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Cuckoo Clocks

What is a “Cuckoo” Clock

Typically, a cuckoo clock is a pendulum clock that strikes the hours (and sometimes the 1/2-hour) using small whistles and bellows that imitate the call of the cuckoo bird. Most cuckoo clocks are made in the shape of a birdhouse or a chalet and they are decorated with animals, plants, hunting scenes or leaves. Most have a bird that pops out as the cuckoo sound goes off. They are unique creations that are centuries old and the geniune ones are from an area in Germany called the Black Forest. So cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest are usually the most sought after and, therefore, the most expensive type of cuckoo clock.

Is there really a cuckoo bird?

Yes. The cuckoo bird is native to Asia, Africa and certain areas in Europe (you will be correct if you suggest that Germany was one of those areas). The cuckoo bird was commonly gray in color although the female often had red feathers on top of her head. Cuckoo birds often used the nests of other birds in which to lay their eggs and the young were then raised by their “surrogate” or “foster” parents. An interesting concept to say the least!

Our Selection

Our clocks come from the Black Forest region in Germany, the original “home” of the cuckoo clock and still where the best quality ones come from. Woodcarvings on today’s clocks are still handmade…as they were over 200 years ago. On hand, we keep around 6–10 clocks of various size and styles but we have a catalog available for you to peruse in the event you would like to order one. Generally, and if the clock is available, it takes about a month to have the clock arrive. Special orders can be accomodated with just 25% down and our layaway plan allows you to pay for the clock over several months if you wish.

History of Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest have been around since the mid-1700s. Prior to that time, sundials and hourglasses were the usual way to keep time. The “father” of the cuckoo clock is thought to be Franz Anton Ketterer and it was his ability to reproduce the sound of the cuckoo bird’s that made the clock industry develop so rapidly in the Black Forest region of Germany. Many of the original makers were farmers (and their families) who used the winter months to produce the cuckoo clocks. Often, each member of the family specialized in a specific aspect of the clock’s production. Originally, almost ALL of the parts of the cuckoo clock were made of wood, including the gears and other inside mechanisms. In the summer, the clock peddlars would then sell those clocks throughout Europe. As you can imagine, the first clocks were “primitive” compared to what you can find today and the weights were often stones. As the craftspeople began specializing in certain aspcts of clockmaking, their work and the designs of the clocks improved. Today, you will find fancier cuckoo clocks with animated figures such as couples dancing, wood being chopped and a moving mill wheel. Today’s weights are usually in the form of pine cones. The number of weights will tell you how many mechanisms the clock has (1=keeping time, 2= cuckoo, 3=musical) and the size of the weights will tell you whether they have to be “wound” every day or just once a week. In very recent years, we have seen the emergence of battery powered cuckoo clocks. These do not have the genuine bellows so the striking sounds are produced electronically. Sadly, the cuckoo bird often has a recorded sound…but not that the untrained can tell just by listening.

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