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What Makes a Cuckoo Clock Coo Coo

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Why is it so important to know how every mechanism moves in a cuckoo clock?

The time is not just kept by the cuckoo itself but many other moving parts. These moving parts of a clock all work together to keep the time accurate. Because the Black Forest clocks are given a certificate of authenticity the cuckoo clocks need to be moved by a pendulum to guarantee authenticity.


To make the clockwork, the pendulum has to swing back and forth at a steady and even pace.

WHY? This is critical to making the cuckoo clock run correctly.

The pendulum swings back and forth in a one-second time frame. This movement is possible because of the cuckoo clocks weights on the pendulum.

The pendulum is usually a leaf and the weights are usually pinecones. The weights are gravity and help the pendulum swing. These weights are on a chain which powers the cuckoo clock.

The weights are connected to the cuckoo clocks internal mechanisms. These weights make the tic tok sound when the weights move with the pendulum allowing the clock hands to move and the cuckoo to go off.

The clocks weights keep time. A musical cuckoo clock has one more weight than the normal cuckoo clock. There are three weights on a musical cuckoo and only two on the normal cuckoo clock. This extra weight on a musical clock serves as the music box. The other two weights are for the time to make sure the cuckoo goes off.

The weights slowly go down to the floor. They drop and when they are on the ground they need to be rewound. These weights can either be a one-day cycle or an eight-day cycle.

The one-day cycle is usually a cheaper option and the weights are lighter but you will have to wind the clock daily.

There is a clock that will be battery powered. Quartz clocks are not ones that have to be wound up every day and they do not have weights.

These clocks do not get a certificate of authenticity because of the lack of mechanical movement that occurs in the Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks.

How Does The Bird Work

So we know how time is kept but how exactly does the cuckoo bird work?

Every hour a tiny bird made out of wood will come out and sing “kuku”. There are two small pipes made of wood attached to the air chambers on both sides of the clock. When the air starts filling the chambers and becomes full with the movement will start to activate the bird’s call. The squeezing of the air in and out of the whistles. The depth of the cuckoo call depends on the size of the clock. However, one thing is the same no matter what the clock is, the first sound to come out is the “cu’ and the second is the “co.”

All the cuckoo clocks will have a cuckoo bird. The in and out movement of the bird is driven by the movement of the weights. In quartz clocks, the sound and movement is powered electronically.

Modern Day Cuckoos

Many modern-day cuckoo clocks follow the German tradition and come with a certificate of authenticity to prove that the clocks are handmade and move with the weights. This is German tradition to make the clocks run on a pendulum. Many of the modern day cuckoo clocks are intricately designed and handmade to this day.

There are modern-day cuckoo clocks that are run with batteries and are not authentic. These clocks, however, can still be made from people who have made the authentic clocks.

Choosing a cuckoo comes down to style, preference, and how much one wants to spend on a clock.

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