A History of the Cuckoo Clock

Apr 22


William Lind

William Lind

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Cuckoo Clocks – How they began The credit for building the first cuckoo clock goes back to Theodore Franz Anton Ketterer, a German clock manufacturer ...


Cuckoo Clocks – How they began

The credit for building the first cuckoo clock goes back to Theodore Franz Anton Ketterer,A History of the Cuckoo Clock Articles a German clock manufacturer in the Black Forest area of Germany. This first known cuckoo clock dates back to 1730, and was the culmination of 100 years of a watch making industry thriving in the German Black Forest area during these times. After Franz Anton Ketterer presented his initial cuckoo clock, there were many other people from this place who learnt how he did it, and turned this Black Forest into a huge cuckoo clock making industry. Very soon, by the year 1800, there were said to be over six hundred cuckoo clock manufacturers in this area.

The first cuckoo clocks were crude and primitive than what actually appeared later. With time these clocks became more and more sophisticated and elegant in design and decorations. The bird improved and became more decorated. Many themes decorating the clocks were left to the imagination of the painters, and they came up with scenes of family, hunting, military motifs and many other hot topics prevalent during those times. Some of these cuckoo clocks were even decorated with porcelain columns and enameled dials. Estimated 13,500 men and women, including craftsmen, technicians and others were involved in this clock making industry during those times, centered in the villages in and around Triberg in Germany.

Evolving into what they look like - now

However, two main forms of cuckoo clocks evolved themselves as the dominate styles over the years. Typical Black Forest scenes were created using a wooden frame surrounding a wide hulled inner section painted with some bright colors. The cuckoo bird was always placed somewhere at the top of the carved and painted scenario. The “railway house” cuckoo version looked like a common Black Forest structure with a pointed roof and a typical square shape. The front of these cuckoo clocks would often be decorated with ivy leaves, flowers, and other wild life scenes carved out by hand. The cuckoo bird would almost always be hidden behind a trap door, and unfailingly peek out at the strike of an hour to announce the time. This scene was basically meant to mimic a typical German Railway House structure prevalent during those times.

Initially, the cuckoo clock manufacturers were Black Forest farmers doing this as a seasonal pastime during the winter months. This was marketed by the peddlers in other parts of Europe. The cuckoo clocks popularized not only as time pieces, but also as distinctive works of art.

A fledgling Cuckoo Clock Industry

Cuckoo clock manufacturing today, is no more like it used to be. It is a fledgling industry replaced by large workshops, in place of that cottage industry that it earlier was. However, the cuckoo and the original design have remained the same. These clocks are also still hand carved by expert craftsmen and equally sought after as works of art, and not just ordinary clocks.

The movements going into these clocks have changed from wooden to metal to quartz as they appear now. The pendulum, although intact is more a part of the design than the clock really; and what earlier used to adorn and be a part of the rural European household is decorative enough and charming modern homes in many metropolitan cities worldwide.