A Timeless Tradition: The Grandfather and the Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo Clock

Many different types of clocks are available these days, of which the grandfather and the cuckoo clocks, including Black Forest cuckoo clocks, musical clocks with movement, Black Forest grandfather clocks, animated clocks, motion clocks, funky clocks and whimsical clocks have come down through traditional passages in the history of clock-making. Both these clock types have evolved in design, style, and technology, and have not lost any of their old charms with the adoption of digital technology!

Timekeeping

Ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Mayans, Aztecs, Chinese as well as European ice-age hunters depended on stars, planets, celestial bodies and the sun and the moon to measure years, months and seasons. Sun clocks were created by the Egyptians to watch a sun’s shadow pass over an obelisk (four-sided memorial, thin, and comes to a point) to initially divide the day into halves. The Chinese (Han dynasty) invented a directional finder pan named the “south governor” used for direction finding.

The first cuckoo clock was invented by a Greek mathematician, Ctesibius of Alexandria who “used water to sound a whistle and make a model owl move” who lived 285 to 222 BC. One of the most famous Chinese water clocks was created by Su Sung in 725 A.D. that was 30 feet high.

The minute hand was invented in 1577 by Jost Burgi for a clock created for astronomer, Tycho Brahe. In 1629, Philipp Hainhofer, a nobleman from Augsburg wrote the first known description of a modern cuckoo clock that was owned by Prince Elector August von Sachsen.

The Cuckoo Clock

The cuckoo clock, incorporating Black Forest cuckoo clocks, musical clocks with movement, animated clocks, motion clocks, funky clocks and whimsical clocks was traditionally viewed as a pendulum-regulated timekeeper, which announced the arrival of every hour with the striking voice of a cuckoo’s call. This cuckoo call is accompanied by the popping figure of a cuckoo bird. According to the Black Forest Clock Association, cuckoo clocks have been made for more than 300 years, Black Forest, a region in southwest Germany, known for its clock making, converted the mechanical cuckoo clock idea into a commercially viable product with its 140 members.

Per the Smithsonian, “In 1927, Canadian-born Warren Marrison, a telecommunications engineer, was searching for reliable frequency standards at Bell Telephone Laboratories. Building on earlier work in piezoelectricity, he developed a very large, highly accurate clock based on the regular vibrations of a quartz crystal in an electrical circuit” – the first quartz clock. Many manufacturers still offer traditionally made grandfather and cuckoo clocks, while others offer digitally-made cuckoo clocks. Today’s battery-operated, digital cuckoo clocks, look and feel as impressive as their mechanical predecessors and the cuckoo bird still pops out from its enclosure, flaps its wings, and sings!

The Grandfather Clock

The famous Italian Scientist Galileo Galilei discovered that pendulums can be used for keeping time due to the consistency in the pendulum’s swing in 1582; and in 1656, Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist invented the first pendulum clock applying the balance wheel and pendulum to regulate the clock and consequently became accurate enough to record minutes as well as hours. In terms of operational technology, the swaying movement of the pendulum in conjunction with the movement of the weights makes the grandfather clock work.

The traditional grandfather clock, with its stately gait of six feet height, would generally embellish the open hallways or formal dining rooms in grand mansions of the nobility. Every detail of such magnificent clocks, from the choice of wood to the shape of the pendulum, was intricately designed and manufactured.

Henry Work, an American songwriter chanced upon a grandfather clock and instantly composed a song that he decided to be called ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’. That is how this clock earned its name. Grandfather clocks, together with Black Forest grandfather clocks are generally passed down through generations as family heirlooms. They are stunning, most often add to the furniture of the house, are made of the most spectacularly stained wood, and are impressive all the way around.

Cuckoo Clock

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