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    

Inlaid Triple Weight Wall Clock - Pitched Roof Grand Sonnerie Vienna Wall ClockVintage German "badische" Oak Cased Alarm Mantel Clock Wind UpAntique Victorian Vienna Wall Clock Austrian Weight Driven Regulator 8 Day C1890Large Older German Black Forest Carved Musical Cuckoo Clock With DancersAntique German Bandstand Torsion Mantel Clock - 360 Day Gilt Anniversary ClockAntique German Wooden Cuckoo Clock Inlaid Parts RepairAntique German Vienna Wall Clock Movement Dial Parts*antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock * Junghans * Hand Carved Antique German Free Swinger Wall Regulator ClockVintage Black Forest German Made Cuckoo Clock Beautiful Detail Nr!!Antique German Junghans Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx. 1900Antique German Freeswinger Wall Clock Approx. 1900Antique German Black Forest Carved Cuckoo Clock Style Barometer Dancers ChaletVienna Weight Regulator Clock Case Top Piece Only @ 1890 Excellent[unique Specimen] Antique German Gustav Becker Wall Clock Door Made Of BrassAntique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Case Parts RepairCalendar Clock Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock Regulator At 1900 As IsAntique German Wall Clock Regulator At 1880 / 1900Gorgeous Antique German Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx. 1890Old German Rare Saw Clock About 1960Jerome Flying Pendulum Vintage Antique Made German Clock Horolovar Bronx NyGerman Black Forest 8-day Cuckoo Clock In Perfect Operating ConditionLenzkirch German Minature Grandfather Clock Original Circa 1885 RunningAntique German Musical Carriage Clock 1900 Vintage Germany DamagedRare Vintage Welby 8 Day Bird Cuckoo Clock Black Forest German Hand Carved WoodAntique German Kienzle Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx. 1900Antique Ra German Regulator Wall Clock Case Crown Parts RepairAntique German Ra Wall Clock Movement Dial PartsGerman Anno 1750 Sawtooth Gravity Wall ClockGustav Becker Vienna Weight Regulator Clock Embossed Pendulum Only @ 1890Rare Owl & Fox Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock - For Parts Or RepairGerman Black Forest Cuckoo Clock - 12” TallVintage German Regula 8 Day Cuckoo Clock - Runs IntermittentlyGustav Becker Excellent Balcony German Wall Clock With Brass Fittings C 1895Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock Junghans Approx. 1900Vintage Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Regula German Spinning Dancers Music & BirdAntique German Junghans Wall Clock 1880-1910 Porcelain Face "as-is" Project Vintage German Wooden Cuckoo Clock W Bird & Fox Decor Has Thorens Music BoxMatching Pair Of Engraved Vienna Regulator Clock Weights @ 1890 Gustav BeckerVintage Old German Toggili Weather House Cuckoo Clock For Parts OnlyTwo Inner And Outer Chapter Rings For Vienna Wall ClockAttractive Porcelain German Timepiece Mantle Clock In Working ConditionAntique American Cuckoo Clock Co. / German Movement / Not RunningGerman Haller Antique Mantel Clock Double Chimes - 9 Chime Rods Looks/runs GreatVtg H.a.c. Art Deco German Wood Mantle Clock Crossed Arrows W/key - Not WorkingAntique Victorian Vienna Light Wood Striking Wall Clock, Needs Pendulm.Lot Of 6 Vienna Regulator 1 And 2 Weight Clock Movements Parts Or RepairLarge Vintage W German Black Forest Carved 8 Day Hunter Cuckoo Clock3 German Antique Kienzle & Ventra Mantle Clock Lot Original "read Description"Antique German Oswald Uhrenfabrik Rolling Eye Dog Clock Carved Wood Black ForestVintage Kienzle Alarm Clock German 7 Ruby Jewels WorkingBlack Forest German Large Wood Cuckoo Wall ClockLot Of 11 Vintage & Modern German Cuckoo Clock Wooden Fronts / Trim Clock PartsVtg German Regula Black Forest Musical Animated Cuckoo Clock W Dancers & Band !!Older German Hermle Key Wound Striking Bell Cathedral Skeleton Dome ClockVintage Kundo German Anniversary Clock Oval Glass Dome Kieninger & Obergfell VgcVienna Weight Regulator Clock Embossed Pendulum Only @ 1890 Original JunghansAntique West German Musical Black Forest Carved Cuckoo Clock Birds Cold War EraBlue Faberge Egg Trinket Box & Clock Handmade By Keren Kopal Austrian CrystalsSeth Thomas German Ship Clock 1004 Corsair-we537-000. Running & Chiming !