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10-03-2011, 11:17 PM
I've never heard of 'em either, Dave. Their dive watches look remarkably similar to the Swiss Legend Neptunes, however.
10-04-2011, 06:33 AM
Kienzle is one of the oldest watch brands from Germany.
The company was founded 1822 by the German watch maker Johannes Schlenker under the name Deutsche Uhrenfabrik (German Watchfactory).
Initially the company was a trader and mostly doing business in the famous Cuckoo Clocks made by various small factories in the Black Forest region of Germany. He sold those clocks from house to house.
In about 1883 his grandson Karl Johannes Schlenker and Karl Johannes’ brother in-law Jakob Kienzle renamed the company in Schlenker & Kienzle. They specialised in manufacturing alarm clocks and regulator clocks. All of these clocks were high precision ones and manually made. Some 20,000 left the factory each year and found a happy home at walls around the globe. By 1893 the company had reached a massive size and more than 160,000 clocks of the various types were made and sold.
Schlenker & Kienzle were an innovative bunch and started to bring in state-of-the-art manufacturing processes. By using cut-out platines, cut-out gears, etc. they reduced the massive weight of their products and of course used a lot less material in the process as well. Back then these things were unheard of in the clock industry. The plant was highly automated for those days by the time the Jakob Kienzle had bought out his brother in law in 1897. From there on the company was known as Kienzle Uhrenfabrik.
They had sales companies in Paris, London and the US alike and a second factory was set up in Czech.
By the year 1900, Kienzle manufactured pocket watches, alarm clocks, regulators, marine instruments, wrist watches mostly for women and the first instruments like speedometers used in the then nascent car industry. In the year 1900 Kienzle presented the world with the first fully automatic stamping clock which was soon used in thousands of factories around the globe.
During World War 1 they developed a very sturdy wristwatch. This model was called the Undestroyable and more than 25,000,000 watches were made by the 1930s.
The first genuine clocks used in the dashboards of airplanes were a Kienzle as well. The clock had a power reserve of 8 days and kept accurate time in all positions. Basically, a marine clock being airborne.
After WW2 the company brought the first mass produced Germany made wrist watch to the market. This automatic watch had a simple movement and was the first watch powered by a rotor winding the movement in both directions used in an affordable watch. The watch was aptly called the Volksautomatik (see the analogy to the Volkswagen?).
In 1972 they brought the first solar powered watch onto the market. The Heliomat was quickly followed by quartz watches, LED-clocks and LED-wrist watches. Kienzle was probably the largest German watch and clock factory by then.
In 1996 Kienzle brought the world the first mass-produced radio controlled wrist watch. It was governed by signals sent from the atomic clock at the German Universität Brauschweig.
The company was sold off by the heirs 1997 to the Hong Kong based holding Highway Holdings (http://www.highwayholdings.com/profile.htm) which sold off the brand name Kienzle to a consortium of German investors in 2002.
These investors tried their hands at a revival and had also bought the Germany brand Laco by Lacher and shifted the production to Pforzheim. Most of the components used were sourced in the Far East using the expertise of Highway Holdings.
In January 2010 the company went into chapter 11 to be revived by another group of investors some time later again.
They seem to have rather deep pockets and the will to succeed. A lot of money was invested in the collection and they had hired a top notch technical consultant who helped them bringing reliable and accurate watches to life again. I have known that consultant for many years and we have worked on some projects together in the past.
In Germany you shall find Kienzle 1822 (the number 1822 refers to the year the company was founded) at quite a lot of watch retailers, department stores and other bricks and mortar operations selling watches. In other countries they are more of an online brand.
Generally speaking their watches are classics and well-made. You can not go much wrong in buying one if you like the design.
10-04-2011, 11:51 AM
Very interesting history. Thanks James
10-04-2011, 03:56 PM
Thank you, James, for that detailed and fascinating account of the Kienzle brand. Your unbiased narrative and objective reporting serves well in providing us with quality information. I like, also, the personal connection you relate concerning your association with their consultant as well as your endorsement of the product.
Kienzle is a brand I had not heard of before, as I indicated in my first post, but I felt certain I would learn something about them by asking here. I'm grateful you were able to see my question and provide some of your treasure trove of industry-insider knowledge to educate me.
I'm next going to look for the paperwork that came with our Black Forest cuckoo clock to see if there's a mention of any of the names associated with the early history of this company. My brother-in-law bought it for us while he was stationed in Bitburg, Germany, some 25 years ago.
Thanks, again, James!
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James was and is an absolute gentleman. His help along with Wolfgang was what it me over the hump.