Antique Cuckoo Clocks: Still Hot after all this Time - Farmers in the Black Forest region of Germany began making chiming cuckoo clocks in the 17th century.  By the late 18th century clockmakers started using a set of bellows to create a cuckoo bird sound in addition to the chime.

 

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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Timepieces > Expert Tip: Antique Cuckoo Clocks: Still Hot after all this Time



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Antique Cuckoo Clocks
 
An antique Black Forest cuckoo/quail clock in Linden Wood
An antique Black Forest
cuckoo/quail clock
Farmers in the Black Forest region of Germany began making chiming cuckoo clocks in the 17th century.  By the late 18th century clockmakers started using a set of bellows to create a cuckoo bird sound in addition to the chime.

Today it's rare to find cuckoo clocks built before 1800, though the same basic designs are still used.  However, since the early 20th century, cuckoo clocks have been mass produced making earlier clocks more desirable to collectors.  So what makes cuckoo clocks so popular after literally hundreds of years:
  • What contributes to the value of a cuckoo clock?
    It must be in full-working order, with strong sound for the strike and the cuckoo, and it must have the original bone numerals and hands.

    Two wooden pipes actually make the cuckoo sounds.  The pipes are topped by a lid with a cloth bellows.

    The lid is lifted and dropped down, pushing air through the bellows and into the pipes, and that's what makes the sound.  But over time, the cloth that connects the lid to the pipe wears out and makes the sound weak.  The old ones were made of fine kid leather that was only good for about 75 to 100 years.  Now they replace them with synthetic materials such as nylon.  Most collectors don't mind if the cloth covering has been replaced to recapture the original sound.

    The number of birds on a clock is important as well.  An early 19th-century clock with one bird that sounds on the hour might sell for $500, while one with a cuckoo and a quail that sound every 15 minutes could be worth around $1,000.  And a trumpeter clock, which looks like a cuckoo clock, but instead of a bird has a trumpeting toy soldier, might be valued at $3,000.

  • Why are cuckoo clocks still popular?
    It's the quintessential clock.  They're charming, and give a rustic warmth that you don't get from a glass and brass clock.  And they don't just sit back and look at you.  They do something.