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 German Black Forest Wall Cuckoo ClockSchneider Black Forest Wooden "edelwiess" Wall Cuckoo ClockNice Vigor Antique Micro Flying Pendulum Wind Up Dome Clock CuckooOlder Swiss Made Musical Cuckoo Clock With Spinning Waterwheel & DancersVintage Schmeckenbecher Anno 1870 Cuckoo Wall Clock West Germany GermanAntique Vtg All-wood Railroad? Cuckoo Clock German? American? Parts Or RepairAntique Cuckoo ClockVintage Regula German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock WorksBone Clock Hands For Blackforest Cuckoo Clock Or TrumpeterCuckoo Clock W Carosel DancersShelf Cuckoo Clock Style Wood Plate Movement With StrikeAntique Cuckoo Clock Top PartAntique Vintage German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock 8 Day Deer Head, Bird & RabbitHuge Vintage Swiss Made Romance Musical German Cuckoo Wall ClockAntique Cuckoo Clock For Repair Or Restoration8 Day German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Old Beha Cuckoo Clock For RepairLarge 8 Day Musical Black Forest Cuckoo Clock With Dancers & Auto Shutoff Antique Cuckoo Clock For Parts 0r RepairLarge Black Forest 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock With Music & Dancers Ex. ConditionAntique Large Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Early 1900's Made In Germany!8 Day Brandnew Black Forest Musical Cuckoo Clock/coucou Musical/kuckucksuhr/Antique Fern Motif German Cuckoo ClockCuckoo Clock West Germany Repair Or PartsVintage Cuendet Swiss Movement 7542-43 Cuckoo Clock German Black Forest Dancers4 Vintage German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock For PartsVintage West Germany Cuckoo Clock For Refurbish/parts Or Repair Swiss Musical Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Frame, Large Maple Leaves And Grapes, Quail ClockLot Of Antique Mantel & Cuckoo Clock Movements Parts RepairRare!! Schneider Black Forest 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Dancers EidelweissAuthenitc German Cuckoo ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock Parts/body/ Repair Germany~ Carving Cuckoo Clock German Music St. Bernard Dog Garden Water Wheel Dancers Works Large8 Day, Owl, Squirrel, Nest, Cuckoo Clock, Excellent Condition!! Just Serviced...Vintage German Kuner 4 Weight Band Cuckoo Clock Musical Movement Parts RepairBlack Forest Regula Musical German Cuckoo Clock, Moving Dancers, Perfect!Vintage Regula West Germany Cuckoo Clock Horse Drawn Log Cutting ~ Needs RepairsGerman Black Forest Musical Automated Chopper Water Mill Dancing Cuckoo ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock..working.bachmaier & Klemmer.reuges Swiss Musical Movement German Cuckoo Clock Bird Top / Finial Trim Ornament Parts LotVintage "august Schwer" Hunters Cuckoo Clock , RunsVintage 1969 1 Day Cuckoo Clock W Musical Chimes, Rare Melodie, Nr,Vintage 8 Day German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock German - Kaiserwalzer Cuckoo Clock - E. Schmeckenbecher MechanismSchneider Cuckoo ClockVintage German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Black Forest 8 Day Cuckoo Clock "before The Hunt"~ Large 11.5" Wide Model F2-77 Unusual Vintage Cuckoo ClockBlack Forest Cuckoo Clock For Parts Vintage Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock With Squirrels Antique Mantle Shelf Clock Cuckoo Clock MechanizmVintage Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Der Froeliche Wanderer Romance (71460-9)Gorgeous* Old German Blk. Forest Double Musical/animated Cuckoo ClockVintage Black Forest Quendet Musical Cuckoo Clock W/ Dancers Germany Works Lot Of 3 Antique Vintage Germany Cuckoo Clocks For Parts Or RepairVintage Germany 8-day Carved Wooden Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or RepairReally Old Vintage Cuckoo Clock GermanVintage Antique Musical Dancing Cuckoo Clock West Germany RegulaAntique Cuckoo Clock MovementLot Of 7 Old Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Pine Cone Weights Weight Clock Parts