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    

Antique Edwardian German Carved Wood Mantel Clock With CuckooWonderful 8 Day Antique Wall Clock - German Drop Dial Gustav Becker Clock CaseEarly Single Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement, Dial & Bracket Only @ 1870 Antique 27" German Ra Regulator Wall Clock Parts RepairWonderful 8 Day Antique Wall Clock - German Gustav Becker Wall Clock MovmentVintage German Hac 8 Day Westminster Chime Mantel Clock - Good WorkingChalet Style German Musical Animated Cuckoo Clock ! Goats! Water Wheel! Antique Single Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Works With Or Without CaseAntique Wall Clock Regulator Vienna Clock*kienzle* Very Big Clock 150 Cm Height Beautiful German Animated Musical Figurines Black Forest Regula Cuckoo Clock WksGerman Junghans Chiming Mahogany Bracket Clock Circa 1890Nice German Black Forest Schneider Animated Beer Drinker Musical Cuckoo Clock Antique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody *** Irod ***Vintage West German Musical Cuckoo Clock With Sawing, Woodchopping & WaterwheelBeautiful West German Schatz Royal Mariner Ships Clock & Matching BarometerBeautiful German Gustav Becker Balcony Free Swinger Wall Clock New CaseAntique Mantel Clock German Clock ***westminster-master-clock***Nice Antique German Junghans Regulator Wall Clock .German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock 8 Day Hunting Clock With Music And DancersC1890 Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator "blind Man's" Clock 54" Runs GreatMatching Pair Engraved Vienna Regulator Clock Weights @ 1890Beautiful German Gustav Becker Balcony Free Swinger Wall Clock At 1910German Junghans Antique Mantle Clock Westminster Large, Beautiful/runs GreatNice German Black Forest Carved Musical Cuckoo Clock With Spinning DancersStunning Rare Working Antique German Black Forest Deeply Carved Cuckoo Clock!Nice Old Working Rare German Black Forest Deeply Carved Wood Hunter Cuckoo ClockAntique 20thc Austrian Jewelled Solid Silver Gilt & Enamel Mantel Clock C.1920Signed 2 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement Only @ 1875 ProjectBeautiful 18" German Regula Animated Wood Nesting-feeding Baby Birds Wall Clock Beautiful Antique German Friedrich Mauthe Free Swinger Wall Clock At 1900Nice Old Rare Working German Black Forest Carved Wood Hunter Cuckoo Clock!Old German Wall Clock. Not Antique Cuckoo Clock. "punch And Judy!" Nr~Antique German Wall Clock ( Junghans)Beautiful German Kraft Behrens Balcony Free Swinger Wall Clock New CaseVintage West German Cuckoo ClockGerman Black Forest Schneider Musical Cuckoo Clock With Animated Chimney SweepLarge 55 Inch Vienna Weight Clock Case--1, 2, Or 3 Weight CaseEngraved Vienna Weight Regulator Clock Pendulum Only @ 1890 Fancy SuperRare Old Large 3 Bird German Black Forest 8 Day Nice Carved Wood Cuckoo Clock!Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock *junghans *Antique Nesting Bird Cuckoo Clock German Black Forest 19"l X 12.5"wAntique-wall-clock-vienna Regulator 19th Century Friedrich Mauthe SchwenningenBeautiful Large Size Antique German Spring Driven Wall Clock With German EagleAntique German Wall Clock By Friedrich Mauthe Black ForestUnusual West German Carved Picture Musical Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or Repair Vintage German Cuckoo Clock Spinning People BirdsAntique Vintage German 8 Day Regula Schmeckenbecher Hunter Cuckoo Clock German Made Regula Cuckoo Clock"rare" Authentic Black Forest German "owl" Cuckoo Clock It "hoots"Vintage German Cuckoo Clock Antique German 8 Day Movement Mantel Clock Original Mauthe From A CollectionHubert Herr "medieval German Townhouse" Eight-day Hand-crafted Cuckoo ClockHoward Miller Mantel Shelf Clock Model 612-438 German Westminster Chime 14 InchVintage Wall Clock Vienna RegulatorAnimated W-german Hour Chalet Cuckoo Clock With Dancers & Music BoxStunning Antique German F.mauthe Wall Clock Approx.1900 Vintage Anton Schneider Dancing Musical Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock W/tagMoon/sun Dial Vienna 24k Gold Plated Calendar Skeleton ClockAntique 1800s German Walnut Striking Vienna Wall ClockAntique Wedgwood Style German Jasperware Jasper Neoclassical Clock