then rejuvenate the wood with any Oil with lemon and Beeswax, or a good wood polish like Briwax.
      For the Brass, clean it with soap and water. Polishing aged brass is hard work, but you can use brass polish like “Simichrome” or “Antiquax.” Do not use this for the clock mechanism.
      For the clock mechanism, it is easiest to purchase a premixed solution like “Timekeepers” sold by; or you can make your own like a good one offered by Steve Nelson at
      The Black Felt is hard to clean and restore. If it is not badly worn or faded, just brush out the dirt and clean it with a damp cloth. You can purchase new felt on eBay by searching on “Dutch Clocks.”
      I hope you find this useful. Write back if you need more assistance. Best of wishes!

  14. sandra March 8, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    I have found of these clocks, how would I determine the price on these clocks?

  15. Richard davis March 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Hi, I am looking for spare parts for my Zaanse Dutch clock, both of the click springs have broken off, Where might I get replacements from. Thanks in advance, richard

  16. Vivienne Ward January 28, 2015 at 12:02 am #

    I have recently moved and ny Zaanse clock was stopped and off the wall for approximately two weeks. Unfortunately I have been unable to get it going again even though I manually kept the Horseman moving for more than 5 minutes. Can you give me any suggestions please ? I would be most grateful.


    Vivienne (Australia)

    • G.Palos March 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

      Several things could be causing this;
      Try first moving the bottom of the clock (changing the angle it hangs on the wall) to to see if it is off beat. Little adjustments to the right or left may put the clock back into beat. start the pendulum each time until you have a steady tic-toc sound and runs without stopping.
      If this doesn’t work, it most likely needs to be serviced; cleaned, repaired if needed, and oiled. This is best left to a clock repair shop. But is not a difficult task if you want to learn since the mechanisms used in these Warmink Zaanse clocks are simple to work on.
      Hope this helps.

  17. Terry January 23, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I have a zaanse clock ,,complete ,,can someone tell me what they are worth ?Thanks

    • G.Palos June 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

      Zaanse clock value depends on the condition, the period (age), model and market it’s sold in. So, in the US, a working complete medium size (most prevalent) circa 1970 reproduction Warmink Clock would be retail $150-$200 today. 19th century reproductions are worth much more.

  18. frank lobody January 21, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    I was wondering,does anyone know how to set the chime to match the hour? My clock chimes 12 times at 8:30 pm?

    • eppie st john June 30, 2015 at 11:33 am #

      Take off the chime the clock to 12:00 replace the chime weight . hope it works. it does for me.

    • G.Palos June 30, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      Added to what Eppie suggest…you’ll also need to remove the minute hand completely from the Arbor (pull it out by unscrewing the nut) then put it back in pointing at the 12. Good luck!

  19. Patty December 23, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    There are enough websites that sell a pendulum for you Dutch clock. However, you have to know the length of it. Then it will be no problem to get one. Good luck!

    • Fred Roberts April 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

      I have a reproduction clock without a pendulum. How do I determine the size and do you have any for sale?

  20. Murray December 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I have a mini Zaanse that needs a pendulum and horseman. Any idea where I can get this?

  21. Greg November 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Hi there,

    Really great article, now i’m actually understand the parts of the clock.
    I’ve recently bought one of these clocks, the Warmink reproduction one. Paid exactly 35 in the local kringloop for it and have every parts, working as it should :) The wood faces are still beautiful, but the metal parts are not so shiny anymore. Not even sure about what kind of metal are the ornaments made of, but for the firstlook i would say brass. Is there any general recommendations how could i clean it?
    Unfortunately i don’t know any good watchmaker, the young ones knows only replacing a quartz.


    • G.Palos November 6, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      A great price for a complete Zaanse clock! Congratulations. I found many of them in the RD4 stores in Linburg…they are gold mines for these clocks.
      The Warmink company used Brass ornamentations on the clock. So, the best thing you can use is a brass cleaner you can find in a Gamma or hardware store. For the wood and brass a hand cleaner (with no pumice) works well to clean the old grime and dirt. The clock mechanism will need more specialized care from a clockmaker to clean. It will need a proper cleaning and oiling. Depending where you live, it would be best to ask around for a old or young clockmaker.

  22. G.Palos October 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Shirley, Since your clock has a chain it is most likely a reproduction Warmink clock. As a reproduction, you should be able to reset the chain by laying the clock face down (on a towel), opening the back panel and working the chain using tweezers to sit back in the first wheel of the train. You just have to be careful when bringing it back up as it easily may come off the teeth of the first wheel.
    If its been in storage for a long time, it should be serviced (cleaned and oiled) by a local clockmaker. Suggestion is to check your local phone directories for a “clockmaker”.
    These reproductions do not have significant retail value, so insurance may not be needed. The value comes from the family significance, which is normally not considered for insurance needs.
    Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to respond if you have any follow-up questions or clarifications.

    • Anonymous September 16, 2015 at 10:26 pm #


    • SHARONROSE ZANE NEU September 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm #


  23. Nieuwpoort, Shirley October 13, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    I am in the position of having inherited one of your clocks. The weight on the chimes side has come free and so now I need to get the chain and the timing connected. The chain is completely free of the clock and mechanism and so I will need to re fit it into the clock. Is this something I can do or can you please recommend a jeweller in Western Australia. This is a much loved item from my family history and I would like to have an evaluation for insurance reasons. Are you able to help me? I would appreciate your earliest reply as I wish to get this item included in my insurance as soon as I can.

    I appreciate your time spent with my request and hope to hear from you soon


    Shirley Nieuwpoort