For almost 300 years skilled craftsmen in the Southwest of Germany in an area known as the Black Forest, or to give it it’s correct German name the Schwarzwald, have been practicing the fine art of handcrafting wooden cuckoo clocks.
Although the world and the technology has moved on since then, the traditional methods used by the woodworkers and clockmakers have remained unchanged, which is why the handmade German Cuckoo clocks are known the world over for their distinctive look, quality and the famous cuckoo call.
To maintain the high quality of this craftsmanship and the methods that have usually been passed down through generations of the same family, a group of cuckoo clock makers decided to create an association known as Verein die Schwarzwalduhr or VDS for short, which maintains the traditional art of Black Forest Cuckoo clock making,
ensuring the same high standards today as they were 300 years ago.
Every single genuine cuckoo that’s made follows a strict set of guidelines and will come with an VDS authenticity certificate, to confirm that the cuckoo clock has been made using high quality traditional craftsmanship, the same methods used in the 18th century to guarantee the mechanisms and inner workings of the clock.
How a Cuckoo Clock Works
Understanding how a cuckoo clock works is an important part of choosing the cuckoo clock that's right for you.
A cuckoo clocks movement not only affects how it keeps time, it also has an effect on many other aspects of the clock, whether it is wound or not, how accurate it can keep time and the overall lifespan of your clock.
The main ways a cuckoo clock works are mechanical movement and quartz movement.
Cuckoo Clocks with Mechanical Movement.
If a cuckoo is to get an official certificate from the Verein Die Schwarzwald it must have a mechanical movement, this is because back in the 18th century when cuckoo clocks were first made there was no electricity and they were driven by a pendulum as part of the mechanical movement.
Each and every mechanical movement cuckoo clock in simple terms works by the law of gravity.
Inside each clock there is an extremely detailed clockwork which allows for gravitational energy to be stored.
Pines or weights inside the cuckoo clock are dropped and the pendulum action will keep time, with the weight or pine to the left keeping time through gears inside of the clock.
Once the clock strikes on the hour as well as the half hour the cuckoo will call which is powered by the right weight or pine.
Some cuckoo clocks will have 3 weights, with the 3rd weight being used for any musical feature the clock might have.
If a cuckoo has animated characters such as a dancer or somebody drinking a beer, this will also be powered by the 3rd weight.
The rate at which the weights move inside the cuckoo clock will determine if it is to be wound on a one day cycle or an 8 day cycle.
Cuckoo clocks with an 8 day cycle tend be larger and more complex, therefore making them more expensive as opposed to cuckoo clocks with a one day cycle which tend to be less expensive due to the fact that they will have smaller mechanical parts and weights.
Cuckoo clocks will usually come with a switch that allows you to switch off the musical element at night, although you must remember to switch it back on again, while some more expensive ones will have an auto switch off option, which will switch off the musical notes at predetermined times.
Quartz Movement Cuckoo Clocks
A quartz movement cuckoo clock will be completely battery powered and not powered by gravitational energy.
These types of quartz movement cuckoo clocks are preferred by those that enjoy the charm of a traditional cuckoo clock, but prefer less maintenance, as the musical and animation features are all powered
With a quartz movement cuckoo clock they will typically play music every hour from a number of stored songs.
Although a lot of the quartz movement cuckoo clocks are handmade to a very high standard using the traditional methods of the Black Forest cuckoo clock makers, they don’t actually qualify for the Verein Die Schwarzwald certificate due to the fact they do not contain the intricate mechanical parts that the mechanical movement clocks contain.
German cuckoo clocks are made using traditional methods that have been carried on for over 300 years.
Whether you choose a mechanical cuckoo clock or a more modern quartz movement clock, you can be sure to get years of enjoyment and satisfaction from your very own piece of Black Forest history.