Guide to German Cuckoo clocks and Black Forest clocks

VDS

We have compiled many interesting facts about Black Forest cuckoo clocks and other Black Forest clocks. This text gives you broad knowledge about the functionality of cuckoo clocks and differences between the various models. Besides being traditionally handcrafted a cuckoo clock offers many interesting technical functions making it a great combination of German craftsmanship and German engineering.

The European Gift Palace offers one of the largest assortments of cuckoo clocks on the web. Actually, we do not know of a larger selection. We hope that this guide will help you to find the right clock for your home that fully meets your expectations.

Manufacturers

The European Gift Palace offers original german clocks made by 6 different manufacturers of Original Black Forest cuckoo clocks. These renown traditional companies are Rombach & Haas (also called Romba), Hubert Herr clocks, Anton Schneider, Hönes (also Hoenes, Hones), Hekas (Helmut Kammerer) and Trenkle Uhren. All manufacturers are members of the VDS (Black Forest Clock Association) and all mechanical clocks have the important certificate by the VDS.

The certificate reads as follows "This is an Original Black Forest clock. It is driven by a mechanical clock movement and has been produced in the Black Forest including it's most important parts. Therefore this cuckoo clock fulfils the quality requirements of the VDS (Black Forest Clock Association)."

A quartz cuckoo clock does not meet these requirements and will not receive a VDS certificate.

The VDS has also established an international Service Network of quality service stations all around the world that maintain and repair cuckoo clocks in many countries worldwide.

Clock movements

It is important to know that an Original Black Forest cuckoo clock has a mechanical clock movement. Those movements have to be wound.

There are 2 different types of movements - the 1-Day movement and the 8-Day movement. Both are high quality mechanical clock movements. The cuckoo clocks are driven by weights (Fir Cones) that hang down from the clock. A 1-Day clock requires winding every 24 hours and an 8-Day clock has to wound every week.

The clock movements are made in Germany or Switzerland. Some manufacturers assemble the movements in their workshops others get them as finished products. Hubert Herr creates and assembles the movements completely in his company. All movements are of highest quality, very reliable and durable. Cuckoo clocks with an 8-Day movement are usually a little more expensive than clocks with 1-Day movement.

We recommend clocks with mechanical movements. They offer everything that an Original Black Forest clock is about. A unique combination of tradition and modernity, crafted with skill and heart and "alive" inside.

The quartz movement is another type of clock movement. A quartz cuckoo clock runs with batteries. Although it is not a typical Original Black Forest clock most manufacturers also have quartz clocks to be able to offer the complete range of products. Like with other type of products you will find cheap Asian copies of cuckoo clocks. These are generally quartz clocks, which can not in the least be compared to an Original Black Forest clock. All quartz cuckoo clocks in our store have a quality that can be compared to mechanical clocks from the Black Forest within the same price range.

Style and Design

Cuckoo clocks have 2 main styles. All manufacturers make those 2 styles.

The Chalet is basically a type of house. The design of a Chalet varies from a typical Black Forest House to an Alpine House or a Timbered House (Tudor Style House). Many details and interesting movements characterize the Chalet cuckoo clock. Often a scene of everyday life is displayed. Many of the Chalets have handmade and hand laid shingles on the roof.

The other main style of cuckoo clocks is the traditionally carved cuckoo clock that usually shows scenes of nature or hunting. Typical for traditionally carved cuckoo clocks are very detailed carvings of birds, deer, eagles, leaves or owls.

Both styles are equally loved around the world. Which style do you prefer?

Cuckoo Call

Every mechanical cuckoo clock has the typical famous cuckoo call that makes a Black Forest clock so unique. The sound is not generated electronically; it is solely produced by the clock movement. Technically it is realized by two bellows (air chambers). Air is filled into the bellows and squeezed out through a kind of whistle. The first bellow produces the first part of the sound ("CU") and the second bellow is responsible for the other part ("CKOO").

Some cuckoo clocks have handcarved cuckoos. There are even clocks that have cuckoos with moving wings.

The cuckoo sound on quartz clocks is produced electronically or tape recorded.

Music and Melodies

Besides the typical cuckoo sound some clocks also play also music. For many lovers of Original Black Forest clocks music is essential.

In general the clocks play alternately 2 different melodies. Many play the German folk songs "Der fröhliche Wanderer" and "Edelweiss". Chalets showing beer drinkers often play the songs "In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus" and "Trink, Brüderlein Trink". An important criterion is the musical movement. Although all cuckoo clock musical movements are of high quality, the number of tones varies between 18 and 36. The more tones, the better the sound usually will be.

8-Day clocks play music every full hour. 1-Day clocks play music every half and full hour. You can recognize musical cuckoo clocks by the third weight.

Quartz clocks usually play music every hour and have up to 12 different melodies.

Dancing Figurines / Dancing Couples

Many cuckoo clocks have dancing figurines because they are very popular. If the clock has dancers they are usually positioned below the cuckoo and turn when the music plays. There are different types of dancing figurines. Some cuckoo clocks have dancing couples, others have Black Forest couples or children figurines. Depending on the price of the clock the figurines could be handcarved and/or handpainted what makes them very valuable.

Moving figurines and other moving elements

Besides Dancing figurines there are other figures that move on certain german black forest clocks. Chalets have beer drinkers that lift their glass, wood choppers that axe, wood sawyer that saw, water wheels that turn and other moving figurines and elements. The product description of each cuckoo clock gives detailed information on that. The movement usually occurs when the music plays.

A few traditionally Carved cuckoo clocks have moving parts too. On some clocks birds are moving.

Moving figurines bring great variety and lasting fun to german cuckoo clocks.

Night Shut-off / Sound shut-off

Since a cuckoo clock makes some kind of sound at least every hour it is a great advantage to have a clock with a night shut-off. Depending on where the clock is placed in the house a night shut-off can be very valuable. Another advantage is that it enables you to more freely choose a place for your cuckoo clock, because you can place it any room in the house. Some clocks have a manual night shut-off that is used by turning a lever on the outside of the cuckoo clock. For frequent users a clock with automatic night-shut off is more convenient.

Not all cuckoo clocks have a night shut-off.

Wood

The different colours are normally not the result of different kinds of wood. For the carvings the wood used is usually the local Linden tree (Lime tree) because it is best for the carvings. In some cases the workshops will use maple.

Differences in Prices / Price determination

Every Original Black Forest cuckoo clock is a product of exceptional quality and handmade in Germany. All the mechanical clocks in our shop have remarkable quality and a lower priced clock is definitely not a bad cuckoo clock. But there are certain features on cuckoo clocks that increase prices.

The prices of different manufacturers are close to each other. Some are a little more expensive than others.

Cuckoo clocks with 8-Day movement tend to be a little more expensive than 1-Day clocks. If the clock plays music the price will increase.

Other factors are:

  • size of the clock
  • number of tones on the musical movement
  • number of melodies
  • how many handcarvings and how deep are the carvings?
  • dancing figurines (handpainted and or handcarved)
  • figurines and ornaments (number, size, moving, handcarved, handpainted)
  • genuine wood (cuckoo, dial, hands, roof, figurines)
  • night shut-off

Warranty / Care / Repair

Before you receive a clock it has been tested intensively. Very rarely you will have a problem with an Original Black Forest cuckoo clock. All clocks come with a 24 month warranty for mechanical parts. Since all manufacturers pay greatest attention to product quality there are almost no warranty claims. Should you experience a problem then together with the manufacturers and their local service stations we will solve your problem quickly and conveniently.

Usually a cuckoo clock runs for many years without any problems. However the manufacturers recommend to get the clock maintained (cleaned and oiled) every 3-5 years by a clockmaker. Your local clockmaker can do this for you. Although the movements are built to last at least for 30 years regular maintenance will increase the live of your clock. If you need new parts for your cuckoo clock then a local clockmaker can probably not help you. In this case you can contact us, the manufacturer or this website which is specialized in clock parts (www.timesavers.com).

Please only expose a cuckoo clock to a normal indoor environment. Temperatures below 0° Celsius (32° F), dusty and humid environments are inappropriate for cuckoo clocks.

Mounting, set-up and shipping of a cuckoo clock

Every cuckoo clock comes with a user manual and set-up instructions. Please read those instructions before you unpack the cuckoo clock. If possible keep the original box the clock came with because it is ideal for shipping the cuckoo clock.

The most important point is this: After the little bag under the clock containing the chains has been opened, the clock must not be turned upside-down. This could cause the chains to slip from their wheels.

Find the ideal place in your home for your new cuckoo clock. Depending on the size and type of movement a cuckoo clock can easily weigh 10 kg (22 lbs). This makes it necessary that you have a solid support that is strong enough to hold the clock. Please also consider that the weights must hang freely which usually requires a minimum height of 1,5 - 2,0 m (5 - 6 1/2 feet). Otherwise you will need to pull up (wind up) the weights more often.

If you need to ship a cuckoo clock, pull the chains so the hooks are under the case. Insert a piece of string, wire or a twist wrap through all the chains - close as possible to the case bottom. Bundle up the chains in a piece of aluminium foil and tie up tightly with a rubber band, tape or string. This prevents the chains from coming off the wheels creating a snarled mess of chains inside the clock. Put a strip of paper in the spiral gong on the inside of the back access panel. Pack the clock in a box with crushed newspaper (please do not use Styrofoam peanuts) and then wrap and label the pendulum. Place it in the box. Don't send the weights, but If there are any numbers on the weights, (275 or 320, etc.), write them on a piece of paper, along with your name, address, phone number, your Email address, a short description of any problems, and enclose in box.

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