Germany cuckoo clocks History
Cuckoo clock, a so-called Jagdstück (Hunt piece), Black Forest, ca. 1900, Deutsches Uhrenmuseum, Inv. 2006-013
A cuckoo clock is a typically pendulum-regulated clock that strikes the hours with a sound like a common cuckoo's call and has an automaton cuckoo bird that moves with each note. Some move their wings, open/close the beak while leaning forward, whereas others only the bird's body is leaned forward. The mechanism to produce the cuckoo call has been in use since the middle of the 18th century and has remained almost without variation until the present.
It is unknown who invented it and where the first one was made. It is thought that much of its development and evolution was made in the Black Forest area in southwestern Germany (State of Baden-Württemberg), the region where the cuckoo clock was popularized. The cuckoo clocks were exported to the rest of the world from the mid 1850s on. Today, the cuckoo clock is one of the favourite souvenirs of travelers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It has become a cultural icon of Germany.
CharacteristicsOne of two gedackt Cuckoo pipes.
The design of a cuckoo clock is now conventional. Most are made in the "traditional style" (also known as "carved") or "chalet" to hang on a wall. In the "traditional style" the wooden case is decorated with carved leaves and animals. They have an automaton of the bird that appears through a small trap door while the clock is striking. The bird is often made to move as the clock strikes, typically by means of an arm that lifts the back of the carving.
There are two kinds of movements: one-day (30-hour) and eight-day clockworks. Some have musical devices, and play a tune on a Swiss music box after striking the hours and half-hours. Usually the melody sounds only at full hours in eight-day clocks and both at full and half hours in the one-day timepieces. Musical cuckoo clocks frequently have other automata which move when the music box plays. Today's cuckoo clocks are almost always weight driven, though a very few are spring driven. The weights are made of cast iron in a pine cone shape and the "cuc-koo" sound is created by two tiny gedackt (pipes) in the clock, with bellows attached to their tops. The clock's movement activates the bellows to send a puff of air into each pipe alternately when the timekeeper strikes.
In recent years, quartz battery-powered cuckoo clocks have become available. As with their mechanical counterparts, the cuckoo bird emerges from its enclosure and moves up and down, but on the quartz timepieces it also flaps its wings and open its beak while it sings. During the call the double doors open and the cuckoo emerges as usual, but only on the full hour, and they do not have a gong wire chime. The movement of the cuckoo in such clocks is regulated by an electromagnet that pulses on and off, attracting a weight, that acts as a fulcrum, connected to the tail of the plastic cuckoo bird, thus moving the bird up and down in his enclosure. Instead of the call being reproduced by the traditional bellows, it is a digital recording of a cuckoo calling in the wild (with a corresponding echo). The cuckoo call is usually accompanied by the sound of a waterfall and other birds in the background.
In musical quartz clocks, the hourly chime is followed by the replay of one of twelve popular melodies (one for each hour). Some musical quartz clocks also reproduce many of the popular automata found on mechanical musical clocks, such as beer drinkers, wood choppers, and jumping deer.
Uniquely, quartz cuckoo clocks often include a sensor, so that when the lights are turned off at night they automatically silence the hourly chime. Other quartz cuckoo clocks are pre-programmed not to strike between a set of pre-determined hours. Whether this is controlled by a light sensor or pre-programmed, the function is referred to as a 'night silence' feature. On quartz clocks the weights are conventionally cast in the shape of Aleppo pine cones made of plastic rather than iron, as are as the cuckoo bird and clock hands. The pendulum bob is often another carved leaf. Here, the weights and pendulum are purely ornamental as the clock is driven by battery power. As with mechanical cuckoo clocks, the dial is usually small, and typically marked with Roman numerals.
First modern cuckoo clocks
In 1629, many decades before clockmaking was established in the Black Forest, an Augsburg nobleman by the name of Philipp Hainhofer (1578–1647) penned the first known description of a modern cuckoo clock. The clock belonged to Prince Elector August von Sachsen.