Once upon a time, hourglasses were the only available instruments for telling the time. That was before the people of German Bavaria laid their eyes on the first rudimentary clock from Czechoslovakia. It was a simple wood-beam clock which would completely change their world in the years that followed. The simple clock consisted of the following features:
- Wooden gears
- A stone weight
- No pendulum
Simple as it looked, it was worlds ahead when compared to the sundial or hourglass. Soon, the inhabitants of the German Black Forest area started making unpolished clocks. With time, they refined their art leading to the eventual invention of the German cuckoo clock.
Most of the work was done in winter when the people had very little or no other activity to do. In the summer, a trader carried the clocks and sold them throughout the known world. The popularity of the Black Forest cuckoo clock increased tremendously during that time.
Although miles ahead of the crude clock brought back to Germany by an hourglass peddler, Black Forest coocoo clocks were yet to attain the highest standards of the cuckoo clock. In fact, the people still referred to them as artist clocks.
That was before a small village dweller by the name of Friedrich Dilger went to advance his clock making knowledge in France. What he found were the more advanced skills and tools that were in use in the neighboring country. With the new technology, the genuine German cuckoo clock was born.
Soon after that, Franz Anton Ketterer made the very first German cuckoo clock in the tiny Schonwald village. Previously, clocks were made with features such as a cow with a butcher’s ax stuck in it, a skeleton to turn over the hourglass every hour, and dancers. As for Ketterer’s clock, it had the following features:
- A cock that sounded ‘coo-coo’.
- An ingenious running mechanism.
- Twin bellows that sent air into miniature pipes to produce the sound.
This is what became known as the Black Forest kuku clock. It was intricately designed with villages specializing in making specific parts of the clock. Some would make the gears, others the casings, and the rest the elaborate woodcarvings. These different parts were then assembled to make cuckoo clocks.
Over the years, the clocks featured a number of themes with the most commonly used being the hunter theme. The clocks featured powder horns, deer heads, antlers, and hunting images.
Along came the Bahnhausle Style in which the clocks featured images of wild grapevines. Their casings were made just like the lookout buildings of the Italian railroad tunnel builders. The modern German cuckoo clock borrows a lot from this design.