History of Cuckoo Clock Design

People love clocks with cuckoos popping out and chirping to announce the time. It has been estimated that over 30 million cuckoo clocks have been built and sold over the past 250 years. Since the 1700s the Black Forest region of Germany has been famous for their cuckoo clocks. The two Black Forest styles are the traditional cuckoo clock and the Bahnhäusle cuckoo clock. The Swiss have been building the chalet cuckoo clocks since the late 1800s. Extremely ornate cuckoo clocks became popular among wealthy people in the Victorian period and the Roaring 20s. Today, the cuckoo clocks in most peoples' homes are in the Black Forest and Swiss Chalet styles.

The original German cuckoo clocks were the traditional clocks that were wooden houses and cuckoos carved by the Black Forest artisans. Anton Ketterer is given credit for inventing the first cuckoo clock in 1738. The clock used pendulums, gears, bellows, and pipes that worked together to push the cuckoo out the door and chirp in two tones. Cuckoo clocks became an important export of the Black Forest. People specialized in tasks such as making pendulums, cutting out gears, and carving the clock cases. Over time, Black Forest cuckoo clocks became quite fanciful with carvings of antlers, oak leaves, ferns, edelweiss flowers, and forest creatures, such as hares, pheasants, eagles, foxes, and alpine goats. The traditional clocks became extremely popular in the hunting lodges of wealthy Europeans and the British. Rifles, trophies, and bugles were added to the designs of some traditional cuckoo clocks.

The Bahnhäusle clock is the result of a design contest for cuckoo clocks in the 1850s in the Black Forest region of Germany. The contest was held by a trade school because its Director believed that the local cuckoo clocks were too crude looking. The winning design was the Bahnhäusle clock, which has since become one of the standard cuckoo clocks. The clock was created by a German architect to resemble the homes that he had designed for a railroad company for homes at the rail stops. For this reason, the clock is also known as the railway house cuckoo clock.

Several decades later, Swiss clockmakers began to design cuckoo clocks to look like chalets of Switzerland, Bavaria and the Black Forest. In addition to the cuckoo and chalet, may of the Swiss clocks became more and more elaborate with music boxes and moving woodcutters,beer drinkers, dancers, and water wheels.

During the Victorian period, decorative cuckoo clocks were made in styles as diverse as Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical. The Roaring 20s were another time when elaborate cuckoo clocks were popular among the richest people of the era. In the 1950s, the railway house and chalet cuckoo clocks became popular in the homes of the middle class. Minimalist and avant garde cuckoo clocks have been manufactured in modern times. The history of cuckoo clock design continues to develop in countries around the world. Nevertheless, the Black Forest and Swiss designs remain the most popular cuckoo clocks of all time.

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