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    

Older Large German Black Forest Carved 8 Day Cuckoo ClockGerman Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Squirrel, Rabbit & Chimney Sweep ***8 Day Full Animated Swiss Chalet Black Forest Cuckoo Clock****1890's Rare Large Vintage Faller German Cuckoo Clock All ServicedOld Large Cuckoo Clock Heavy Carved German Working W 2 Weights & Pendulum (ccmgVintage Musical Cuckoo Clock German Figurines Black Forest Germany8 Day Brandnew Large Black Forest Musical Cuckoo Clock/kuckucksuhr/coucou PendulVintage Unusual German Black Forest Carved Picture Musical Cuckoo ClockAntique Vintage American Cuckoo Clock Co. Philadelphia Parts Or RepairVintage Large Musical German Hunter Cuckoo Clock Fabulous!Old 24" Hunters Oak Leaf Cuckoo Clock With 8 Day MovementAntique Large Fox And Grape Cuckoo Quail Clock Case To RestoreAntique/vintage Large Hunter Musical Cuckoo ClockOld "american Cuckoo Clock Co" Railroad Cuckoo Clock Needs Work And PartsOld Wall Clocks Cuckoo Clock Marked Hubert Herr Trieberg Germany 55cm German Black Forest Carved Cuckoo Clock Crown Topper AntiqueVintage West German Regula Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Wood Cutters Water WheelAntique Cuckoo ClockOld Beer Drinkers12"musical Chalet Cuckoo Clock Antique/vintage Hunter Cuckoo ClockHunting Dear Stag Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Black Forest Cuckoo ClockOld 12"musical Wood Choper Chalet Cuckoo Clock With 1 Day MovementVintage / Modern German Cuckoo Clock 8 Day 1500 Bu Weights Weight Set Pair PartsBlack Forest Cuckoo Clock VintageOld Wall Clocks Cuckoo Clock Marked Div Pat U. G. Manqem" Germany 55cm 6 Cuckoo Clock Grape Leaf Pendulums / Pendulum Parts LotAntique German Black Forest Carved Mini Cuckoo Clock Carving Shield Pendulum German Hermle Weight Driven Cuckoo Style 8 Day Striking Bell Skeleton Wall ClockBox Lot Of Old Railroad Cuckoo Clock Top Carvings& Pieces West German Wooden Cuckoo Clock Hubert Herr RepairSet Of 2 Antique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Weights 6" Gnomes,dwarfs 900g 8 Day Vintage Black Forest Cuckoo ClockNwt Christian Ulbricht Black Forester With Cuckoo Clock*****cool Vintage Musical Black Forest Germany Cuckoo Clock*****Hubert Herr Flying Bird Original Black Forest Cuckoo Clock NewOld 13`"musical Multi Color Cuckoo Clock With 1 Day Movement& Dancers Black Forest Cuckoo ClockAntique/vintage Musical Cuckoo ClockMade In Germany Schneider Sohne Cuckoo Clock Vintage Works Complete Rare Made In Germany Black Forest Deer Cuckoo Clock CompleteVintage Germany Cuckoo Clock Case Movement Parts For Repair RestorationSwiss Azura Cuckoo Clock (f)Rare Vintage Cuckoo Clock Mfg Co 5-rod Westminster Chime Mantle Desk Germany8 Day Hubert Herr Vintage German Black Forest Carved Birds Cuckoo Clock Unusual Double Cuckoo Clock (b), Hubert Herr, GermanyVintage Schatz 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Germany Jahresuhrenfabrik 50 Parts Or RepairUsed Cuckoo Clock2-antique Vintage Miniature Lux -keebler Pendulette Cuckoo Clocks-lot #18 Day Vintage German Black Forest Carved Birds Cuckoo Clock Vintage Musical Cuckoo Clock German Flower Girls Black Forest GermanyBlack Forest Musical 8 Day Cuckoo Clock 1983 West German Schmeckenbecher Regula Cuckoo Clock Box Excellent WorkingLarge Vintage 8 Day Cuckoo ClockVintage German Cuckoo Musical Clock Edelweiss 3 Weights For PartsVinatge German Cuckoo Clock With Dancing Man & WomanVintage Seth Thomas Black Forest Cuckoo ClockVintage W German Black Forest Carved Bird 30hr Mini Cuckoo Clock Cold War Era Lot 2 Cuckoo Clocks Germany Black Forest? Weights Birds Parts RepairHubert Herr Black Forest Bavarian Beer Festival 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Germany Rare