There are many types of cuckoo clocks, but only mechanical movement clocks handmade in the southwestern region of Germany known as Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, can be considered authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks. For more than 300 years, wood-carvers and clock makers in the region have been preserving the art and craftsmanship of cuckoo clock making by using the same mechanics, components and construction as clockmakers from the early 1700s. In 1987, these cuckoo clock experts formed the Black Forest Clock Association to protect the Black Forest clock making tradition.
The Black Forest Clock Association
Also known as the Verein die Schwarzwalduhr, or VdS, the Black Forest Clock Association is comprised of producers, traders and experts, as well as providers, dealers and collectors, who are passionate about preserving the time-tested traditions of Black Forest Germany clock makers. In fact, about 90 percent of all producers of authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks are members of the VdS. The members of the association formalized guidelines that determine if a clock is an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock and created a certification process to ensure cuckoo clock owners that their clock was built using the same mechanics as the Black Forest Germany clockmakers from centuries past. Every year, the VdS chooses a cuckoo clock that best represents the art, integrity and standards of an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock. Anton Schneider, a clockmaker in Schonach, won the cuckoo clock of the year award in 2014.
What Makes a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Authentic
A cuckoo clock is deemed an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock when the clock and all of its essential parts—everything from the clock case and the decorative details to the cuckoo pipes and the mechanical movement components—have been handmade exclusively in the Black Forest region of Germany. The clock must be made entirely of wood, except the movements, which are made of hard brass. Additionally, the clock must work using mechanical movement, which is how cuckoo clocks worked centuries ago. Mechanical movement clocks are powered entirely by weights and gravity, as opposed to quartz movement clocks, which are powered by batteries. Most members of the VdS use industry standard REGULA movements by SBS Feintechnik, a metal processing company in Black Forest Germany that is known for its high-quality clockworks. Only if a clock is driven by mechanical movements and is completely produced in the Black Forest region will it earn the VdS seal and official certificate deeming it an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock.
The VdS Certificate of Authenticity
Authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks are delivered to customers with an official certificate of authenticity and a seal from the VdS. The seal indicates the cuckoo clock originated from a clockmaker in Black Forest Germany who is registered with the association, and the certificate is a guarantee of origin, authenticity, quality and integrity. In 2006, the seal, designed by Black Forest artist Benno Gasch, was awarded protection by the German trademark office. Consumers can now easily date a clock because any clock with a VdS seal that has the trademark symbol, ®, was built after 2006. Although some clock makers might refer to their clocks as Black Forest cuckoo clocks, only clocks with the Black Forest Clock Association seal and certificate of authenticity are truly authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks.