Common Styles of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks – Designed in Time
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Common Styles of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks

Posted by Megan Mahoney on


Carved Cuckoo Clocks

Carved cuckoo clocks often reflect wild themes from the mystery of the Black Forest. To capture the wild spirit of their hometown, early clockmakers carved these animals into their work, making it uniquely their own. Today, the themes of birds, leaves, bears, foxes, squirrels and rabbits still persist.

Bird and Leaf Cuckoo Clock

The bird and leaf cuckoo clock is one of the most classic examples of the Black Forest carved cuckoo clock.

The most traditional example is the five leaves and one bird, but more elaborate examples may have seven leaves and three birds. Some cuckoo clocks will even have a baby bird nest. Most of the bird and leaf cuckoo clocks have the same dark finish as the rest of the clock, however, Black Forest clockmakers will occasionally branch out and produce birds with brilliant blues and yellows.

Hand painting is a tradition deeply rooted in Black Forest clock making and it is not uncommon to have a painter decorate the leaves of a carved cuckoo clock with brightly colored petals.

Dancers are also occasionally featured in carved musical cuckoo clocks. 

Bird and Leaf Cuckoo Clock

Squirrel, Rabbit and Fox Cuckoo Clocks

While the squirrel or rabbit is rarely ever the main feature of a cuckoo clock, they are common in carved Black Forest clocks. They are usually accompanied by a bird and leaf structure. The squirrel and rabbit are usually featured on the sides of the cuckoo clock while the bird sits astride the top of the cuckoo clock. Another common animal in the Black Forest is the fox. Sometimes a carved cuckoo clock will feature a fox, though this is usually the rarest kind. When a cuckoo clock does feature a fox, it usually also features berries or vines as well.

Another common animal in the Black Forest is the fox. Sometimes a carved cuckoo clock will feature a fox, though this is usually the rarest kind. When a cuckoo clock does feature a fox, it usually also features berries or vines as well.

Fox Cuckoo Clock

Owl Cuckoo Clock

The owl cuckoo clock is always one of the most popular kinds of cuckoo clocks.

The Black Forest clockmakers produce a number of different kinds of cuckoo clocks featuring owl cuckoo clocks, though few have similar styles. Some don’t even have the classic housetop shape, but rather can be shaped like the strip of wood from a Black Forest tree.

The intense detail in the owl clocks never ceases to amaze cuckoo clock enthusiasts. Many owl cuckoo clocks, like the bird and leaf clocks, also feature baby owls.

Owl Cuckoo Clock HonesBlack Forest Owl Cuckoo Clock

Deer Hunting cuckoo clock

Hunting was a major aspect of the daily life of Black Forest villagers, so it is no surprise that the theme is still implemented in the cuckoo clock themes.

Some hunting cuckoo clocks feature only a deer head at the top of the clock, while others feature a full deer on top of the cuckoo clock. All of the deer feature hand-carved antlers that show off the skill and prowess of Black Forest carvers.

Another common, but nonetheless incredible trait of hunting themed clocks is the crossed rifles below the top of the clock as well as the hunting horn that sometimes encircles the clock face.

Deer Head cuckoo clockhunting theme cuckoo clock


Bear Cuckoo Clock

The Bear cuckoo clock is always a treasured gift of the Black Forest. The clocks come in a variety of styles as they are newer to the theme repertoire of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks. Some have a playful air to them while others are more impressive and capture the power, mystery, and beauty of the Black Forest. Sometimes bear themed cuckoo clocks will feature massive Black Forest trees while others may be combined with deer, bird or rabbits.

 Bear Cuckoo ClockBlack Forest Bear cuckoo clock


The Chalet Cuckoo Clock

The chalet style cuckoo clocks often feature scenes that would have been, and often still are, the common daily lives of villagers. Many of these themes are combined to give the full effect of the Black Forest daily life. For example, a woodchopper may be working on a farm that also features a water wheel. As Black Forest clockmakers continue to seek new ways to embellish tradition, many scenes have become more and more elaborate some even featuring multiple buildings! Although these are a rarity, the chalet cuckoo clock is perhaps the most diverse style of cuckoo clock.

Woodchopper or Woodsawer Cuckoo Clock

If you have seen a chalet cuckoo clock, you have probably also witnessed a man chopping or sawing wood. This is a classic example of the chalet cuckoo clock. It is unique to the Black Forest as the wood from the forest used to support many of the villager’s families at the time of the invention of the cuckoo clock. The woodchopper is often animated in Black Forest cuckoo clocks and always delights its audience. Along with the woodchopper or wood sawer is often a pile of logs or a wooden bench.

The Water Wheel Cuckoo Clock

Many cuckoo clocks also feature a water wheel. This addition was inspired by many of the old water wheels that grace the Black Forest and have become a major tourist attraction. On the cuckoo clock, the water wheel is rarely the center of attention, but like a painting, it helps to intensify the theme and add character to the subject at hand. Thanks to recent innovations that Black Forest clockmakers are embracing, you can now even purchase a cuckoo clock with real running water that is powered by solar energy! Sometimes water wheels will be covered by an overhanging shed and sometimes they stand alone.

Beer Drinkers

Black Forest clockmakers have always striven to provide a merry scene and I suppose that adding Germany’s famous beer garden is one way to achieve that goal. Some of these gardens feature a beer maiden and several men having a drink, though some just feature a single person. Many beer drinkers are animated and slap their drinks on the table as the cuckoo bird calls on the hour.


Romantic Cuckoo Clock

Another way of producing a merry scene in the chalet clocks is to feature a couple kissing. These clocks make fantastic wedding presents and I have used this several times myself. It brightens the mood and is usually accompanied by a water wheel or some other accent.

Fisherman Cuckoo Clock

Many Black Forest cuckoo clocks also feature a fisherman with a pond. Fishing was another common occupation to supplement income for villagers in the Black Forest and there were certainly many of opportunities to do so in the Black Forest region, with major lakes like lake Titisee. Trees and other wildlife also usually surround this style of scene. In many chalet cuckoo clocks, the fisherman is animated and will move his fishing pole up and down.

Hiker Cuckoo Clock

Chalet cuckoo clocks will also occasionally feature a hiker or traveler. I have seen a few where the cuckoo clock features a man with a bag of clocks slung over his shoulder as he takes them off to the market. This was common during the wintertime when farming was not possible and it would be several day’s walk to the market. Chalet clocks that feature a hiker will often have forest themes, like Black Forest trees.


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