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    

German 8 Day Direct Read Plato Jump Hour Digital Flip Desk Clock Pre Ww2 GermanyLaterndluhr Vienna Regulator Triple Weight Wall Clock - Original Antique ClocksBiedermeier Vienna Weight Regulator Clock @ 1850 Nice!Amazing 19c German Westminster Striking Bracket Clock - Original Antique ClocksAntique German Georgian Style Solid Oak Westminster Chime Musical Bracket Clock Old German 8-day Cuckoo Clock Original, Large, Highly Decorated.Lovely Vintage German Triple Chiming Musical Mantle Clock - Aug SchatzGorgeous 19thc Anniversary 360 Day Mantel Clock - German Torsion Antique ClocksAntique German Kienzle Art Nouveau Free Swinger Wall Clock - C1895 - RunsEarly Antique German Junghang Oak Cased Ting Tang Mantle Bracket Clock Working*Antique Vienna Wall Clock, For Repairs Easy FixVintage Old Antique Franz Hermle German Westminster Strike Wall Clock See VideoGorgeous 19thc German Lenzkirch Striking Bracket Clock - Original Antique ClocksLow Reserve Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Horse CrownAntique Vintage Berger German Eagle Cuckoo Clock Weights Movement Part Repair 3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement @ 1890 OriginalUnusual Jungans Vienna Wall Clock Movement Complete With Pendulum & SledgeAntique Junghans German Miniature Alarm Clock Music Box €Vintage Musical West German Regula Cuckoo Clock Sawing Men W/ Wood Chopper RununGerman Style Mystery Brass Elephant Swinging Clock With Skeleton MovementVintage West German Regula Musical Waterwheel/ Log Sawing Men Cuckoo Clock Antique Wall Clock Regulator 19th Century Vienna Regulator Vintage German Oswald Scottie Dog Rolling Eyes Novelty ClockAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody Xl Clock **belcanto****Antique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody Fhs-- Franz Hermle & Sohn Mint Stunning Working German Black Forest Deeply Carved Wood Hunter Cuckoo ClockVintage German Airguide Ship's Bell Clock Brass & Barometer1890 Antique France Wall Vienna Style Freeswinger Clock JunghansBeautiful Antique German Junghans Wall Clock At 1900 With PendulumVintage Swiss Made Musical German Cuckoo Wall Clock Parts RepairAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster ***colangel***Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock With Horse- Walnut Case- 1890 GermanyAntique B&d German Scroll Mantle Clock Red Mahogany Peerless Westminster Chime Vintage 8 Day Regula German Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Runs Well Deep CarvedAntique Vintage - Job Lot 8 German Cuckoo Clocks - Bgm Ange Gm Angem 99p NrVintage 1950 Schatz German 400 Day Anniversary Clock.rare Maroon.lovers /guitarVintage German Cuckoo Clock Lot 3 Total Not Working Wood No Weights No PendulamsVintage Magnificent* Old German Blk. Forest 8-day Schatz Cuckoo ClockCirca 1880-1910 German Black Forest Carved Cuckoo Clock Fox Grapes & Bird EagleRare German Black Forest Glockenspiel Musical 1509 Castle Animated Clock ProjectAntique-vintage German Black Forest Animated Cuckoo Clock - Restore8 Day West German Regula Cuckoo Clock **good Running Condition** L@@k No ReserveAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody Xl Clock **master**Antique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody *** Bariton ***Kienzle German Mantle "musical Alarm Clock" Working 2 X Tunes Case Spares Parts Antique 1900 German Fancy Carved Cuckoo ClockA Fully Operational & Working Vintage German Wood Cuckoo ClockBlack Forest German Cuckoo Clock (no Reserve)Antique German Spring Driven Keyhole Wall Clock Approx.1900German Fredrick Mauthe Colonial Zeeland Grandfather Wall Clock Chime Key Wind Schatz 400 Day Anniversary Clock German Made For Parts Or RepairEarly 1885 Highly Carved German Cuckoo/quail ClockNice Old Rare Working German Black Forest Animated Musical Saw Mill Cuckoo ClockAntique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody German 'tradition' Eight Day Chiming Mantle ClockVintage German Wiener Blut Cuckoo Clock W Germany SchmeckenbecherAntique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Werner Deponirt MarkedVintage Semco German Travel Pink Rhinestone Alarm ClockVtg German 2 Door Game/hunter Theme Cuckoo Clock Hagos114am Thorens Antique Mantel Clock German Clock **westminster Melody**