Kienzle World Time Clock (Weltzeituhr) – more about this fascinating clock

Occasionally, I receive private email from readers.

One reader asked why I dated the clock to 1950

I received a couple such emails regarding my Kienzle World Time clock and it prompted me to dig a little deeper into the origin of this unique clock.

The clock is substantial, measuring 13 and 3/4″ high, 10″ wide  2 and 1/2″ deep. It is certainly a singular work of elegance, style and a genuine stand-out in any room.

Kienzle World Time clock
Vintage single train Kienzle World Time desk clock

One reader asked why I dated the clock to 1950.

I referred the reader to this article. The article suggested that the mechanical version of the World Time was introduced the late thirties. It had a healthy production run and there were several variations. Mine was “Made in Germany” (West Germany was created in 1949) and might have been manufactured on or before 1949 which would not have prevented it from selling in the 50s. For most of the ones advertised on Ebay, 1950 appears to be the most commonly cited year of manufacture though there are no specific markings regarding date of manufacture on my clock.

It was designed in 1939 and at least one clock was made that year

However, here is some additional information which suggests that although it was designed in 1939 at least one clock was made that year though it did not go into full production until much later.

Hitler's clock
Hitler’s clock

A birthday present for an infamous leader of Germany

The first Kienzle World Time clock was presented to Adolf Hitler on his 50th birthday in 1939 by the government of Würthemberg. The classical design with the world map in the “Mercator” (cylindrical map projection) style and the moving narrow scale with the time in the denoted cities came from the, at that time, Heinrich Johannes Möller, a famous designer who was working for Kienzle from 1931 onward til 1970. Möller was hired at age 27 and became Kienzle’s principle designer. The original clock had a bulky “foot” or base and was decorated with swastika patterns on the edge.  After the war, the decoration was altered, the base became smaller but the general layout of the dial was preserved through all permutations of the clock, from the early mechanical versions to the electro-mechanical version and finally the quartz movements in the 80s. A curious feature of the clock is that it shows Germany to be the centre of the world.

Time sequencer
Kienzle 24 hour time sequencer
Back of Kienzle clock
Back of Kienzle clock showing winder and speed adjustment

The World Time clock turned out to be a long standing model and was available to purchase up until the 1996 Kienzle bankruptcy. During the period that the World Time Clock was introduced (1939) Kienzle had more than 6500 employees and a production rate of 5 million clocks.

Through the later 50s and 60s Kienzle clocks lost their stylistic prominence and followed then current (international) stylistic influences but Heinrich Johannes Möller was a significant influence not only on the design of Kienzle clocks but in the clock world in general.


14 thoughts on “Kienzle World Time Clock (Weltzeituhr) – more about this fascinating clock

  1. One way to narrow down date of one of these clocks is to look at the names of the cities. For example, mine has Jakarta, Indonesia as ‘Batavia’ which was the name given by the Dutch who ruled until the Japanese took over in WWII. The name was officially changed Dec. 27, 1949.

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  2. I got to thinking and I suspect that further sleuthing may be in order. If you go to the Wikipedia article on ‘Batavia’, you’ll see that the name was changed when the Japanese took over in 1942. It also says that the name change from ‘Batavia’ to ‘Djakarta’ was ‘internationally recognized’ on Dec. 27, 1949 so that there was a seven year period when it was called ‘Djakarta’ by part of the world and ‘Batavia’ by another (Keep in mind that the Germans, allies with Japan, would have been partial to seeing things the Japanese way). Then, at the ‘West Germany’ Wikipedia, I see that ‘West Germany’ was declared on May 23, 1949. Your clock says ‘Germany’ and has ‘Djakarta’. It could have been made between 1942 and 1949 if the names on the dial were determined by Kienzle in strict conformity with official names. Of course, whether or not they were strict in that way would be hard to pin down but it seems to me that an earlier date for your clock’s manufacture seems just as plausible as a later one. It does seem to me, however, that, if it was made in 1950 or later, it would very likely say ‘West Germany’ given the 7-month lead time and the earth-shaking importance of the name change at the time.

    Yours,

    Sherlock Holmes

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    1. Amazing information. I think we can rule out the War years since many companies retooled and turned to the war effort (though Kienzle did make a one-of clock for Hitler in 1939). Made between 1945 and 1945 would make sense.

      Ron

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  3. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

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  4. I was also thinking that the war years are unlikely for the same reason. I was just doing a little exercise in marking rough parameters. Another rough parameter: mine has no country of origin as in ‘Made in Germany’ or ‘Made in West Germany’ — perhaps an indicator that it was made for the domestic market.

    I came here originally to learn how to calibrate the ‘world time zone’ scale. Then I took the clock to my local clock maker to have it serviced and he explained that, on my model at least, you have to take the back cover off and manipulate the metal disk inside with your finger. I see that some clocks, including yours, have a little button or knob on the back half-way down from the center knob that controls the hands and I assume that it controls the time zone scale. Anyway, if you are a visitor to this site looking for the same information, now you have my report.

    Thanks for giving us all this information about clocks. If you ever find one of those gorgeous Heinrich Moeller art deco mantle clocks, please give us another essay. The world clock is certainly a classic art deco creation but those colorful others are also quite wonderful to look at.

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    1. Yes, on mine the little knob controls both the hands and the zone scale. As I rotate the knob the zone advances incrementally. I am certainly on the lookout for more Art Deco styled Moeller clocks to add to my collection and when I come across another I will be sure to report on it. Thank you for your valuable input into the fascinating aspects of this wonderful clock. I will updating the World Clock on my regular Tick Tolk Tuesday in the next two weeks.

      Ron

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