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    

Secessionist Arts & Crafts Nouveau Copper & Enamel Mantel Clock German MercedesAntique 19thc German Junghans B06 Bracket Clock W/ Chimes & Mahogany CaseGustav Becker Double Weight Wall Clock Movement 8 Day Vienna Wall Clock MovementOld Railroad Cuckoo Clock German Movement & Case, But No Weights & No Pendulum Scarce Antique German 4.5" Disk Music Box Mantle Clock Movement - Complete PartsWest German Cuckoo Clock Needs Cleaning GermanyAntique B&d Ltd Bawo & Dotter German Shelf Mantel Clock Westrminster ChimesOld Hunters Cuckoo Clock German - Running Working W 2 Weights & Pendulum AntiqueLovely Large West German Mantle Clock. Full Working Order.German 400 Day Glass Dome Mantle Clock Antique Low Serial Number2 Old Antique Brass Clock Weights Vienna Wall Regulator Weights Clock Part Superb Antique German Junghans Keyhole Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx.1910German 2 Weight Veinna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Signed RememberVintage West German Estyma Gilt Cherubs Onyx Base Alarm Clock Clockwork MovementAntique Working 1800's German Walnut R=a Regulator 8 Day Wall Clock Lenzkirch?Vintage Jeweled German Salem 8 Day Ships Bell Wheel Key Wind Clock On Wood StandAntique German Junghans Wall Regulator Clock For Repair Or Parts Very Unique Antique 19c French Bronzed Clock W Dancing Arab Turkish Girl ViennaAntique German Gustav Becker Wall Clock Case For PartsAntique German Vienna Regulator 2 Weight Type Clock Movement And Enamel DialBeautiful Antique German Kienzle Free Swinger Wall Clock At 1900Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock****Vintage German Musical Cuckoo Clock Animated Woodchoppers E. SchmeckenbecherJnghands Chiming Mantel Clock German QualityAntique Junghans Carved Wood German Mantel Clock * Very NiceA E.schmeckenbecher German Singing Bird Automation Caged Cuckoo ClockAntique Two Weight Vienna Regulator Wall ClockLovely Striking Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Eagle Decorated Crown C1900Excellent Rearing Horse Crown Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Circa 1900s 4 Old Antique Brass Clock Weights Vienna Wall Regulator Weights Clock Part Antique Mantel Clock German Clock Westminster Melody Clock ***Original German Blackforest Cuckoo Clock 1950s, RestorationAntique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Parts RepairAntique Hamburg American Vienna Regulator Wall ClockGood Quality German Spring Driven Wall Clock Movement Signed.Antique German 8 Day Movement Westminster Chime Mantel Clock MautheRare Kienzle Music Box Vienna Regulator Wall Clock C1900 Good Working ConditionVienna Regulator Clock Parts-----------movement Plus WeightsAntique Free Swinger German Wall Clock No Reserve !Beautiful Vintage Junghans German Wall Clock Weight Driven (junghans Hermle Era)Vintage German Black Forrest Cuckoo ClockVintage Galaxy German Weight Driven Wall Clock Vintage Old Antique Weight For Vienna Wall Clock With Pendulum , Clock Parts1930's German Oscillating Eye Owl Clock--wow !!Wempe Ship's Bell Clock Key Wind Chronometer German Running And Chiming W Key VgBeautiful German Coo Coo Clock! Excellent Condition~~working~~Vintage German Schatz Ship's Bell Wall Clock GermanyGerman Black Forest Hunters Cuckoo Clock Non WorkingBlue Egg With Clock Trinket Box By Keren Kopal Faberge Egg Austrian CrystalVintage Schatz 400 Day Anniversary Mantle Clock German ~ Parts Or RepairVintage German Junghans Weight Driven Wall Clock Brass Repousse Figural FrontBeautiful Antique Junghans German Wall Clock Repair ( Case) Or SpareVintage Schatz 49 German Anniversary Clock (for Parts / Restoration)German Cuckoo Clock Antique Early Brass/bronze Alarm Clock German? Porcelain Dial Rings On Bell OldVintage & Modern German Cuckoo Clock Bellow Bellows Tubes Tops Lot Clock PartsVintage Black Forest Hand Carved German 8-day Regula Cuckoo Clock HunterNice Antique Wall Clock Movement - Westminster Chime Vienna Wall Clock MovementAntique German 8 Day Movement Chiming Mantel Clock Original Hermle SchwebeankerLarge Vintage German Hand Carved Hunter's Cuckoo Clock