Franz Hermle Clock Company History

Antique Clocks Guy Reference Library

The Hermle clock company, like many of the well-known American clock companies, such as Durfee, E. Howard, Seth Thomas, Ingraham, Kroeber, and E.N. Welch owed its existence to one clockmaker who had the desire to build quality clocks, Franz Hermle. While the major American clock companies trace their roots to the early 1800’s, the Hermle Company is a twentieth century success story. The company was started in 1922, shortly after Germany began recovering from World War I, as the Franz Hermle Clock Company in the town of Gosheim near Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Original Hermele building in Gosheim ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Amazingly, at a time when the world economy was plummeting into the Great Depression and American clock companies were struggling to avoid bankruptcy, the new German company prospered. By the early 1930’s, the Hermle clock company was a world leader in the manufacture of quality clock movements. While other clock companies were using nineteenth century methods, Franz Hermle had an eye for efficiency and used the latest modern techniques for producing clock movements.

Like other master clockmakers, Franz Hermle passed on his clockmaking expertise to his four sons: Gebhard, Alfred, Hans and Heinrich, changing the name of the company to Franz Hermle and Sohn. Continuing the success story, Franz Hermle and his sons prospered after the devastation of Germany from World War II, at a time when many of the major American companies could not recapture their former status as world leaders in clockmaking and were soon to disappear from the scene. In addition to the manufacture of clock movements, Franz Hermle and Sohn expanded into the manufacture of clocks and clock accessories. Franz Hermle died in 1953, leaving the company to his sons.

At the current time, Franz Hermle and Sohn remain in the hands of the third generation of Hermle clockmakers. The company continues to specialize in mechanical and quartz movements and other clock parts that are manufactured in a computerized and automated precision manufacturing environment.

Franz Hermle and Sohn is a major worldwide supplier of clock movements, exporting to over 100 countries. Their advertising points out the fact that “You may not recognize our name, but we are the source who keeps the clock industry ticking.” The company manufactures clock movements that are used in clocks worldwide producing, according to their claim, “the largest selection of mechanical and quartz movements available anywhere.”

In addition to being a world leader in the manufacture of clocks and movements, Franz Hermle and Sohn is a leading supplier of clock dials and pendulums. The company also produces decorative weight shells for modern weight-driven clocks, especially grandfather clocks.

Nearly one hundred years ago, Franz Hermle began manufacturing and selling mechanical clocks. In 1922, Franz Hermle founded the Franz Hermle Clock Company in Gosheim/Wuerttemberg, Germany. Within ten years the company became known as one of the most modern and efficient manufacturers of clock movements in the clock industry. Franz Hermle and his sons' dedication weathered the effects of WWII and made Franz Hermle and Sohn, prosper while other companies capitulated.

The founder, Franz Hermle, died in 1953 and left a modern and prosperous operation to his sons Gebhard, Alfred, Hans and Heinrich Hermle. They have continued to build the company into a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of clocks, and mechanical clock movements.

One of the recent investments in machinery has been in the procurement of precision equipment to finish the pivots on each clock arbor after all the dust preventive plating materials have been removed. These machines placed a polished finished on the pivots and careful checks are made to ensure that rigid quality control standards are maintained. This improvement should extend the lives of “HERMLE” movements considerably.

The Company also invested a considerable amount of capital in improved processes to finish the pivots on the train wheels in the mechanical clocks. All nickel plating is removed from the pivots and then they are polished using these machines. Then careful inspections are made during each step of this operation. The factory is now working on developing additional features for lesser-priced movements and expects to launch these items in the near future. Hermle is the world leader in the manufacturing of mechanical movements, producing more that 1 million units annually and sells to over 130 countries around the world. It’s not surprising that you will find that many of the mechanical clocks in the market are fitted with a “HERMLE” movement.

Within a few kilometers of where the Danube River begins its journey to meet the waters o f the world. Hermle products begin on their way to almost every country on the globe. Like the Danube, the Hermle factory system has adapted itself to meet the changing nature of the modern marketplace and still maintain a strong forward momentum. The Hermle factories engaged in making both mechanical and electronic clocks are nestled in a picturesque Black Forest valley in southern Germany. The plants are located on the shores of Reichenbach and Gosheim. This valley has always been the home of the Franz Hermle & Sohn Uhrenfabrik and over the last 70 years it has become one of the major business enterprises in the area.

The valley has traditionally been the home of several factories engaged in the production of precision machinery and small mechanical components, so there is an abundance of skilled labor available. Even though some of these factories have grown to a considerable size, the valley has never taken on an urban character and still maintains a quiet village atmosphere that is ideally suited for clock making and precision manufacturing.

This quiet way of life has not impeded the progress of the factories in the area. Most of them are as modern as one would expect to find in any of the major industrially developed countries of the world. All of them have had to automate their operations to the maximum extent possible so they can remain competitive in their respective markets. Franz Hermle and Sohn is no exception in this regard. They have constructed a factory complex which is one of the most modern and efficient facilities in the world for manufacturing both mechanical and electronic clock movements.

Hermle mechanical clocks start their existence in the Reichenbach plant, which produces almost all of the component parts that are found in the wide range of mechanical movements the company manufactures. Several semi-automatic machines that have traditionally been associated with the production of mechanical clock parts have been upgraded with computerized control mechanisms to increase the number and type of functions they can handle. The increased efficiency of these modified machines, as well as the recent investments the company has made in new computerized machinery, has enable Franz Hermle & Sohn to continue to provide their products at very competitive prices all over the world.

Almost every operation in the Reichenbach plant has been automated and very few workers are required to produce a sizeable quantity of parts for the Hermle assembly lines and spare parts stocks. These continued innovations have helped to reduce the greatest cost factor in any precision manufacturing operation – the cost of labor. In most cases these changes have not been made at the expense of Hermle employees, as those displaced by automation have been relocated to other production activities in another part of the factory system.

One of the most recent investments in machinery has been in the procurement of precision equipment to finish the pivots on each clock arbor after all the rust preventive plating materials have been removed. These machines place a polished finish on the pivots and careful checks are then carried out to ensure that rigid quality control standards are maintained. This improvement should extend the lives of new Hermle movements considerably.Even those operations that still have to be accomplished by hand have been automated to the maximum extent possible. The drums that operate the hammers on chiming movements are still assembled by hand but every effort has been made to make the parts available to the assembler in a fast and efficient manner.

Other operations such as the assembly of automatic beat setting services are best accomplished by it but automated machinery that can sense the correct tension on the spring is used so the operation can be carried out quickly and efficiently. The clock plates for mechanical movement are prepared on the lower level of the main Gosheim plant. After being stamped from a roll of sheet brass each plate is brought to a perfectly flat state and the decorative designs are placed on it. Great care is taken in drilling the holes in the plate that will accommodate the wheels and other components. The plate is prepared for finishing and is given a coat of baked lacquer before it is sent on its way to become part of a mechanical clock movement in the assembly facility.

The assembly of mechanical movements is accomplished on the upper levels of the main plant building in Gosheim. Wheels are placed between the plates and the movement starts its journey down the assembly line on a conveyor belt. At each station employees add additional parts to the movement and place it back on the conveyor. This process is continued until the movement is completed and moves to the inspection station. All Hermle mechanical movements are test-run for one winding cycle on racks adjacent to the assembly facility. The company devotes a respectable amount of its staff and their time to quality control operations. A considerable investment has been made in computerized equipment to upgrade the quality control efforts of the company.

Most of the mechanical movements are prepared for shipping to Hermle customers all over the world once they have completed their test runs. Other movements are transferred to the new Hermle plant in Gosheim located only a few blocks away, where they are installed in cases procured from local suppliers. Most of the clocks assembled in this facility go to Hermle’s European customers and to fill special orders. While Hermle operates a subsidiary plant in Amherst, Virginia, it is not economically feasible to equip most of these facilities with duplicate machinery. Some parts for mechanical clocks that require specialized machinery or complex manufacturing processes are made in the Reichenbach and Gosheim plants and shipped to Amherst. Every part that goes to the U.S. plant is given a 100 percent quality control inspection before it leaves Gosheim.

Components for Hermle electronic clocks are produced in the buildings that house the plastic injection machines. These parts undergo several different types of finishing processes before they enter the assembly facility. The basic electronic movement is assembled totally by automated equipment. Different components are then added to the basic movements to produce a wide range of functions and features available to Hermle customers. Even though the basic movement is assembled by an automated process most of the operations required to add the additional features can be accomplished by hand more economically for limited production runs.

Hermle electronic 400-day clocks are assembled in the new Gosheim plant by teams of two employees. Each clock is totally assembled by these teams, which is somewhat different than the traditional production line approach used in most factories. The assembly of each electronic clock can be completed quite quickly and efficiently using this method. Several work stations in this facility allow the assembly of different quartz electronic 400-day models at one time.

The Franz Hermle & Sohn showroom in the headquarters building reflects the wide range of horological products the company is capable of manufacturing. These range from traditional, weight-driven clocks to new, state-of-the-art, radio-controlled timepieces. The different styles and features, appearing on clocks made to satisfy the tastes of people in different parts of the world, emphasize the extent of the distribution of Franz Hermle & Sohn’s products.

Now in its third generation, Franz Hermle and Sohn employs over 500 people in 4 locations in Germany and an additional manufacturing facility, Hermle Black Forest Clocks, in Amherst, Virginia, USA. The firm exports clocks and clock movements to more than 100 countries worldwide and are dedicated to leading the industry in computerized and automated precision manufactured clock parts and mechanical and quartz movements.
Hermle Clocks.

Hermle clock movements ("FHS" on older movements) have a dating system marked on the back plate of the clock. The following information is stamped in the lower right hand corner:

Year of Manufacture
Company Name or Logo
(May not be "Hermle" or "FHS")
Model Number
Pendulum Length
Beats Per minute


Prior to 1988, the year was indicated by two digits, i.e. 79 indicated that the clock movement was produced in 1979 (see example above).

Starting in 1988, the year of manufacture was indicated by a letter. The following chart correlates the code to the year of manufacture:



















































PLEASE NOTE: The information on this page is for educational purposes only. In general we do not sell most clocks with Hermle movements as they are well below the radar of our clientele.


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