The earliest reference to a cuckoo clock was found in the inventory of the Prince Elector of Saxony in 1619, but since real cuckoo clocks were not developed for another century, this clock was probably decorated with a bird. Legend has it that a peddler came from Bohem, the land of the Czechs, with a crude mechanical clock. The gears were wooden and it used stones for weights with no pendulum. The mechanism was called a wood beam clock. The people of the Black Forest were poor although they were talented wood carvers. They began to make clocks, which they embellished with grapevines, birds, hunting scenes. They created little figures that would come out of the clock on the half-hour and the hour and dance. Some clocks had a rooster come out and crow.
In 1712 Friedrich Dilger, a clockmaker, heard about new technology in France and spent a year learning new ways to make clocks, bringing the technology back. Looking for an antique cuckoo clock for sale? Visit our webshop or our shop in Perth, WA.
Franz Anton Ketterer
A clockmaker in the village of Schonwald in the Black Forest substituted a small bird for the more complex figures. Franz Anton Ketterer may have gotten his inspiration from the rooster clocks. He had found that by using a pair of tiny bellows, blowing air through two little pipes, he could reproduce the call of the cuckoo, which was an easier sound to emulate and more pleasant as well.
Development of an Industry
The cuckoo clocks became a trend. Local people needed a new income source. Since inheritance followed the tradition of primogeniture, the oldest son inheriting everything, there were a lot of younger sons who needed work. They took up clock making quickly. The local people began to specialise as manufacturing grew into a large cottage industry. Carvers made the decorations. Carpenters created the boxes. Metal workers made the gears and chains. Artists painted the final product. In 1850, the Duke of Baden founded a clock-making school, which taught mathematics and drawing, more than the mechanics of manufacture.
Cuckoo clocks continue to be made in the Black Forest although with modern tools and technology. But the descendants of Dilger and Ketterer create their marvels with the same centuries old pride of workmanship. Cuckoo clocks are a truly great addition to our assortment of antique clocks.