This paper tests the temporal characterisation of the differential urbanisation model in Western Germany. A time series of high–quality regional demographic data is available for the period 1939–2010; similar data are not available for Eastern Germany. The differential urbanisation model characterised regional population development tendencies as a sequence of evolutionary stages, for urban Western Germany as well as for the Rhine–Ruhr and the Rhine–Main–Neckar polycentric metropolitan regions. The progression from urbanisation to polarisation reversal and then to counter–urbanisation did not occur in lock step fashion, but was evident as a consistent tendency in a general direction. The model accommodated abrupt change by capturing the regional impacts of the Second World War and the reunification of Germany.