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    

Black Forest Shelf Fusee Cuckoo ClockMost Rare Blackforest "monk" Clock...cuckoo Teutonia German Antique AutomataQuality Antique Cuckoo Clock , Wall Clock Rare "musical" Blackforest Cuckoo Clock.....automata Antique Carved FiguralOlder Large German Black Forest Albert Schwab Carved Owls 8 Day Cuckoo ClockLarge Antique 1800's (ghs Gordian Hettich& Sohn) Mantle Monk Clock, Not A CuckooAntique Black Forest German Carved Pheasant Quail & Nest 29" Cuckoo Wall ClockAntique Large Railroad German Cuckoo ClockVintage German Schatz Key Wound 8 Day Triple Chime Skeleton Shelf Clock CuckooAntique Cuckoo Clock From Germany Import Of American Cuckoo Clock Co.Antique Black Forest Cuckoo Clock With Carved BirdVery Nice Old Working German Black Forest Large Rare 3 Bird Wood Cuckoo Clock!Old Vintage Cuckoo Clock Hands 27 PiecesRare German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Cuckoo Clock Vintage Marked 1918 Import From Swiss Clock CompanyLarge American Cuckoo Clock, Beautiful Design, Needs Full Resto, Parts Or Repair Vintage German Cuckoo Clock Working For PartsVintage Black Forest-regula- Albert Schwab Karlsruhe Cuckoo ClockCuckoo Clock,black Forest Clock,beha Cuckoo Clock,signed Movement,runs Great !!!Very Nice 30 Hour Hunter's Cuckoo ClockUnusual Vintage Miken Japan Owl Cuckoo Clock W/moving Eyes For Parts Or RestoreOld Wall Clock Chalet Clock Black Forest Musical Cuckoo Clock With CarillonVintage Welby 8 Day Black Forest Cuckoo ClockCuckoo Clock CaseVintage West Germany Cuckoo Clock Weights Schmeckenbecher? Black Smiths 17" Black Forest Musical Dancing Cuckoo Clock Made By Kuner Good Running Condition Cuckoo Clock Mechanical E. Schmeckenbecher Regula West German Movement WorkingVintage German Norman Rockwell Wind Up 8 Day Striking Bell Shelf Clock CuckooLinden Tambour West German Mantel Shelf Clock Westminster 8 Day Cuckoo Mfg #74Gorgeous Vintage Hunters Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Rabbit Pheasant Marble Eyes !Charming Vintage German 8 Day Cuckoo Clock E. Schmeckenbecher Germany Cuckoo Wall Hanging Clock Chalet Style Black Forest Extremely Scarce Bass Brewery Cuckoo Type Wall ClockNice German Black Forest A. Schneider Animated Beer Drinker Musical Cuckoo Clock7 German Cuckoo Clocks, New And Old. Bobbing Girl, Weather Station. Parts.Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Lg. Vtg. Schneider Germany Cuckoo Clock, Many FunctionsGerman Made Cuckoo-quail ClockVtg West Germany Regula Cuckoo Clock Chalet Animated Dancers Music Box 3 WeightsVintage German Musical Cuckoo Clock Working Wood Clean Used Plays My Fair Lady Older German Nutcracker Holding A Working Key Wound Cuckoo Style ClockVinage - Large Cuckoo Clock - Needs Repair, As IsVintage Fancy West German Cuckoo Clock C1962 As Is - Not WorkingVintage White Cuckoo Wall Clocks Wooden Working , West GermanyVintage Working Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock With Dancers Big Lot Cuckoo Clock Parts, Bellows, Weights, Birds, Hands, Chains, Pendulum NosBlack Forest Hones 25b Chalet Cuckoo Clock Hand Painted Flowers-water Pump-treeVintage German Musical Cuckoo Clock W/ DancersVintage Black Donau Cuckoo ClockInteresting Chalet With 6 Pinetrees Carved Cuckoo ClockBlack Forest Hunter's Cuckoo Clock With Full Stag Anton Shneider West Germany NwVintage German Schwarzwalder Wooden Cuckoo Clock Black Forest J Engstler NewLarge Vintage German Cuckoo ClockGermany Black Forest Cuckoo ClockAntique Wood Cuckoo Dial Nailed On Numerals 4 Inch Clock PartVintage Cuckoo Clock Made In GermanyHones Black Forest Cuckoo Clock One Day Germany Unwrapped In Box Vintage1998Gueissaz-jaccard Swiss Germany Musical Cuckoo Clock 2 Tunes Antique German Wood Plate Picture Wall Clock Black Forest Key Wind Not CuckooLarge Vintage German Cuckoo Clock---parts Only