Antique Cuckoo Clocks
While clockmakers in the Black Forest Area of Germany are often credited with the invention of the legendary cuckoo clock around 1730, this is actually a common misconception associated with the famous cuckoo clock. In 1629 a nobleman from Augsburg named Philipp Hainhofer wrote about a cuckoo clock belonging to Prince Elector August von Sachsen. This was the first known documentation of a cuckoo clock. Later in 1669 a handbook on clocks called 'Horologi Elementari' penned by Domenico Martinelli advocates using the call of the cuckoo to mark the hours.
After almost a century cuckoo clocks did find their way to the Black Forest, where it was treated as a niche product and produced in small quantities for decades. Originally these clocks were primitive in design, using wooden plates and gears with the faces of the clock simply painted with water color paints. Gradually the clock designs became more sophisticated and common themes emerged such as family scenes, hunting, military motifs, mythology, and Christian religious scenes. From the Victorian era until the nineteen twenties cuckoo clocks not only told the time but were a reflected the times by following the home dccor fashions of the moment. Everything style from Gothic, Baroque, to Art Nouveau, etc. was interpreted and represented in the cuckoo clocks of the time.
To further the craft of clock making a design competition was held in 1850 sponsored by the Baden Clockmakers School in Furtwangen Germany for contemporary clock cases. A most unusual entry for the competition was submitted by architect Friedrich Eisenlohr who attached a clock dial to a standard railroad-guard`s residence. His contributions to the evolution of cuckoo clock design includes interpreting local images and modifying them instead of trying to recreate them exactly, using light unstained wood for his clock cases which was contrary to the style of the time, and adorning clocks with symmetrical flat fretwork accents. Eisenlohr`s design ideas were in step with the decorating tastes of the time and enjoyed instant and widespread popularity, and exposed the cuckoo clock to a much broader audience.
By 1860 cuckoo clocks started to evolve away from this more austere look and expand into other styles, with cases that featured more elaborate three dimensional woodcarvings for example. Today cuckoo clocks are manufactured in countries outside of Germany in a variety of contemporary designs. More traditional styles include the chalet type, or styles featuring a deer head, a bird with a flat surface not enhanced by three dimensional ornate woodwork. Decorative accents are more likely to come from sharply contrasting colors such as black, white, and bright colors. Some modern designs are a far cry from the classic cuckoo clock, foregoing carving altogether and relying on abstract geometric shapes and patterns for visual interest. The inside of cuckoo clocks have evolved as well, with quartz as well as mechanical clocks now widely available. Nowadays one has the opportunity to find old relics online, or visit a local antique clocks shop to see potential clock in person.