Hitler's clock
Kienzle Weltzeituhr clock presented to Adolf Hitler in 1939

Tick-Talk Tuesday is about the letters and comments I have received from you, the reader, concerning your clocks, issues you might have had and challenges you face and my responses to your questions with advice on your  particular clock concern(s). For those comments and questions that stump even me, I consult within my clock circles for the best possible answer.

On display in an antique store in Quebec Canada
On display in an antique store in Quebec Canada

Weltzeituhr is German for “World clock”.

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” style (cylindrical map projection presented by Gerardus Mercator in 1569) and the moving narrow scale with the time in the denoted cities came from the Heinrich Johannes Möller hired at age 27 and Kienzle’s principle designer from 1931 til about 1970.

The original clock had a bulky “foot” or base (first photo) and was decorated with swastika patterns on the edge. After the war, the decoration was necessarily 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 versions and finally the quartz movements in the 80s. A unique feature of this clock is that it shows Germany to be the centre of the world.

Time sequencer
24 hour time sequencer

SP writes, “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.”

Side view of World Time Clock showing substantial brass surround

Your clock says ‘Germany’ and has ‘Djakarta’. It could have been made between 1942 and 1949

SP wrote further, “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.

Is it a clock or a work of art? Both it would seem

I replied that the clock was likely not produced during the war years when many German plants turned their attention to the war effort. My clock was either made in 1942 or close to 1949.

Kienzle World Time clock
Kienzle World Time clock, circa 1942-49

SP wrote back some time later and shared this with me, “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.”

Winding crank
Winding crank

On my clock the tiny 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 Heinrich Johannes Möller clocks to add to my collection and when I come across another I will be sure to write about it.

Thank you, SP, for sharing your knowledge and experiences concerning this wonderful clock.

So, it seems that my Kienzle was made between 1942 and 1949.

Is it a clock or a work of art? The latter I would submit. Thanks to Heinrich Johannes Möller and his ability to turn a timepiece into a true work of art.

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