LivingTravelHow to buy an authentic German cuckoo clock

How to buy an authentic German cuckoo clock

The charm of the cuckoo clock has made it one of Germany’s most sought-after gifts. Schwarzwald (Black Forest) cuckoo clocks vary in style and quality, but generally feature intricate wood carvings and the delightful cuckoo call at the end of the hour.

History of the German cuckoo clock

While the origins of the clock are nebulous, the first true cuckoo clock was created in 1730 by the watchmaker Franz Anton Ketterer in the village of Schonwald. This may have been the first clock to contain the cuckoo mechanism, but the singing cuckoo had been around since 1619.

In any case, the first cuckoo clock to resemble current clocks is the Bahnhäusle model from 1850. This design, which resembles the house of a railway signalman, was the result of a design competition from the School of Horology. from Baden. By 1860, elaborate carvings and picturesque pineapple weights were added.

Clocks have continued to transform, and modern clocks experiment with bright colors, geometric design, and fun interpretations of the traditional clock. Since traditional watches are quite expensive, a range of souvenir watches have been made available that are mass produced and much less expensive… and not so beautiful.

If you want to know even more about the fabulous world of German cuckoo clocks, visit the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (German Clock Museum in Furtwangen) for the rooms where cuckoo clocks are sung and a historical journey through its development.

How a German Cuckoo Clock Works

A cuckoo clock uses the movement of the pendulum to show the time, and an eye-catching mechanism creates the sound of the cuckoo. These movements are moved by means of a chain hoist, moving the hands and filling the tubes of the organs. A high tone is followed by a low tone and indicates how many hours they have been played. Usually a cuckoo bird is also kicked out on time with calls. This mechanism is the same today as when the watch was first created.

Different watches have different reserves, from 1 day to 8 days, depending on the size of the watch. Larger, more elegant watches may contain mechanical musical drums that require a third chain lifting mechanism, as well as a third weight. These assist the power dancers on a rotating disc under the cuckoo door, sometimes linked by additional moving elements such as sawmills or beer garden scenes.

While the authentic watches are from the Black Forest, the only part that is foreign is the Swiss music box. The Reuge Company is highly respected and their music boxes are found in high quality watches. Musical notes range from 18 to 36 notes, often playing “The Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss.” Bavarian chalet-style clocks can feature classic German beer-drinking songs such as » Ein Prosit «.

Top tips for buying a cuckoo clock in Germany

Cuckoo clocks come in:

  • Traditional carved style: nature or hunter styles
  • Chalet style : designed like a house or beer garden.
  • Railroad House Clocks – Also known as Bahnhäusle Uhren
  • Others : antiques, shields and modern styles

Authentic watches are still made in Schwarzwald and must be certified by the Verein die Schwarzwalduhr (known as the VdS or “Black Forest Clock Association” in English). They must be made entirely of wood without plastic parts and must come with an official certificate.

Quartz cuckoo clocks have risen in popularity, but because they have non-mechanical, battery-operated movements, they don’t qualify for official certification, and purists say they’re not “real” cuckoo clocks. However, you can also find certified mechanical cuckoo clocks with quality production.

You can pay as little as 150 euros for a small watch, or thousands for large, elegant watches. For an exceptional and well-made 1-day watch, expect to pay an average of 3,000 euros.

The best cuckoo clock makers in the Black Forest

  • Romba
  • Anton Schneider
  • Hekas
  • August Schwer
  • Hubert mr
  • Hones

How to install a German cuckoo clock

Traditional cuckoo clocks can be delicate things and special care must be taken when unpacking, installing, and setting the time.

  • Always keep the watch in an upright position.
  • Hang it on the wall, ideally about 6 feet (1.8 meters) above the floor, before attempting to attach it. Make sure to use screws that are long enough to hold onto a bolt.
  • Work carefully to untangle the chains as they hang below the watch. Place a weight on each hook in the chain.
  • Check that the pendulum rests on the hanger at the back, near the bottom of the clock.
  • Unlock the cuckoo door so your bird can fly freely. Check the packaging placed for shipping and remove all cables, styrofoam, etc.
  • Wind the watch by gently pulling the chain without the weight towards the floor. There should always be pressure on the weighted chain to keep it in place.
  • Now is the time to start the pendulum movement by gently pushing it. It should continue rocking once you’ve gotten it moving. Make sure it rocks freely and does not rub against your back. Readjust to vertical perfectly if there is any problem.
  • Now that the pendulum is swinging, you should hear the clock tick. Success! Your cuckoo clock is ready to go.

How to set a German cuckoo clock

Start by turning the minute hand (the long one) counterclockwise until you reach the correct time. While you are doing this, the cuckoo can play. Wait for the music to stop before continuing. When you do this, the clock should set itself automatically. Be especially careful never to move the hour hand, as it will damage the watch.

Once started, 8-day clocks with heavy weights should be wound once a week, while 1-day clocks with smaller weights should be wound once a day.

The cuckoo charm during the day can be extremely irritating at night. To thwart that problem, many watches offer a shutdown option: manual or automatic.

Manual Power Off – Requires you to turn off the watch and will not turn it back on until you press the switch. This is commonly found on a 1-day cuckoo clock.

Auto switch : allows you to set the clock to on, off, or automatic. In automatic, the watch will automatically mute for 10 to 12 hours overnight. Eight-day clocks come with a manual shutdown and sometimes an automatic shutdown option. High-end musical clocks generally feature an automatic shutdown.

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