Ruhla Wackelaugen (Waggle eyes)
Ruhla made a range of children’s “waggle eyes” (or “wackelaugen” in German) watches. Below is one of the GDR’s most iconic images reflected in this children’s Ruhla watch, that of the Sandmann. The movement, the UMF 24-26 is based on the UMF Ruhla 24 calibre with a variation, an elongated armature shaft, to allow the moving eyes beneath the dial.
The watches were made with various designs and have become increasingly popular for collectors. There are other designs with GDR children’s characters such as “Max und Moritz” (see below) and they were produced under several different brand names used by Ruhla. In the USSR, Luch also made children’s watches with cartoon characters from Soviet children’s television but these were not animated like the Ruhla watches.
The original privately owned company, Gebrüder Thiel, that was nationalised by the communist regime after the Second World War, made pocket watches with moving images on the dial towards the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century. Gebrüder Thiel also made Mickey Mouse watches with moving parts for Disney in the 1930s for supply to the UK. These watches were probably the original inspiration for the Wackelaugen watches for children.
Images of the UMF 24-26 movement showing the moving eyes mechanism can be found here