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    

Kienzle German Oak Alarm Mantle Clock19th Century Original Austrian Grande Sonniere 3 Weight Wall ClockNice German Animated Woodchopper Musical Cuckoo Clock Dancers & Waterwheel Vintage Brass German Anniversary Clock Antique German Junghans Keyhole Wall Clock Approx.1910Large Vintage German Cuckoo Wall Clock *antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock ***hermle*** Original Xl Large Antique 19thc German Vion & Baury Hand Painted Porcelain Figural Mantle ClockKern Sohne Turquoise Anniversary German ClockOld Antique Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator 3 Weight Wall Clock GermaneOswald German Monkey Rolling Eye Clock Vintage RareAntique Vienna Regulator Clock Parts/repair Cw Wc Fabrik Marke Victorian Walnut Schatz Anniversary Torsion Black Victorian German Dome Clock 400 Day RepairVintage Kundo 400 Day Anniversary Clock Oval German Kieninger & ObergfellGustav Becker Single Vienna Weight Regulator Clock Case Only @ 1875 Schatz Anniversary Torsion Black Victorian German Dome Clock 400 Day RepairAntique German Dresden Porcelain Mantel Clock Garniture August Schatz & SohneFine Antique Original German Quarter Strike Oak Bracket Clock Excellent C1900Lot Of 2 German Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks For Parts Or RestorationAntique Mantel Clock German Bracket Clock In WoodAntique Porcelain Faced German Made Vienna Regulator Clock Movement For RepairVintage German Schatz Open Glass Dial 8 Day Timepiece Skeletons Carriage ClockOld Small Unusual German Wall Clock Antique Vintage Wurzburg Hand Painted Nr!German Schatz 400 Day Very Rare White Wflowers Antique Clock 100% Original! 1885 German Column Side Large 30" Wall ClockW Parts Repair Vtg E Schmeckenbecher Musical Cuckoo Clock German Black ForestHac 14 Day Strike German Antique Clock For Restoration/ Repair?Vintage German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Regula Movement Untested As IsFor Parts, One Lot Of Four West German Grandfather Clock MovementsEarly 20thc German Black Forest Carved Birds Cuckoo Clock Not Running50 Vintage & Modern German Cuckoo Clock Hands Hand Lot Clock Parts Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Vienna Clock *konkurrenz* Very BeautifulVintage German Cuckoo Clock German Mechanical Musical Cuckoo Clock*antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock Westminster*Vintage Schatz & Sons German #54 1000 Day Brass Anniversary Clock Parts RepairAntique Junghans B09 German Westminster Clock Movement Dial Parts Antique Mantel Clock Tambour German High Grade "winterhalder Hofmeier" 1885-1900 Schatz Anniversary Torsion Black Victorian German Dome Clock 400 Day RepairVintage German Cuckoo Clock For Parts / Repair*antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock ***anker***Antique-wall-clock- Vienna Regulator 19th Century *125 Cm Height *fms*Antique German Clock Movement With AccessoriesVintage Kundo German Anniversary Clock *antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock **Small Vintage German Cuckoo Clock To Restore - Leaves & BirdsGerman Hermle Wall Pendulum Clock (regulator Style)Original Embossed Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Clock Weight @ 1890 RareOriginal Weight For Vienna Regulator Clock @ 1875 Gustav BeckerOriginal Embossed Weight For Vienna Regulator Clock @ 1890 Gustav Becker RareVienna Weight Regulator Clock Pendulum @ 1875 Original Gustav Becker Project Lot Of 2 Old Vintage Chalet Style Wood German Cuckoo Clock Pendulum For Parts Vintage Lot Of German Cuckoo Clocks For Parts Or RepairGerman Antique Mantel Clock Westminster Chimes Original Looks/runs Great! Vintage Peter German Copper Alarm Clock Top Bells ~working~copper Needs CleaningAntique German Cuckoo ClockBlack Forest Regula German Cuckoo Clock For Parts Repairs No Weights No PendulumVintage Kundo 400 Day Anniversary Clock For Parts German Kieninger & ObergfellGustav Becker Vienna Regulator Clock Winding Crank Key Only @ 1875 OriginalOriginal German Junghans Wall Clock Movement Parts Repair