Collectors Are Crazy About Clocks

Photos Provided This Black Forest cuckoo clock is by Betriedbsanleitung and dates to the 1980s.

I’ve always had a thing for clocks, especially classic designs like mantel clocks with chimes, bells and interesting features. Ironically, clocks seem like a timeless home accessory to me and create elegance in just about any room in the home.

I have a New England mantel clock, a German porcelain blue and white key-wound clock and a Black Forest cuckoo clock in my home, plus the retro Kit-Cat wall clock with wagging tail (battery-operated). All are attractive additions to rooms and are a conversation pieces for guests.

My cuckoo clock is one of the first collectible clocks that I purchased back in the early 1980s. It was new, but made in the famous Black Forest region of Germany so it’s a classic. I bought this clock, a white model with gold trim, for my kitchen but quickly moved it to the hall, then the dining room and now the pantry.

It was purchased at a charming clock shop that existed in Center Wheeling back then. I really loved stopping in that shop which featured all kinds of clocks, ticking and chiming along the walls and shelves. (There’s still a clock decoration on a small fence near the former Market Street storefront today, where this shop was located, not far from Wheeling Flower Shop.)

This cuckoo clock continues to work perfectly by the way, despite the dozens of children who have pulled the chains and enjoyed opening the cuckoo’s door latch so that the tiny bird can sing its song.

Cuckoo clocks aren’t as popular as they once were but I can tell you this, today’s children are just as captivated by these handy time keepers. Mine is known as the chalet-style clock that looks like a small Alpine house.

The other style of cuckoo is known as the hunting lodge or carved style. It features ornate carvings of animals and trees and often looks like a hunting lodge.

Black Forest craftsmen have been making cuckoos since the 1600s, according to a recent article in Antique Week written by Doug Graves.

Because a genuine example is mechanical, no battery or electricity is ever required with these collectible clocks, making them appealing in another way. Just wind them up about once a day or every eight days, depending on which type of movement your clock has.

There is something rewarding about winding clocks, too. It’s a simple task that requires no more than a pull on the chains holding a weighted pine cone in the case of cuckoos, or the winding of a key, in the case of mantel-style clocks, but it keeps the clock ticking and marking time.

Many fancy cuckoos (though not mine) also play music and these have a third pine cone chain to keep the music going.

It is amazing to me how easy these clocks are to care for, by the way. At least in my case, I’ve never had the cuckoo repaired — just oiled once or twice! And if you get tired of winding it, it makes a great wall decoration even when silent.

According to German-cuckoos.com, most of the mechanical movements are engineered to last at least 30 years, so these lovely time-keepers are clever gifts for a new homemaker or family with children.

German cuckoo clocks are usually marked with a certificate that has the letters “VDS” in the middle of the paper proving authenticity with the Black Forest Clock Association. In order to receive this certificate, a cuckoo clock has to operate mechanically and be handmade in the Black Forest.

Collectors look for certain big names like Hubert Herr, Anton Schneider, Romba or Schwer Uhken (all 19th-century craftsmen), according to Antique Week, but even a more recent model like mine is fun to own and share with others.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.

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