Clocks Point to More than Time


Why are clocks so fascinating? What is our connection with them? The mystery of time is surely a broad topic and plenty of blog articles could be written about it from many different viewpoints, such as science, philosophy, theology, first-hand experience, etc. In this article, we’ll look at two of them. Taking a view from plain old experience and from a bit of science, we can find out something more about the allure of time and clocks.

Experience tells us that the relationship we have with clocks is deeper than what we see on the surface. Yes, clocks keep us organized; order, flow and continuity come from their reliability, enjoyment comes from their aesthetics. Point-2-thriftyartist.blogspot.com-handBut there’s more. And it has to do with rhythm and pattern. Rhythm is found in any recurrent sound, movement, arrangement or condition in any sphere of life, including clocks.

Let’s look first at the hands of an analog clock. They follow a circular pattern and always arrive back at the place where they started, only to begin again as so many patterns and rhythms of nature do. Accompanying that continuum of movement is the delightfully ordered and rhythmic tick-tock of the clock’s mechanism. A swinging pendulum yet adds another layer of rhythm.

So if you’ve ever sensed a certain connection when you looked at a clock, or listened to its ticking, or watched its pendulum swing, there is a reason. In its simple and unassuming way, a clock mirrors the order and rhythm of nature and reminds us that we’re connected to that rhythm. Rhythm is an integral part of our being, so much so that we can even say that we’re “rhythmic beings,” and because we are, we have a natural affinity to the presence and workings of rhythm all around us in the patterns of the seasons, galaxies, mathematics, music, sports, poetry and so on…and in the patterns of the clocks.

Now to throw in some science, biology, at that. It’s well known in the fields of science that rhythm is an inseparable and intrinsic part of our physical bodies; our brain is a “master clock” that coordinates all of our body clocks. Our brain controls our internal timekeeper, called a “circadian rhythm,” so that all parts of our body work in sync with one another–all moving together like the precise gears and mechanisms of a finely tuned clock.

Children naturally experience, over and over again in different ways, just what we’re talking about–the beats, rhythms, and patterns, when they sing, clap, dance, laugh to music…and listen to the steady tick of a clock.

So we feel this connection with clocks because they’re closer to us than we might realize. When we look at and listen to a clock something inside us resonates, something that speaks of the rhythm that moves in us and all around us, and is perhaps the most basic pattern in nature. It’s our plain old experience that confirms it; clocks are just fascinating.

Photo Credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock face – we-are-star-stuff.tumblr.com

Photo # 2 –  Pointing hand – thriftyartist.blogspot.com


The Complete Cuckoo Clock Buyer’s Guide


With so many models, styles and prices of cuckoo clocks, how do you begin a search for the right one? Reading this guide is a good place to start. We’ll be covering seven major points: quality, terminology, what you’re looking for in a clock,  price ranges, buying from the USA or Germany, and investment.

1. Quality

Are some clocks better than others? The answer is YES. But what exactly does “better” mean?  Personal tastes or preferences might, in a way, make one clock more appealing than another, depending on what you’re looking for. A particular size, color and certain features of a clock may be “better” for one person, but not for another. So, is there an objective standard by which everyone, regardless of their personal tastes, can use as a reliable measure of what a “better” cuckoo clock is? The answer again is YES. There is an objective standard of quality and authenticity.

In the southwestern corner of Germany is a region known as the Black Forest. It’s famous for producing exceptional clockwork and is a place where the art of clock making has been passed down from generation to generation. That tradition is more than 300 years old. So when you’re shopping for a cuckoo clock, consider buying one that comes from the German Black Forest.

guide-2-vds-black-forest-certifiedThere are a number of clock makers in the Black Forest region and ten of them are members of the VDS (Black Forest Clock Association). This organization was established in 2006 to uphold specific industry standards of clock production in the Black Forest region. Only clocks that meet those standards are permitted to bear the VDS certificate of approval*. The VDS has also established a worldwide network of quality service stations for the maintenance and repair of cuckoo clocks.

Please note: the absence of the  VDS certificate on any particular brand of cuckoo clock does not necessarily mean that the clock is not of high quality and authentic. But if you would like the assurance of the VDS endorsement, look for their certification seal.

  • Here are six of the most well known Black Forest cuckoo clock makers that are certified by the VDS:

Rombach and Haas (also known as Romba)
Anton Schneider
Hubert Herr
August Schwer

To meet the demands of the marketplace, clock manufacturers of the Black Forest also produce high quality cuckoo clocks with quartz (battery operated) movements. Since one of the requirements for VDS certification is that a clock have a mechanical movement, quartz models do not carry the VDS certificate. More about quartz cuckoo clocks later in this article.

Knowing the standard of quality in cuckoo clocks makes for a good starting point in shopping. And knowing the name and functions of each basic cuckoo clock part is a good next step. If you’re not familiar with all of this, have a look at the section below. It will help you to better understand the features and descriptions of any clock you’re considering to buy.

 2. Terminology : Cuckoo Clock Parts – Here are brief explanations of the basic parts of a mechanical cuckoo clock:

  •  Movement – This is the working inside the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. Mechanical movements are powered by weights; quartz are battery powered.
  • Figurines – These are the small carved or molded ornamental figures of people and/or  animals you see on some clocks. Some are animated and some are not.
  • Case – This is the exterior body of the clock which comes in many styles and sizes. The   case of a Black Forest clock is traditionally carved out of linden wood.
  • Pendulum – This is the swinging part below the clock case that controls the accuracy of a mechanical clock. It’s rhythmic motion is a favorite of clock enthusiasts.  The pendulum on a quartz powered cuckoo is for decorative purposes only.
  • Weights – These are usually shaped like pines cone and generate the power for a mechanical clock. Weights on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only.
  • Bellows – A device that pumps a puff of air into the musical pipe which makes the cuckoo sound. Each cuckoo clock has two bellows.
  • Pipes – Inside the clock case are two small musical pipes that alternately play the “cuc” and “koo” notes when air is pumped through them.
  • Shut-off Switch – A lever or switch on the side or bottom of the clock case that allows you to silence the cuckoo bird and/or music.


3. What are you looking for in a clock? Knowing the answers to the following four questions will help focus your cuckoo clock search:

  • Style & Design: Is there a size, style and coloration that you’d like for decorative and/or nostalgic reasons?
  • Convenience and Movements: Do you prefer to wind a clock or not? Do you want an automatic night shut-off or manual shut-off?
  • Music: Besides the cuckoo sound, some clocks also play music. Do you prefer just the cuckoo call, or music too?
  • Price: Do you have a price range in mind? If so, how does your budget “fit” after you’ve answered the questions above?

It may take some thought, planning and checking different clocks on the market for you to answer these four questions.

In the section below we’ve elaborated in detail on the four points above.

  • Style & Design – Over the years two cuckoo clock designs have remained the most popular: the Carved design and the Chalet design. The Shield and Contemporary designs are two other types that are also available. (See “Decorating With Clocks” if you need clock decorating tips).

Guide-2-river-city-cuckoo-clock-md841-16Carved DesignFresh air scenes of nature or hunting are the motif of this type which is also known as the “traditional” design. The clock case is usually square shaped with intricate carvings surrounding it. Originally the carved style clock was designed to look like the residence of a 19th-century German railroad guardhouse. Over time Black Forest clock makers livened it up with rich a variety of ornamentation such as leaves, sometimes colorfully painted, vines, birds, deer and other animals. Some models feature a Swiss music box playing folk songs and dancing figurines. The carved design comes in both quartz and mechanical models.

guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91Chalet Design Chalet clocks look just like a brightly colored miniature chalet and come in three varieties: the Black Forest chalet, the Swiss chalet and the Bavarian chalet. These depict charming scenes of every day country life and come in both quartz and mechanical models. The mechanical models usually feature the merry theatrics of spinning  figurines that dance to traditional folk songs.  The melodies are played by a Swiss music box that’s built into the movement. And it’s not uncommon for animated wood choppers, animals, beer drinkers and water wheels to play their part in the “show”. Many chalets clocks have handmade, hand laid shingles on the roof.


Other Designs – A less popular traditional design with a mechanical movement is the “Shield” cuckoo clock. It’s face is usually flat and has a colorfully painted surface. (photo on left). Another design is the Contemporary (Modern Art) with clear and simple lines (photo below). It comes in both quartz and mechanical models.


  •  Convenience and Movements – Your personal preference and daily schedule will tell you which type of cuckoo clock movement could be the most convenient one for you. Shut-off options are also something to think about. Here are the three movement types:

1-Day Wind – This is a mechanical movement that’s powered by weights and needs to be wound every day. If you enjoy frequent interaction with your clock, then consider a 1-day wind movement.

8-Day Wind –  This is also a mechanical movement powered by weights and needs to be wound every 8 days.  Clocks with this movement are more expensive than 1-day clocks due to their having a larger movement; they also tend to be more intricately crafted. You can recognize a clock with 8 day movement by the larger weights.

Quartz –  A quartz movement is battery-powered and has no mechanical parts. If you like the no-fuss approach of no winding, then consider a quartz movement.  Although mechanical movements keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments, they’re not as accurate as quartz movements. (Note: weights, chains and a swinging pendulums featured on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only).

Shut-off Switch –  Almost all mechanical and quartz cuckoo clocks have a manual shut-off switch. Some clocks feature an automatic night time shut-off setting, a very handy thing if you tend to forget to shut your clock at night.

  • The Music — There are two ways a cuckoo clock produces music: mechanically and electronically.

Mechanically – Mechanical cuckoo clocks (those with a 1-day or 8-day movement) contain a Swiss music box inside of the clock case. Right after the cuckoo bird announces the time, the music begins and plays on the hour in an eight-day clock, and on the hour and half hour in a 1-day clock. Musical cuckoo clocks usually play the German folksongs “The Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss”; some beer drinker models play the songs “In Munich Stands A Court Brew House Drink” and Little Brothers Drink.”

With most all musical models, things get pretty lively when the music begins, as dancers dance, wood choppers chop and beer drinkers drink…not to mention the moving water wheels and other nearby forest creatures. The number of notes the music boxes plays can vary between 18 and 36, and the more tones, the better the sound will usually be. You can recognize a musical cuckoo clocks by a third weight which powers the music.

Electronically – Unlike the 1-day and 8-day mechanical movements, the music (and cuckoo call) in a quartz movement is electronically simulated. Quartz clocks usually play music every hour and have up to 12 different melodies.

About the Cuckoo Sound – Larger size bellows in a mechanical clock will produce a deeper pitched cuckoo call than smaller size bellows.

  • Price Determiners – The cost of a new cuckoo clock can range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands. The price depends on the factors below. A general rule of pricing is that the more craftsmanship,  features and quality a clock has, the higher the price will be.

Country of Origin: Authentic, hand-carved Black Forest cuckoo clocks will cost more than mass produced replicas made in other countries.

Movement Type: Clocks with 8-day movements tend to cost a little more than those with 1-day movements. Quartz movements are least expensive.

Music: A mechanical musical movement increases the cost – so does the number of melodies and notes in each melody.

Amount and Intricacy of Carvings: The deeper and more detailed the carvings are, the higher the cost.

Wood vs. Plastic Parts: Clocks with wood cuckoos, figurines, dials and hands cost more than those with plastic ones.

Size of the Case: Larger clocks usually cost more than smaller ones.

Figurines and Ornaments: Quantity, size and whether or not they are hand carved, hand painted and animated will effect the cost.

Night Shut-off / Sound Shut-off: Mechanical clocks with shut-off settings cost more.

4. Price Ranges: These are general price ranges based on the cuckoo clock brands offered for sale on our website as of the date this article was published.

1-Day  – $300 to $750
8-Day  – $600 to $3000 & up
Quartz  – $130 to $495

1-Day – $150 to $1070
8-Day – $260 to $2,000

5. Buying: USA or Germany?

Since Black Forest cuckoo clocks are made in Germany, it might seem logical to purchase one directly from a dealer located in Germany. Here are some important things to consider before you make a buying decision:

1. Imported goods are subject to a duty of at least 5% of the purchase price, and you may have to fill out paperwork as well.

2. If your clock is defective or doesn’t meet your expectations and you want to return it, it will have to be packed and shipped back to Germany. You may have to pay for the shipping expense, depending on the reason for your return. Export documents would also have to be filled out.

3. Some cuckoo clock brands offer a more comprehensive warranty if the clock is purchased from a merchant located in the USA.

4. If the price offered by the German dealer is lower than the USA dealer’s prices, determine the amount you’ll save and weigh that against points 1 to 3 above. Then ask yourself: is it worth it?

6. A Better Investment

Mechanical clocks are a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason is that centuries of clock making history and development are alive KW-2-invest-www.theboardgamefamily.comand well inside each clock. These are embodied in the workings of its gears, escapement and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship. History, detail, and human labor are important factors that add to the value and appeal of not just collectibles, but to heirlooms as well. So if you’re looking for a clock that you can pass on to your grandchildren, think “mechanical”.


Closing Thoughts

We hope this guide will help you to make the best buying decision. If you need extra help in setting up your new mechanical cuckoo clock when it arrives, check our illustrated article: “How To Setup A Cuckoo Clock”. With proper maintenance and care, your new clock should last for generations and become a cherished heirloom. Click here to view our large selection of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks.

For a further discussion on mechanical wall clocks and quartz wall clocks see: Pendulum Wall Clocks: Key Wound or Quartz?

Photos :

TOP:  Group of Cuckoo Clocks

Photos # 1 – Black Forest Clock Association – VDS Certificate

Photos # 2 – Craved Cuckoo Clock by River City #MD841-16

Photos # 3 – Chalet Cuckoo Clock by Anton Schneider #8T1686-9

Photos # 4 – Shield Style Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas # 3402

Photos # 5 – Contemporary (Modern Art) Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas #SL15-1

Photos # 6Hourglass and Money – effectivesoftwaredesign.com


The Grand Central Terminal Clock–Not the Usual Act


What if, one day, you decided to become a Hollywood star? Where would you begin? A good start would be to take acting lessons, but let’s say you’ve already amused your family for some years in countless living room theater plays and acted in small parts in your local town, in summer stock, and then off-Broadway. Now, you’re on a plane to Hollywood and searching for an agent. If you work hard, it might not be long before you catch your first part in a film. You’ve made it, you’re a Hollywood star.

But a person isn’t the only one who can become a star–sometimes it’s a clock. Let’s take a look at how it happened for the Grand Central Terminal Clock, the magnificent structure adorning the top of Grand Central Terminal’s information booth at the main concourse area. Did the clock take clock lessons or practice how to tick, or hire an agent? Did it have to sing, dance and ride a horse? Did it need a photo-op and portfolio?

Nope. None of that. Let’s just say all it had to do is just ‘be’. Standing tall, its four faces looking out above the concourse, right in the heart of New York City’s biggest train terminal, Grand-2-chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.commade it the perfect place for friends and lovers to meet. And that’s  a recipe for the movies. So, what did the clock have to do? it had to do nothing; it was discovered. And in 1947, when over sixty-five million people, forty percent of the U.S. population, traveled the rails via the Grand Central Terminal, the clock made its film debut in the “Grand Central Murder.” Its screen appearance was a success, and from there, other film producers and directors cast the clock in their movies. It appeared in The Godfather, Men in Black and Superman, Midnight Run, the Cotton Club, The Fisher King and North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, and many more.

In North by Northwest, the clock was filmed for the first time in Paramount Picture’s Vista-Vision Technicolor. Dan Brucker, the terminal’s official Tour Guide, told us that, “The color, and purity, and richness and detail were so fine, so crisp and exact, that the clock almost pops out at you, like 3-D.” It was probably the clock’s most memorable performance yet.

Grand-2-Smithsonian-Now, you know how one thing leads to another? Well, its appearance in these films increased its charm as a meeting place. “Meet me under the clock.” That declaration was not only a famous phrase in films, but a common phrase among New Yorkers and any of its visitors. At least four generations of New Yorkers have known where to go when they want to “meet under the clock”. Soldiers returning from war re-unite with their loved ones, friends get together to socialize, a lover proposes, a photographer uses it as a backdrop and as an icon on postcards.

Photo: Grand Central Station's 100th Anniversary postage stampAnd as if film wasn’t enough, the ambitious clock has recently branched out into the US Mail. Just last year (2013), a new Express Mail Stamp to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Central Terminal was published, and none other than yours truly found a spot right in the middle of the stamp. It took its place among the other stamps of the Hollywood stars like Humphrey Bogart, Humphrey2-Bogart-Stamp-John Wayne, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stuart and Katharine Hepburn. Grand-John-Wayne-StampAnd, as part of the centennial Grand-2-Katharine-Hepburn-stampanniversary, a stylized design of the century old clock became the official logo for the Grand Central Terminal.





If you’ve never been to this great terminal, what some call the “city within the city,” and decide to go to see the clock, it’s not likely to give you an autograph, but I’m sure it will gladly pose for a photo.



Top – Closeup of Grand Central Terminal Clock – blakerobinsonphotography.com

Photo #1 – Grand Central Terminal Clock -chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.com

Photo # 2 – Meet Me Under The Clock at Grand Central Terminal – si.edu

Photo # 3 – Grand Central Station’s 100th Anniversary postage stamp

Photo # 4 – Humphrey Bogart postage stamp

Photo # 5 – John Wayne postage stamp

Photo # 6 – Katherine Hepburn postage stamp

Photo # 7 – Grand Central Terminal logo- grandcentralterminal.com

Why Are Clocks Popular Heirlooms?


heirloom clockAll Types of Heirlooms

When it comes to an heirloom, almost anything can qualify. It could be grandpa’s diploma tucked away in a special drawer or grandma’s pot roast recipe waiting to be cooked again or even a simple and unexpected thing like the ribbon your great aunt wore on the day of her wedding. But, did you know that, in popularity, clocks are in the top ten?

Why Clocks?

What makes them so popular? Think about it. They’re practical: clocks are heirlooms you can use. They’re beautiful: that means your home will be imbued with fine craftsmanship and visual entertainment. They’re visible: that means they’re usually in a prominent place in your home where you can see them and refer to them often, “what time is it?” Then there’s the ticking, the music, the chimes, and the dancers, the log cutters, the dumpling eaters and the beer drinkers, the dogs and the vines and the red-shuttered cottages. All that becoming a part of the daily rhythm of your family life. Yes, an heirloom clock passed down to you is special, indeed. It honors your family, helps you to gain a richer insight into the days of your ancestors, and continues the traditions that began generations ago.

BLOG#2-heritage-from-members.digis.netUnexpected Heirlooms

I could tell you about my own family heirlooms, but what I think will be of greater interest is what I had discovered many years ago and would later call my “heirloom extension phenomena.” What is that you might ask? Well, growing up my family regularly visited close friends. In their kitchen was a cuckoo clock and in the living room a grandfather clock. I still remember the beautiful and mysterious tones of the Westminster chimes and the charming cuckoo of the bird. These sounds somehow created a sense of stability and order in the atmosphere, and as a child I always looked forward to a visit to that home.

Years passed and the two clocks were given to their children and then just recently, to their children’s children. The stability and order those timepieces had lent to that home will now be passed on to the grandchildren’s home as they start their new families.

We had other heirlooms in our house when I was growing up, but not a clock. That’s where my “heirloom extension phenomena comes in.  I can explain it this way: even though it’s years later, I seem to be experiencing and participating in their family history, in their heirloom story. And it’s all because of those wonderful clocks.

Starting Your Own

But, what if you don’t have an heirloom clock or an “heirloom extension phenomena” carrying the stories and memorable events of your family or extended family? Well, your story can begin now because traditions don’t have to be started sixty years ago. A new, finely crafted clock can become an heirloom in the making, a keepsake by which you’ll be remembered. And your children and grandchildren will be glad you decided to begin the journey of your story.

Now look around your house. Most likely you have an heirloom of some type. But, wouldn’t it be nice to have a clock?

Photo Credits:
TOP: treasurechestofmemories.com

BOTTOM:  O’Neill Family