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]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

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    

Old Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Original Schwarzwald Regulator 8 DayNew Schneider German Beer Drinker Musical Cuckoo Clock Platform Dancers Dog DeerLarge Early Antique German Black Forest Finely Carved Cuckoo Clock Hubert HerrSchneider German Beer Drinker Musical Cuckoo Clock Platform Dancers WaterwheelVintage Schneider Chalet German Wall Hanging Cuckoo Clock Wood ChopperVintage 8 Day Hand Carving Musical Hunter Germany Black Forest Cuckoo ClockGerman Black Forest Musical Cuckoo Clock Anton Schneider Sohne 8-day ChaletDouble Fusee Cuckoo Clock With Original Wall BracketG.m. Regula Musical Hummel Top Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or Restoration Large German Black Forest Carved 8 Day Musical Cuckoo Clock With DancersHones German Beer Drinker Musical Cuckoo Clock Platform Dancers WaterwheelLarge German Cuckoo Clock Water Wheel Dancers Swiss Chalet MusicalWest German Chalet Musical Cuckoo Clock For Restoration/spares/repairBeautiful Kammerer Germany Black Forest Deer Buck Birds Cuckoo Clock - Works!Antique Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Inlaid Wood TrimNice Working German Black Forest Musical Animated Dancers Hunters Cuckoo Clock! Cuckoo Clock Gesetzlich GeschutziVintage Regula E. Schmeckenbecher Musical Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or Restoration Vintage German Black Forest Hunter Style 8-day Cuckoo Clock Great ConditionG.m. 1884288 Musical Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or Restoration Vintage 9ct Yellow Gold & Enamel Articulated Cuckoo Clock Charm For Bracelet Large Antique German Black Forest Carved 2 Birds Quail Cuckoo ClockVintage German Cuckoo Clock Spares Or Repairs***vintage Musical Cottage Waterwheel Black Forest Germany Cuckoo Clock** Vintage Regula A. Schneider Sohne Musical Cuckoo Clock-for Parts Or Restoration Antique Black Forest Railroad Cuckoo Clock Hones German Black Forest Heidi Haus (house) 12" Cuckoo Clock Handcarved 1288Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Regula Germany Birds WoodenVintage Schatz Cuckoo Clock Black Forest German Hunter 8 DayEarly 1900’s German Gebruder Kuner Cuckoo Clock For PartsVtg Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Musical *parts* Repair Restore RefurbishOld Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Original Schwarzwald Regulator 8 DayMusical, Animated, Chalet Cuckoo Clock With Dancing Couples - See VideoVintage German Three Weight Cuckoo Clock With Music And Two Cuckoo Birds 2zGerman Black Forest Hunter Style Cuckoo Clock Cuckoo Clocks A Lot Of 9 Parts Or RepairVintage Cuckoo Clock German Black Forest Chalet Working Musical Cuckoo ClockFroehliche Handerer Cuckoo ClockVintage Germany Carved Wood Cuckoo Clock Bird Design For RepairSchneider Chimney Sweep Animated Cuckoo Clock Quilt Shop Theme Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock Amazing Condition W/ Weights & ChainsBlack Forest Cuckoo Clock / Musical / Brand New Made In GermanyCuckoo Clocks Made In Germany For Parts It Fell Off Of The Wall Railroad Cuckoo ClockVintage Hummel German Cuckoo Clock Music Not Working Selling As IsVintage Schatz German 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Hunter Deer Complete Cuckoo Clock, Complete, Needs Cleaning And Repair, Worked Great For YearsVintage Mechanical Musical Cuckoo Clock-for Parts Or Restoration Three Weight Musical Cuckoo Clock In Excellent ConditionOrigin Hofbrauhous Octoberfest Animated Musical Cuckoo Clock Vtg. German 1 Day Musical Chalet Cuckoo Clock Wood Chopper Water WheelVintage Large Hunters Musical Cuckoo Clock Turning Dancers Nice ConditionBradford Exchange Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas Cuckoo ClockWest German Cuckoo Clock With Dancers And Swiss Musical MovementAntique Farmers Daughter Animated West German Cuckoo ClockBlackforest Cuckoo ClockOld 70's Cuckoo Clock Germany Swiss Musical Movement 2 Clocks For Parts-repair-german Cuckoo Clock & 1940's Sessions Airplane ClockVintage Hubert Herr Triberg Musical Cuckoo Clock-for Parts Or Restoration Antique Albert Schwab Cuckoo Clock Swiss Movement And Musical