The southern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, along with Germany’s neighbor Austria, have been an important center for European clockmaking since the Renaissance.

Bavaria is home to Augsburg, which was a locus for clockmaking in the 16th and 17th centuries. Baden-Württemberg encloses the Black Forest, the birthplace of the cuckoo clock and Junghans, which at the turn of the 20th century was the largest clockmaker in the world, and Austria has Vienna, where in the 19th century, regulator clocks set standard for accuracy.

The Vienna regulator wall clocks are a particular source of pride for Austrians, and with good reason. Vienna regulator clocks gained such a reputation for accuracy that they were routinely used in public places such as railway stations and post offices.

During the Empire period (1800-1835), Vienna regulator clocks were designed to hang on the wall. They were typically made of wood, which was either polished or gilded. The laterndluhr clocks of this period resembled three boxes—the upper box housed the clock’s movement and was capped by a roof, the clock’s weights dangled in the center of the case, and at the bottom swung the pendulum.

The conservative Biedermeier period (1835-1848) ushered in the dachluhr clocks, which were simpler in style than the ones of just as few years before. The clocks were elegant but rigid in their design, except for the "piecrust" bezels around the clocks’ faces.

The revolution of 1848 expanded the middle class, which made luxuries like regulators more accessible to more people. Newly affluent Viennese embraced revivals of Greek, Renaissance, and Gothic styles—straight cases quickly gave way to ones with wavy, serpentine sides. The ornamentation continued into the 1850s with more finials and fancier woodwork throughout—walnut, cherry, and other veneers replaced the faux-grain finishes of previous periods.

The Vienna regulator wall clocks from about 1870 to 1895 are the most common today. They are also some of the most ornate and beautiful examples of the form. Signatures of these ...

At the turn of the 20th century, the overlapping impulses of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts ushered in the Jugendstil style. It was a return to the box regulators of almost a century before, but this time the lines were softer, the boxes somehow less boxy. Beveled glass was now the norm, while the hardwoods used for the cases ranged from maple to walnut.

Meanwhile, in the Black Forest of Germany, 18th-century clockmakers were going cuckoo. In 1730, Franz Anton Ketterer started the cuckoo-clock craze when he created the first example of this beloved novelty clock. Since then, the Black Forest has been synonymous with cuckoo clocks, as most antique cuckoo clocks were made there.

Cuckoo clocks have weight-driven movements. Unlike other clocks with weights, the ones in cuckoo clocks are often made to appear as part of the design—they are frequently shaped like pinecones, for example.

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.).

In the 1850s, architect Friedrich Eisenlohr designed a cuckoo clock that looked like a little house. Inspired by the look-out buildings constructed by railroad workers, this style of clock became known as Bahnhäusle—it was so popular that it is still one of the most commonly used cuckoo clock designs today.

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 to the highest standards. To this day, each individual piece of wood from native Lime trees (they are also known as Linden trees) is hand-cut and engraved, right down to the shingles on a clock’s roof and its ornamental leaves.

More sober was the output of Junghans Uhren GmbH, which today is Germany's largest watch and clock manufacturer. Although the company focused in pocket watches and wristwatches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it collaborated in the 1950s with the Swiss architect, artist, and industrial designer Max Bill on a series of deceptively simple wall clocks for the home and office.

Particularly charming is Bill’s upside-down teardrop-shaped Kitchen Clock, which incorporated a timer into the bottom section of its clean design. Today, institutions from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London have a Junghans/Bill Kitchen Clock in their collections.

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    

8 Day German Lenzkirch Plato Jump Hour Digital Flip Lantern Carriage Desk ClockVintage German Gustav Becker 400 Day Anniversary Brass Case Clock - Good WorkingVtg German Schatz Royal Mariner Brass Ships Bell Wall Clock 8 Day W/key Works! Grande Sonnerie Three (3) Weight W. Kollmer 19th Century Wall Clock Vienna Antique Fhs Friedrich Mauthe Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Complete WorksAntique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Bone Hands Complete With Top - RunningVintage Schatz Open Bell Royal Mariner 8 Days German Ships Clock.German Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Goat, Woodchopper & Chimney Sweep Antique Junghans Wurtemberg German Wall Clock Movement Pendulum Dial Chime HandsVintage Antique German Cuckoo Clock - Filigree, Inlaid WoodLarge German Antique Wall Clock Triple Chime 100% All Original Mint!Older Carved German Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Squirrels & Dancers Nice Old Working German Bulova 8 Day Key Wind Vanity Desk Brass Carriage Clock!Antique German Westminster Chime Mantel Clock Movement PartsMint In Box Old Rare German Key Wind Swiss Musical Victorian Vanity Desk Clock!Excellent Small Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock C1900Breathtaking Rare Huge Working German Black Forest 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock!Breathtaking Rare Old Working German Black Forest Wine Grapes Oval Cuckoo Clock!German Brown Black Forest Wooden Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or RepairAntique 1900s 1800s Clock Movement German R=a Or R/a Style Wall Mounted Parts ??Antique Austrian Vienna Enamel / Enameled Ormolu Clock Stunning Antique German Striking Oak Mantel ClockAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster 2 Melody Clock*** Hermle***Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock No 7320German Cuckoo Clock Black Forest 8 Day E Schmeckenbecher19thc Antique Victorian Era French Cast Iron Hermle West German Mantel ClockAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody *fhs Franz Hermle & Sohn*German Wall Clock Finials Case Parts Freeswinger Free Swinger Vienna RegulatorVienna Regulator Wall Clock Vintage Hubert Herr Cuckoo Clock German Made In Germany Black ForestGerman "5 Tube" Grandfather Clock Movement!!! Clock Parts!!! Antique Porcelain Ansonia German Gazelle Clock In Nice Condition Blue FloralNice Old Working German Black Forest Carved Chimney Sweep Chalet Cuckoo Clock!Traditional German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock, Working Condition Vintage Schatz 400 Day German Anniversary Clock 49 Parts Or Repair Schatz Rare 400 Day German Antique Mantle Clock 100% All Original Runs Great!Vintage Mechanical German Schatz Carriage Clock.Antique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Birds PartsAntique German Wall Clock CaseOld Regula West German 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock Working FineAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody Clock ***German Antique Mantle Tambour Clock 100% All Original Looks/runs Great!Antique F. Zacher + Co. German Brass Anniversary Parts Clock As FoundLg German Vintage Cuckoo Clock For Repair/parts Weights PendulumAntique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Bird PartsAntique Skull Teeth & Bones Ernest Bohne German Porcelain Clock Case Needs ClockAntique Original Lenzkirch Mantel Clock Walnut German Boulle. C. 1900.Nice Deeply Carved German 2 Tune Music Hummel Dancers Wood Chalet Cuckoo Clock!Antique German Shelf/mantle Bracket Clock Vintage German Made Cuckoo Clock For Parts And Or RepairPair Of Antique Vienna Regulator Clock Weights...lot #13, Parts, 3.1 Lbs EachVintage Franz Hermle Welby German Westminster Chime Mantel Clock Vintage German Chalet Cuckoo Clock 18 Tooth Music Movement When You Are In LoveLarge Vintage German Mantel Clock By Mauthe Westminster ChimeAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Chime Clock **** Kienzle ****Antique German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Bird PartAntique Vintage Regula "german Black Forest" Cuckoo Clock Hunter Rabbit BirdVintage Wood Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock W 4 People/couples (639)Vintage German Multi Colored Two Door Cuckoo Clock With Birds - Working ClockAntique Vintage 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Style West German Carving