One of the most beloved novelty clocks of all time, the cuckoo clock was created by Franz Anton Ketterer in 1730. Ketterer resided in a village in the Black Forest of Germany. Since then, the Black Forest has been synonymous with cuckoo clocks.

Cuckoo clocks have weight-driven movements. The weights, which usually hang below the clock, are often made to appear as part of the design—they are frequently shaped like pinecones, for example. Some antique cuckoo clocks need to be wound daily; others can go eight days between windings.

On the hour, every hour, a door on the clock opens and a figurine pops out as a "cuckoo" sound is made. This noise is produced by wind rushing through two pipes, each creating a different syllable. One "cuckoo" is made for each hour that has passed (one call at one o’clock, two calls at two o’clock, etc.).

There are actually two distinct types of cuckoo clocks, musical and non-musical. Musical clocks include a melody after the "cuckoos" and feature a third weight (non-musical clocks only have two). Some musical variations feature dancers or other figurines that spin to the melody.

Although most people associate cuckoo clocks with birds, many different figurines were used, such as soldiers, monks, and other animals.

In the 1850s, architect Friedrich Eisenlohr designed a cuckoo clock to look like a little house. Inspired by the look-out buildings constructed by railroad workers, this style of clock became known as Bahnhäusle, and it was so well-liked that it is still one of the most commonly used cuckoo clock designs today.

Another style of 19th-century cuckoo clocks was the framed-clock design, which featured a clock face in the middle of a wooden frame, and the space between the two was painted...

Black Forest clockmakers such as Hubert Herr, Gordian Hettich and his son Hermann, and Helmut Kammerer prided themselves on their craftsmanship, so each cuckoo clock was handmade and of the highest quality. To this day, each individual piece of wood in an authentic, high-end Black Forest cuckoo clock is hand-cut and engraved, right down to the shingles on the roof and the ornamental leaves.

Lime tree, also known as Linden tree, was the most common wood used in Black Forest cuckoo clocks. Some clocks were painted but the majority were not, in order to let the wood’s natural coloring shine through.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Bill Stoddard's clock history site offers a trove of great reference information on clock and watch makers includin… [read review or visit site]

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Check out this sampling of nautical and maritime items held by the U.K.'s National Maritime Museum and Royal Observ… [read review or visit site]

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana Lockett's amazing collection of several hundred novelty Lux clocks made by the Lux Clock Manufacturin… [read review or visit site]

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Philip Haselton's guide to watchmen's time recording equipment. Includes 19th century German portables, 20th centur… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Cuckoo Mantel Clock Black Forest Chalet Gong Striking Bracket ClockAntique Cuckoo Clock Striking And Cuckoo Working See Video Cuckoo Weather House Clock 1880s8 Day Schmeckenbecher Shelf Mantel Cuckoo Clock, Automaton Bird, Works!! Look!!!Nice German Black Forest Carved Musical Cuckoo Clock With Spinning DancersCuckoo Clock Mfg. Co. Inc. Germany Brass And Glass Case,style King ModelVintage Wooden Cuckoo-clock, Germany Black Forest, Edelweiss Large West German Black Forest Carved 8 Day Animated Musical Cuckoo ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock Made In Germany Schlagabschaltung Horses & Man On Sled ??Large German Double Fusee Cuckoo Clock Movement Wood Brass Inlay Porcelain FaceCuckoo Clock, 8 Day. Runs Great And Looks Great.Cuckoo Clock Musical Black Forest Spares Or RepairVintage German Cuckoo Clock .swiss Chalet Musical Man / Cuckoo . Light FixerVery Early Cuckoo Clock (beha?)Oompah Band Musical Cuckoo Clock Black Forest GermanyChalet Twirling Dancers Musical Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Complete Working 1 DayVintage & Modern German Cuckoo Clock Bellow Bellows Tubes Tops Lot Clock Parts Cuckoo Clock Birds W/ Baby Birds In Nest 8 Day Carved Wood Exc. Runs GermanyVintage Musical Germany Cuckoo Clock Repair Or Parts OnlyOlder German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock With Animated Chimney SweepLot Of 6 German Cuckoo Clock . Vintage Clocks Good For Parts Only .Large German Carved 8 Day Musical Cuckoo Clock With Spinning DancersLarge Vintage Black Forest Carved Wood Cuckoo Clock With Deer Head. Works!Vintage Black Forest Cuckoo Clock From Germany New In Box - Found In StorageChalet Twirling Dancers Musical Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Complete Working 1-dayEdelweiss Cuckoo Clock "der Fröhliche Wanderer" Made In GermanyVintage German Key Wound Pendulette Owl Wall Clock With Moving Eyes Cuckoo Cuckoo Clock For Parts, West Germany Regula 25 3 Weights Waterwheel Restore Old German Weight Driven Cuckoo Style Dog Wall Clock With Moving Eyes Vintage/as Is Black Forest Cuckoo Clock W/pine Cone Weights #245 - GermanyLot Of 23 Vintage Pine Cone Clock Weights Cuckoo Black Forest 250 275 Gram PartAntique Medium German Regula Musical Cuckoo Clock .spare Parts - Older PieceLarge Antique Hunters Cuckoo Clock Carved Wood Front Parts Or RepairVintage German Black Forest Saw Mill Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or RepairVintage Cuckoo Clock - Beautiful Edelweiss - Genuine German Made From Germany! Black Forest Chalet Cuckoo Clock Vintage Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock Animated Musical Oompah Band Original Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Germany 1 Day - Complete WorkingVintage Lux Animated Bobbing Cuckoo Pendulette Clock No. 314 With Box. Works Older German Weight Driven Cuckoo Style Child Wall Clock With Moving Eyes 2012 Cuckoo Clock Of The Year By Romance Sainte-croix Switzerland Der FrohlicheVery Nice Old Working German Black Forest Large Carved 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock Hand Carved Hunting Deer Rifles Pheasant Rabbit Horn Bag Anamated Chalet Style Cuckoo Clock With Chimney SweepVintage Cuckoo Clock / Made In Germany For Seth Thomas !! / Needs BellowsVintage 30 Hour Cuckoo Clock.runs Good,cuckoo's Nice.German Cuckoo ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock West Germany H Herr 8 Day Excellent ConditionVintage Black Forest-germany Cuckoo Clock- Parts Or Restoration ProjectGerman Cuckoo Clock - Stag Deer - For Parts Or RepairFarmers Daughter Musical Animated Cuckoo ClockVintage Chalet Animated Cuckoo Clock Double Door Musical Cuckoo Clock Black Forest 1 Day - Complete WorkingNew Genuine German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock - Birds And Leaves DesignVintage Antique Germany 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Parts Or Restore Lot EVery Large Vintage Original Cuckoo Clock,8 Day ,black Forest Wall Clock Germany Large Vintage Bird Cuckoo Clock Parts Or RepairNice Hunter Cuckoo Clock- Helmut KammererLinden Mantel Clock With Key Model 8066 - Germany Cuckoo Clock Mfg. Needs RepairVintage, E. Schmeckenbecher Musical 2 Door Cuckoo Clock, Parts Or Repair