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 Clock Black Forest Carved Oak Twin Fusee Working Order Circ 1880Rare Antique American Shelf Cuckoo Clock . A. Frankfield Pat. April 24 1866Cuckoo Clock With Singing Bird Cage Automaton Black Forest For Spares Or RepairsAntique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Bone Hands Complete With Top - Running*****cute Moving Kissing Lovers Musical Black Forest Cuckoo Clock****German Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Goat, Woodchopper & Chimney Sweep Vintage Rare Hunter's Full Buck Cuckoo Clock Germany Vintage Antique German Cuckoo Clock - Filigree, Inlaid WoodVintage Antique Cuckoo Clock Case W/some Parts To Restore - Inlay, FiligreeGerman Brown Black Forest Wooden Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or RepairVintage Germany Regula Cuckoo Clock Swiss Music Box 4 Repair Edelweiss WandererBreathtaking Rare Huge Working German Black Forest 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock!Breathtaking Rare Old Working German Black Forest Wine Grapes Oval Cuckoo Clock!Older Carved German Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Squirrels & Dancers Antique Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Made In Germany German Cuckoo Clock Black Forest 8 Day E SchmeckenbecherVintage Hubert Herr Cuckoo Clock German Made In Germany Black ForestVintage Germany Hunter Deer Rabbit Cuckoo Clock Repair Or PartsBlack Forest German Cuckoo Clock No 7320Lg German Vintage Cuckoo Clock For Repair/parts Weights PendulumAntique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Birds PartsOld Regula West German 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock Working FineNice Old Working German Black Forest Carved Chimney Sweep Chalet Cuckoo Clock!Old Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo ClockVintage Wooden Cuckoo Clock - Made In Germany5 Cuckoo Clock Grape Leaf Pendulums / Pendulum Parts LotNice Deeply Carved German 2 Tune Music Hummel Dancers Wood Chalet Cuckoo Clock!Vintage Cuckoo Clock West Germany Cabin Chopping Wood LumberjackAntique Vintage Regula "german Black Forest" Cuckoo Clock Hunter Rabbit BirdVintage 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Excellent ConditionElaborate West Germany Cuckoo Clock - Needs Tlc Or Part Out Only Partially Works2015 Hallmark Ornament Santa's Magic Cuckoo Clock NibBlack Forest Jmius Cuckoo Clock Vintage Wood Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock W 4 People/couples (639)1 Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Made In West Germany Clock Coo Coo BirdNew In Box, 2015 Hallmark Ornament, "santa's Magic Cuckoo Clock"Vintage German Made Cuckoo Clock For Parts And Or RepairCuckoo Clock With Musical Box Swiss Musical MovementFord Mustang Cuckoo Clock - Bradford ExchangeVintage Schatz 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Made In Germany. (589)Vintage German Multi Colored Two Door Cuckoo Clock With Birds - Working ClockVintage Cuckoo Clock Mfg Co - Wooden Cuckoo Clock - Germany - Untested Vintage Cuckoo Clock Dancers Made In GermanyVintage Schatz 8 Day Cuckoo Clock For Parts With Instruction BookletVintage( Germany ?) Black Forrest Cuckoo Clock Wood Parts Or RepairAntique Vintage 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Style West German CarvingVintage Schatz 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Germany For Parts Or RestorationGerman Dutch Girl Bouncing Spring Black Forest Mini Cuckoo Clock Cuckoo Clock Mfg Co. Made In Germany,parts Or RepairNice Old Working German Black Forest 8 Day Hand Carved Wood Cuckoo Clock!Vintage German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock...lqqk...for Parts Or RepairVintage Lux Cottage Cuckoo Clock With Key Needs Repair For PartsAntique Vintage Regula Cuckoo Clock Model 25-76 With Weights & Pendulum WorkingVintage Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Made In Germany Leaf & Birds Pinecone WeightsVtg Berg Importing Ornate German Cuckoo Clock Gottaget !!30 Hour Black Forest Cuckoo ClockCuckoo Clock 8 Day Old & Small Clock For Parts Or Repair.Lux Pendulette Cuckoo Style Clock , See VideoRegula 1 Day Cuckoo Clock Movement, A 25-83, Clean & RunningAntique German Black Forest Train Style Cuckoo Clock From The Late 1800's