German clock imports may just include the “works” -- the timekeeping parts -- with the wooden parts made in the United States. Grandfather clocks, also called tall-case clocks, are large with a long case and pendulum, essential to the operation and accuracy of the clock. The dial or face of the clock may show maker's marks and patents of German origin, or you may have to open the top of the clock’s case to see the “works” and read the symbols.
Clocks with common American names such as Seth Thomas and Howard Miller can have German movements. The dial of the clock has a maker’s name and may have other symbols or words. Write these down for reference. Open the hood at the top of the clock so you can see the movement or gears. You may see a nameplate or engraved name of the maker at the back of the movement. Look for serial numbers, logos and other identifying information, and copy this information for later research.
Common German grandfather clock trademarks include Badische Uhrenfabrik with a “B” inside a “C” and Gustav Becker’s “GB” logo. Winterhalder & Hofmeier Uhrenfabrik used “W&H” as a trademark. Friedrich Mauthe trademarked with an “M” in a diamond and Hamburg Amerikanische Uhrenfabrik used crossed arrows for a trademark. One Hermle trademark was a clock face in the background with initials “FHS.” Junghans Gebr used an eagle with a circle for a trademark or an eight-point star with the Junghans name. Keininger and Obergfell used a “K” inside an “O”; the Keinzle trademark is a horseshoe with a star inside. Images of German logos and trademarks are available on websites such as Antique Clocks Identification and Price Guide or in clock-identification books.
German patent marks include Ges. Gesch., Fabrikmarke West Germany, as well as D.R.P. or D.R. The D.R.P. abbreviation stands for Deutsches Reich Patent, found only on older German clock works. The West German marks appeared between 1948 and 1991, after World War II and before the removal of the Berlin Wall. Ges.Gesch. is the German abbreviation for “legally protected.” Ges. MbH is “protected company” or a limited liability company. Search the DPMA or Deutsches Patent-und Markenamt database in English to learn more about the trademarks or design patents by name.
Hermle is the largest German maker of clock movements today, and the numbers on the back plate depend on which clock maker ordered the movement. Hermle movements have three or four digits followed by a dash and sometimes the centimeter length of the pendulum. Jauch used two or three numbers or letters and Keininger combined five or more letters and numbers. If the movement's back plate has two numbers at the top, this is the clock works' year of production.
- Collectors Weekly: An Interview with Tall-Case Antique Clock Collector Gary Sullivan
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- Antique Clocks Identification and Price Guide: Identifying Antique Clocks -- Trademarks and Trade Names
- Antique Clocks Identification and Price Guide: Using Patent Marks to Identify Country of Origin
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images