Here at Online Clock, we are fascinated by all sorts of devices that keep time.
Recently, we began to wonder about a very early, traditional kind of a clock known as the cuckoo clock.
For those of you who are not familiar with the cuckoo clock, it’s a clock that is typically characterized by its pendulum, and it strikes each hour with a cuckoo’s call. The clock typically has a mechanical cuckoo bird that comes out of the clock to produce the cuckoo sound. After watching the cuckoo clock perform this action, you might ask yourself these questions: Where did this clock come from? Does the cuckoo bird really exist?
For the answers to these poignant questions, we will take you deep into the forests of Germany. Travel with us in our search of the strange contraption that carries the name of the elusive cuckoo bird.
In the 17th century, Germany’s Black Forest region was a very difficult place to exist. During this time period, Europe was experiencing what has been likened to a mini Ice Age, and it was so cold that milk was often frozen during a trip from the barn to the house.
The Invention of the First Cuckoo Clock
In 1630, a glass peddler from a village in the Black Forest region traveled to Czechoslovakia. He brought back a very crude wooden clock. The wooden clock used gears and stones as weights. Although this strange wooden clock had no pendulum, it had a piece of wood that moved back and forth above the dial of the clock. It became known as a waag. The inhabitants of the area thought the clock was quite odd, but the clock was a far better way to keep time than the hourglass or the sundial. The people in the Black Forest area became fond of the clock and began to make their own clocks during the long and extremely harsh winters. Not surprisingly, the clocks became a new source of income. The inhabitants of Germany’s Black Forest became quite adept at building the clocks. They also improved the clock’s design. This odd wooden clock was the model for the very first cuckoo clock made by Franz Anton Ketterer of the village of Schonwald. He thought of using the cuckoo bird over the top of the clock’s dial.
Are We 100% Sure Germans Invented The First Cuckoo Clock?
The clocks history is only in question when the story involves one of the villagers that brought a wooden clock back from his travels. The wooden clock was crude and not a cuckoo clock by any stretch of the imagination. The Germans improved on the construction of the mechanisms of the original wooden clock, and they thought of the idea of the cuckoo bird mechanism. The Germans insist that they created the world’s first cuckoo clock to this day. The history of the cuckoo clock is bolstered by German Clock and Watch Museum in Furtwangen.
Franz Steyrer credits Black Forest Clock Making to Michael Dilger, senior master craftsman of Neukirch, and Mathaus Hummel of the glass factory near Waldau with the first creation and construction of a cuckoo clock. Furthermore, Johannes Grieshaber, Christian Wehrel, Paulus Kreuz, and others were actively involved in making cuckoo clocks.
People often wonder about the cuckoo bird that adorns the clock. Is it real, or is it a mythological creature?
Will The Real Cuckoo Please Stand Up?
The cuckoo bird is quite real. It is heard in the forests of Europe more often than it is seen. The cuckoo is quite a strange little bird that has odd habits and features. It lays many of its eggs in the nests of other birds. This ensures the survival of the cuckoo species. Interestingly, Road Runners are part of the cuckoo family.
Short cuckoo birds tend to glide, so their bodies are slender. Longer cuckoos are wider and have long wings that allow for a quick, powerful takeoff. Two of the four toes of the cuckoo face backward. It is an odd little creature. One cannot help but wonder why it was chosen for the clock. Were other birds considered for the clock before the cuckoo was chosen? To answer these and other curious questions about the cuckoo clock, we will take you back to the old villages of Germany where the clock became so popular.
German Villages As The Cuckoo Clock’s Birthplace
Franz Anton Ketterer is the creator of the mechanism that the cuckoo clock uses to make the little bird come out of the clock at the top of each hour. Several of the villagers tried using the rooster or the cow as figures to pop out of the doors of the clock. However, the cuckoo bird was decided on because the sound was easier to recreate than crowing or mooing sounds. Forcing air through wood to create the slow whistle of the cuckoo is responsible for the recognizable sound that people have come to know and love all over the world.
The Germans no longer use these antique clocks in their homes. Just like most modern societies, they prefer contemporary clocks (can they say OnlineClock.net in German? I think so 😉 ); however, they do still make cuckoo clocks for tourists.
Imagine if the villagers had decided on the rooster or the cow for this clock. It would be quite odd to see a cow come out of the little wooden house to moo at us, wouldn’t it? The odd little cuckoo bird is a far better choice for the clock. It occurred to us that the cuckoo bird’s practice of leaving their eggs in other nests characterizes them as quite advanced. They may have been one of the first species to have their own form of in vitro birth. These little wonders of nature are quite fascinating.
For hundreds of years, the mechanical version of the cuckoo clock has been connected to the Black Forest area of Germany. When the quartz crisis struck, every type of mechanical clock took an economic blow. Sales of mechanical clocks dwindled. Quartz clocks were so much cheaper to make, and this caused a serious decrease in the production of the mechanical cuckoo clock (this is usually referred to as The Quartz Crisis by clock-making insiders). Quartz powered cuckoo clocks were produced in place of the mechanical clocks, and they were produced all over the world.
The Black Forest Clock Association
In 1987, a syndicate was created to protect the traditional cuckoo clock. The Black Forest Clock Association was charged with issuing certificates of authenticity to members of the syndicate. If desired, an individual Black Forest clockmaker can obtain accreditation from the syndicate. Certification from the association is awarded only to cuckoo clocks made entirely of wood. Except the for cuckoo’s movements, all essential parts produced in the Black Forest meet the quality controls set by the association.
The members of this association represent 90 percent of all Black Forest clock producers, which are the majority of the world’s mechanical cuckoo clock manufacturers. The clocks made by any company registered with the association display a special certification seal. In 2006, the seal was awarded the protection of a trademark by the German Patent and Trademark Office. Over 300,000 cuckoo clocks with this official seal have been sold in the last few years. The majority of the clocks were sold to customers in North America.
You can actually wake up to the cuckoo sound in the video above by using that video’s URL with our Video Alarm Clock : http://onlineclock.net/video/?url=http://www.youtube.com/v/d1WcxRaMmIM
Cuckoo birds are fascinating animals, and should be familiar to anyone interested in the subject of cuckoo clocks.
For this reason, we’ve compiled this list of
Essential Cuckoo Bird Facts
- Cuckoos are slim, medium-sized birds
- Most live in trees but some live on the ground
- Most live mostly in tropical areas those they can be found on every continent except Antarctica
- They feed on insects, larvae, caterpillars and fruit
- Cuckoos are unusual in that they work on their food before swallowing it, smashing it up a bit with their beaks
- Some cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds
- Cuckoos have soft feathers and sun themselves after it rains with open wings like a vulture
- Most cuckoos are solitary, not appearing in pairs or groups
- Most cuckoos are monogamous
- The cuckoo that we are familiar with in Cuckoo Clocks is known as the European Common Cuckoo
- Cuckoo Clocks imitate the call of the European Common Cuckoo
- The call of the Common Cuckoo sounds kind of like a whistling flute
- There are two main reasons why the Common Cuckoo makes its call: to attract a mate and to show that its ownership or dominance of a territority
- In Europe, it’s often thought that hearing the call of the Cuckoo is thought to be a sign that spring is approaching
Earlier, the sound of the Common Cuckoo could mostly be heard by Europeans who were walking through the forests as the wind gave birth to their familiar call.
Today, if a window is open, the sound can be heard while walking on the sidewalks in your own neighborhood. Although the cuckoo clock is beautiful and unique, it’s probably best to keep them away from where you sleep because they are quite noisy.
The cuckoo clock has such a long and interesting history. The mechanical versions of the cuckoo clock are collectibles, and they can be expensive. However, these unique clocks will never serve to disappoint you with their performance or their handcrafted beauty. They are works of art that are treasured worldwide. Nearly everyone has seen a cuckoo clock somewhere. Many people have visited Germany and brought one of these marvels back as a keepsake.
If you’re cuckoo for cuckoo clocks, please leave a message here on the blog.