Today we're taking a look at a timepiece that's both unique and interesting. It's not digital and you can't wear it on your wrist. You'll usually find it hanging on the wall in a prominent place. What are we talking about? A cuckoo clock, of course!
Have you ever seen a cuckoo clock? If you have, you know that they're beautiful clocks usually made out of wood with intricate carvings on them. What sets them apart from other wood clocks, though, is the little cuckoo bird that pops out of a door to sound off every hour on the hour.
No one is sure exactly how the cuckoo clock came to be. One legend holds that German clockmaker Franz Anton Ketterer added a cuckoo bird to one of his clocks in the early eighteenth century (around 1730, to be more exact).
Another legend holds that a Bohemian trader brought a couple of cuckoo clocks to Germany's Black Forest region during his travels through the area. Clockmakers in the area supposedly picked up on the design and ran with it. Some believe the first cuckoo clocks may have been produced in the early 1600s.
Whatever its origin, the cuckoo clock was popularized by the clockmakers of Germany's Black Forest region in the early- to mid-eighteenth century. This area had already been famous for some time as a center of the art of clock making.
The harsh winters — and plentiful supply of wood — led to the Black Forest region's becoming a center for all kinds of handmade wooden items, especially clocks. Cuckoo clocks, with their unique features, quickly became popular, as traders sold them throughout Europe.
Clock-making engineers changed the style of cuckoo clocks over the years. Initially, cuckoo clocks were made with a “shield clock" design, which was open on the sides and allowed the clock's mechanical movement to be seen.
Eventually, a new style — the “railway house style" — became popular. It is this style most people think of when they imagine a Black Forest-style cuckoo clock. These intricate clocks looked a bit like railway guard houses and included detailed carvings of all sorts of things, including birds, leaves, deer, hunting equipment, and other small animals.
Other countries began to produce cuckoo clocks, adding their own unique features. For example, Swiss clockmakers developed the “Swiss Chalet" style cuckoo clock. These clocks featured music and moving figures.