Who Invented the Cuckoo Clock?
Where were they from — and how did they spark a love for antique clocks?
The cuckoo clock has been around for a long time, serving as a marker of time and an heirloom to pass from generation to generation. The beautiful, classic look of the clock and the nostalgic feel that surrounds it has a special place in our hearts. It has become a cultural icon and remains one of the most popular souvenirs picked up from travelers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
But where did this tradition originate? Who created the first cuckoo clock? Where did they come from, and how has the cuckoo clock changed over the years?
When and Where Did the Cuckoo Clock Come From?
The cuckoo clock is an item shrouded in mystery. Anyone claiming to know its exact origin isn’t telling you the whole truth.
Nobody can say for sure when and where the cuckoo clock was invented. What we do know is while cuckoo clocks are often associated with Switzerland, the cuckoo clock was almost definitely invented in Germany sometime in the 17th century. Although it’s generally agreed much of the development and evolution of the cuckoo clock occurred in the Black Forest area of Germany, nobleman Philipp Hainhofer described what we now know as a cuckoo clock in 1629 (decades before clockmaking was established in the Black Forest).
The cuckoo clock has sparked a lot of creativity over the years, with people vying to create the largest cuckoo clock — and you can see plenty of examples in Germany, where people remain very proud of their cuckoo-clock-making heritage. There are some clocks in Germany big enough for you to step inside and marvel at the incredible engineering.
Related: How do Cuckoo Clocks Work?
The First Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks
When it comes to cuckoo clocks in the Black Forest, we believe the first examples were created between 1740 and 1750. By this time, there were many small clockmaking shops producing cuckoo clocks with wooden gears. What we know today as the cuckoo clock comes from clockmaking work in the Black Forest — the appearance of the cuckoo clock evolved in this region.
Franz Anton Ketterer
Franz Anton Ketterer was a German clockmaker and one of the founding fathers of Black Forest clockmaking. He is often remembered as one of the earliest makers of cuckoo clocks and sometimes credited as having invented the cuckoo clock in the 1730s. People suggest he was inspired by the bellows of church organs, adapting technology to reflect this sound rather than chimes. While Ketterer did design some beautiful cuckoo clocks, we would like to address the fallacy that he created the cuckoo clock itself — primitive cuckoo clocks date back around 100 years before Ketterer’s clocks. We can say, however, that Ketterer was a talented craftsman who developed and refined cuckoo clocks to resemble what we know and love today. And craftsmanship trickled down the family tree — today, his descendants are manufacturing weather instruments.
How Has the Cuckoo Clock Changed over the Years?
So how has the cuckoo clock evolved since the 1600s? The inner working of the clock has remained largely unchanged. In fact, the exterior of many cuckoo clocks reflects the classic, traditional cuckoo clocks of earlier times. However, these days there are also a lot of creative, contemporary cuckoo clocks available for purchase, meaning whatever your tastes and whatever your surroundings, you’ll find a cuckoo clock to suit you and your home.
Classic cuckoo clocks are stunning, but the cuckoo clock has also come a long way! To discover what the cuckoo clock looks like today, check out our modern cuckoo clocks.