As a child, Florian Schlumpf was inspired by his great-grandfather, Johann Melchior Schlumpf, a skilled carpenter who also worked in a range of fields including hydraulics and electricity from a mechanical workshop in the small Swiss village of Steinhausen. Using his inventive talents, he powered the transmission belts in his workshop by the river flowing past his house and also invented a hydraulic ram, a type of self-driven water pump.
One hundred years later, Schlumpf’s fascination with mechanical engineering grew stronger and stronger, eventually developing into a promising future shaped by his innovative great-grandfather. His career path began when he graduated from Lucerne’s art school in 1980 as a sculptor. After travelling the world for two years on a self-made motorcycle, he decided to further his education in the field of mechanics and attended Zentralschweizer Technikum in Lucerne, earning a diploma in mechanical engineering in 1988.
Following a short stint as an engineer at a big paper mill, Schlumpf decided to start his own workshop developing and building custom gearboxes for bicycles and hydraulic pumps, then in 1988 he founded Schlumpf Innovations.
“Every innovative product I developed in my life arose from a problem for which no solution existed,” Schlumpf explains. One innovation was derived from a personal experience. “When I climbed a steep mountain pass with my old bicycle and was forced to dismount because there were no gears low enough for pedalling all the way, I suddenly had the idea for the ‘mountain drive’ bottom-bracket gearing system.”
Ten years later, Schlumpf developed a hub for unicycles which is in use by the world’s top unicyclists in races to reach speeds of 40 km/h and more, as well as unicycles for daily commuting. In 2011, the patents and production rights of the bicycle gearing system were acquired by the German company Haberstock Mobility, opening the door to new opportunities for Schlumpf Innovations and allowing Schlumpf to explore his interest in clocks and precision mechanisms resulting in the release of the TM1, a re-imagined classic mechanical clock. The TM1 was introduced at Baselworld in 2014 as a purely artistic experience with no indication for time.
In the same year, Schlumpf worked with the Russian Pedrodvorets Watch Factory to develop and build a monumental clock with a twelve-meter-long pendulum and cogwheels up to four meters in diameter for the traditional Moscow Detski Mir Warenhaus. This project unveiled many new technologies, one of them being the orbital drive, which allows the entire clockwork to move steadily, with only the anchor wheel stopping intermittently so as to preserve the kinetic energy of the movement.
Schlumpf installed a Four-Quadrant Time Machine at Baselworld 2015, which stood in the inner courtyard of the famous watch and clock fair, another monumental installation, five meters tall and big enough to walk through, inviting the visitor to listen to the magical sound of four identical but non-synchronous Time Machines. The visitor could also watch the movement of 24 wheels rotating steadily, with only the anchor wheels being stopped and released by the pendulum.