German Clock for Harbour Customs Building ca. 1910? | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

German Clock for Harbour Customs Building ca. 1910?

During their research for a book about the history of a German factory producing  clocktower-clocks, the authors came across a mention of a clock built for the “Hafenzollgebäude” in “Hongkong (China)” (Hafen = harbour, Zoll = customs, Gebäude = building).

They found it in a company publication dated 1928 and assume that it was meant for a building constructed around 1900. It might have been meant for a clock tower or for a building façade.

The company, “Turmuhrenfabrik Wilhelm Kühn”, was founded in 1816 in Gräfenroda/Germany and built more than 780 clocktower clocks in the 150 years of its existence.

Any thoughts about which "Harbour Customs Building" that could have been?

Why would the clock have been bought from a German company instead of a British one?


Danke/thanks for your thoughts!

Martin (Mo Tat Wan, Lamma)



Hi Martin,

The 1908 Harbour Master's Report,, notes that Hong Kong is a free port, which I think means there wouldn't be much of a requirement for customs?

10. Hongkong being a free port there are no reliable statistics of other Imports and Exports except as regards certain items of cargo, dealt with in the Colony, of which, either from their nature and the circumstances under which they are imported, or from the fact that they are required by law to be specially reported, substantially accurate returns can be given. These items are Coal, Kerosene oil (which includes all products of petroleum), Opium, Morphine, Compounds of Opium, and Sugar. The figures for the three latter will be found in Appendix B.

But if the Harbour Master was the closest thing to a Customs Service, they had a new building built in 1906, so that's a possibility:

Regards, David


Mention is not made in the HKGRO (1906 PWD Annual Report) of the Harbour Office having a clock tower. It may well be the reference is to a Customs House building in another port in China.

Thanks for your help!

Looks like a dead end for this one...

There was the renownend German watchmaker "Gaupp" in Hong Kong. But his family descended from the Stuttgart area. Gräfenroda is quite far off from Stuttgart. But perhaps he made the contact to the “Turmuhrenfabrik Wilhelm Kühn” in Gräfenroda.

The “Hafenzollgebäude” could be the "German Mails". I posted a picture of the German Mails from 1905 +/-. No clock can be seen at the towerlike construction. Perhaps is´t be inside?

Hi Christoph,

The buildings in your picture are the Kowloon Wharves, so the "German Mails" mentioned refers to the German mail ships:

HK German Mails
HK German Mails, by christoph


Hi Herr Bode, I am thinking if the passage is referring to the clock tower of the German Customs Building in Tsingtao. The building was built ca. 1913-14. It was one of the very last buildings constructed by Germans in German-leased zones. Here is the Chinese wikipedia page about the building: Steven Chan

Sind Sie Herr Bode, der unterricht im Goethe-Institut hat? Ich war Ihr Student von 1987 bis 1991. Ich wohne jetzt in Kanada.