The stolen clock

Some background history:

1. The event happened about 20 years ago. At that time there was no internet, no emails, let alone “flat rate” telephoning or telephone number recognition on the display. “Connectivity” occurred through personal meetings or telephone calls.

2. During my work as a clockmaker and restorer, I have always been interested in German regional grandfather clocks. In this respect I have quite a good memory.

3. I am often rung on and asked for general advice by collectors, museums, dealers and other shady characters. In fact, callers usually just want to have their own opinions confirmed.

4. In order to not compromise the people concerned (this could also be “data protection” nowadays) I have changed the names and some details.

Deleted: Ian Fowler

  • Historical Clocks & Mechanical Clocks & Clocks
  • Clocks & Musical Instruments

He was certain that it was one and the same clock that he had looked at years ago and said I should call the police. But it was agreed that I would go to the shop and examine the piece secretly beforehand


One summer’s evening, I was called by a collector/dealer, Mr Kurz, who once again wanted something for free(incidentally, he never honoured me with actual work). He then also told me that an unusual grandfather clock from the neighbouring region with floral carvings and a heart-shaped window in the door was in the shop of an antiques dealer called Potthoff in the village nearby. I took note of this information without attaching great importance to it. A few minutes later, a friendly customer, Joseph Schulte, happened to ring. He only collected grandfather clocks from his own region and also knew almost all other clocks he didn’t own. I remembered the previous conversation with Kurz and was still able to describe in detail the grandfather clock that was supposedly in Potthoff’s shop in the neighbouring village.


“Hold on”, said Schulte, “I’ll just get last Saturday’s local newspaper.”
After a short pause, he read aloud an article with roughly these words:
“…stolen from an isolated and currently uninhabited house in … some furniture including a grandfather clock with floral carvings and a heart-shaped window in the door… the criminal investigation department requests anyone with any relevant information to call.” He was certain that it was one and the same clock that he had looked at years ago and said I should call the police. “No!” I quickly reacted, “you have to do that. You know the clock much better. You’re much closer, too and for you it’s just a local call.” (I’d like to underline here that I’m not a coward even if at the time I was a bit tight-fisted about telephoning). He concurred but it was agreed that I would go to the shop and examine the piece secretly beforehand.

The next day I put on my new cycle helmet (a present from overly precautious friends – at the time, wearing a helmet was laughed at) and sunglasses as a disguise and went on my way with the intention of looking at the clock inconspicuously and unrecognised while poking around the shop. I had never had anything to do with the antiques dealer in terms of business and felt safe, but I wanted to keep the helmet and sunglasses on. After a cycle in the hot sun, I arrived at the shop and went in, soaked in sweat and was greeted by Potthoff. In any case, it was the stolen clock and Schulte now had to keep his part of the deal. He also did not want to be put on file by the police and phoned anonymously. The following Sunday I drove past the shop and was able to determine by the front window that the clock was not there anymore. Schulte also phoned the police, again anonymously and after his preamble that he had contacted the police anonymously a week ago about the stolen grandfather clock now wanted to know what had happened to it. There was silence from the police officer. He then answered in a friendly manner: “Hello Mr SchulteI know you. Pity you called anonymously as there was a small reward for solving the case.”

Months later, I heard from other sources that Potthoff suspected that Kurz had squealed to the police as he had originally been interested in the clock. That was a kind of reward for me.