What is a Cuckoo Clock?The cuckoo clock is one of the classic pieces of design that is instantly recognisable. Cuckoo clocks are wall clocks, usually weight and pendulum driven, that indicates the hours not through bells or chimes but via an imitation cuckoo sound. Most have a small model bird that emerges in time along with the sound.
The cuckoo clock case is usually made to look like a bird house. Case designs can be very intricate with leaves and other outdoor style features. On many clocks the weights are cast in the shape of pine leaves and the pendulum is carved to resemble a leaf or a pine cone.
Some people prefer the more phonetic spellings Kuckoo, coocoo or even coo coo. Personally I'll stick to the traditional version of the name.
Who Invented the Cuckoo Clock?Many people think of the cuckoo clock as being Swiss. In fact its roots are not in Switzerland but in the Black Forest region of Germany.
The cuckoo clock was invented in the first part of the 18th century. There is - as so often with these things - some uncertainty about who was the first person to come up with the idea. It is normally credited to Franz Anton Ketterer, from the Black Forest region of Schönwald near Triberg. Ketterer also devised a way to produce the classic cuckoo sound.
Cuckoo Clocks TodayAs originally designed and built, cuckoo clocks were the result of great skill and craftsmanship. They were all hand crafted and initially all the parts - even the workings - were made of wood.
Unfortunately today the cuckoo clock's image has been cheapened by the ability to buy low grade imitations - many of these being electrically driven without even a mechanically generated cuckoo sound. As a result many people have developed a low opinion of the whole concept. Personally I see nothing wrong with buying a novelty penguin or Tweety clock for fun, they're certainly affordable, however I'd still prefer a hand-crafted German version if price were no object.
Fortunately it is still possible to buy high quality traditional versions from specialist suppliers. Although clock movements are usually mass produced, the decorative woodwork is often still hand crafted on the best models.
Or - if you have more manual dexterity than me! - you could consider buying a kit and making your own cuckoo clock as a project.