Who uses the Black Forest cuckoo clock

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The Black Forest cuckoo clock then and now

Cuckoo clocks through the ages

The epitome of the Black Forest clock is the cuckoo clock. As already mentioned, the exact beginning of watch production in the Black Forest cannot be traced back 100%. The ghosts also argue about when and where the first clock with a cuckoo mechanism was built. It can be assumed that a mechanism through which a cuckoo figure creates the unmistakable reputation by means of an organ pipe and bellows was initially developed in parallel in other automatic figure machines. What is certain is that as early as 1619 a clock with a cuckoo call was in the collection of Elector August of Saxony.

Sources also testify that the mechanism had become generally known by 1669 at the latest, and the idea of ​​using the cuckoo call as a sound signal in wall clocks enjoyed rapidly growing popularity. It remains to be seen whether Franz Anton Ketterer in 1730 or Michael Dilger and Matthäus Hummel began to build the first Black Forest cuckoo clocks in 1742, or whether the beginning can be dated back even earlier. It is certain that the Black Forest cuckoo clock pioneers helped these clock forms to achieve their final breakthrough and today they are internationally famous.

The early cuckoo clocks differed considerably from today's ones. The striking mechanism with a cuckoo call was built into various clock shapes, in frame or shield clocks.

The first cuckoo clock that comes close to today's models was the "Bahnhäusleuhr" designed around 1850, the design of which was based on a trainman's house. It emerged from a design competition held by the Badische Uhrmacherschule in Furtwangen. After a short time, the cuckoo had "conquered" this form of the case for itself, so to speak, and the ultimate triumph of the cuckoo clock as we know it began. The original form of today's cuckoo clock was consistently further developed from 1860 onwards, equipped with elaborate carvings and pine cone weights, and gradually developed into a landmark of the Black Forest.

Today's variants of cuckoo clocks

A cuckoo clock typically consists of a pendulum mechanism for the time display and a striking mechanism for the cuckoo call, both of which are moved by means of a chain hoist. Sophisticated mechanics move the time indicators and also ensure that the bellows of the two organ pipes inside the clock periodically fill with air and then collapse in quick succession. A high and a low tone follow one another, and the cuckoo call generated in this way shows how many hours it has struck exactly. Even today nothing has changed in this mechanism. To perfect the illusion, a door in the ridge of the clock opens at the same time, and a carved cuckoo bird pushes out and rocks to the rhythm of the calls.

Most similar to the more geometrically designed original form are the models available under the collective term “traditional carved clocks”. The "Häusel" is almost always entwined with a multi-leaf vine. Bird or hunting motifs complement the decoration.

The cuckoo clocks called “chalet clocks” naturally also have their “house”. This is mostly designed as a traditional Black Forest house or estate, with windows, often hand-carved roof shingles, flower boxes and other decorative accessories. In addition, it stands on a sometimes rustic, sometimes lavishly decorated platform with natural scenes or other motifs.

There are cuckoo clocks with a 1-day or larger clocks with an 8-day power reserve. Many of the larger watches are also equipped with high quality mechanical music rollers. These clocks have a third chain mechanism and thus also a third weight, which drives the music cylinder. In addition to the music, dancers move on a rotating disc below the cuckoo door. Such elaborately designed masterpieces of watchmaking often also have other moving elements. Traditional motifs such as mill wheels, movable sawmills or beer garden scenarios are particularly popular. Small miniature worlds come to life on the clock platform on the hour. Of course, in addition to mechanical clocks, cuckoo clocks with quartz movements and digitally generated cuckoo calls / music are available in all sizes and variants. Weights and pendulums are only mock-ups here, but the design of the cases and decorative elements is also entirely handcrafted in these clocks.

The modern age has also found its way. In recent years there has been a small boom in cuckoo clock models, which usually still contain houses and cuckoos as well as the tried and tested mechanics, but are presented in a modern design. Shrill colors or strict geometry and the use of typical traditional decorative elements in the new design question the term “cuckoo clock” in a creative way and reinterpret it.

Since Black Forest cuckoo clocks are such a popular souvenir, there are also various so-called souvenir clocks for smaller budgets. Usually these are quartz watches, but clocks with a spring mechanism are also included. Here you can find small clocks without a cuckoo, but with a cuckoo call, slightly larger clocks with a bird, and clocks with a quarter call, in which the cuckoo calls once every quarter of an hour.

Background of cuckoo clocks making

The production of cuckoo clocks requires a lot of experience and craftsmanship. The extensive handicrafts do not yet make a cuckoo clock unique, but it is far from being a mass product. The manufacturers are not fixated on producing cuckoo clocks at the "cheapest" possible price, but rather set high quality standards for their work that are committed to tradition. Some of the manufacturing processes have a centuries-old tradition and are passed on from generation to generation among the employees of the Black Forest clock manufacturers.

A large number of work steps are necessary to ensure that a cuckoo clock arrives at the customer in the usual quality. Specialists in various trades are entrusted with the individual work steps so that the quality requirements are met. Most manufacturers of Black Forest clocks have their own carpentry and carving workshops and rely on their own employees.

First of all, the right wood must be selected. This is usually the local linden wood. The cuckoo clock wood is roughly cut to size and dried over several years. Only well-dried wood guarantees that the wood will not warp after production. In addition, the carver does much easier with dry wood. The well-dried wood is cut into pieces that correspond to the size of the respective Black Forest clock. An extensive quality control of the wood already takes place here. Pieces of wood with rough bumps and irregularities are sorted out so that no cracks can appear later.

One of the most important parts of the cuckoo clock is the front. It is the flagship of every watch and takes up a large part of the working time. Experienced carvers skilfully implement the respective motif. If you take a closer look at the clocks, you can see the typical marks left by the knives, which only hand-carved work shows. The roofs are often covered with handcrafted shingles. To do this, each individual clapboard of the cuckoo clock is laid individually. The figures are also hand-carved and, depending on the style of the respective workshop, more rustic or filigree. So you can be sure to find the right watch for every taste.

Another important part of any cuckoo clock is the mechanical clockwork. This is also made in the Black Forest and is precise and durable. The clockwork is the heart of the inner workings of a cuckoo clock and is built into the case together with the other mechanical components. A watchmaker establishes the connection between the movement and the moving parts (e.g. hands, cuckoo, dancing couples or figures).

Each of the mechanical cuckoo clocks is of course subjected to extensive checks and tested for functional accuracy for at least 24 hours before it is delivered. We hope you enjoy browsing through the diverse world of our cuckoo clocks!

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