Cuckoo Clock Mechanism: All The Things Within

The mechanism of the cuckoo clocks is rather something that many wonder about, and question, as they think about how the clock actually does work and how the sound that is made every hour or so is linked with the time it tells, so considering this, we decided to take in view the subject matter and analyze it which is exactly what we will be doing in this article.

Cuckoo clocks are clocks that use a pendulum to run and make a sound every hour or so. This sound is usually made by the appearance of different bird-like creatures that pop out of a hut that is usually placed on top/bottom or sometimes even in the middle of the clock.

There is quite a variety of clocks that are still used in this day and age, like the digital and the Analog clocks. And one of the many types of clocks that are still used is the Cukoo clock. Most of them are used just to give houses an antique look and proves quite good as decor. Moreover, many of the Cukoo clocks that are still found in houses are over a decade old. And some even more old. But looking at a cuckoo clock often raises a question that how does it actually work. And hence is the main crux of this article

Cukoo clocks use a pendulum which completes its oscillation in a second to count each second. This is only possible due to the weight that is put on the pendulum to make it move and work

The Pendulum

a GIF of the cuckoo clock to better elaborate "Cuckoo Clock Mechanism "

The pendulum is often in the shape of a leaf that moves and swings, completing, a single of its oscillation in a single second. The pendulum is mostly made a bit heavy so that they keep on moving by using gravity once their initial motion ( first oscillations ) is out of the way. Moreover, a singing Cukoo clock usually comes with one more leaf weight than the normal cuckoo clock. This extra weight works as a music box and completes the whole structure. These weights need to be rewound every single day, or after every 8 days for the cuckoo clock to work. And the bird to come out every hour. Moreover, if you are planting these weights yourself, one thing that you must note at this point is that the heaviest one should be hooked on the rightmost side when facing the cuckoo clock. And the other two having the same weight should be hooked on the either of the rest of the 2 sites

A pendulum is the main timekeeping element of a pendulum clock. Clock pendulums are usually made out of weights suspended on a wood rod or a metal rod. In better clocks, the weights are usually heavier as it increases the accuracy of a pendulum. The pendulum is kept in its momentum with the help of an escapement. Each time the pendulum swings through its center position, it releases one tooth of the escapement wheel which in then goes on turn some other relevant gears

This is what transferred the energy of the gravitational force from the weights to the clock’s counting mechanism.

A picture of verge and foliot to better elaborate Cuckoo Clock Mechanism
The verge-and-foliot was the most common mechanism for controlling the descent of a weight in a weight-driven clock.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

In a typical verge-and-foliot escapement which is the that has been used in old Cuckoo Clocks, the weighted rope unwinds from the barrel, turning the toothed escape wheel. Controlling the movement of the wheel is the verge, a vertical rod with pallets at each end. When the wheel turns, the top pallet stops it and causes the foliot, with its regulating weights, to oscillate. This oscillation turns the verge and releases the top pallet. The wheel advances until it is caught again by the bottom pallet, and the process repeats itself. The actions of the escapement stabilize the power of the gravitational force and are what produce the ticktock of weight-driven clocks.


This is the series of wheels/rings or gears that would transmit motion from the original source and move the hands the hands of the clocks, Regardless, the power is first transmitted by the main, big wheel which is attached with a gear to a smaller teeth and whose arbor is attached to a further second wheel, which will be passed on the movement just like gears move. The ratios of the gears involved are such that the one arbor, the second or the third arbor completes its whole revolution in an hour and it can be used to maneuver the smaller arbor which would be in control of the minute hand. Moreover, the arbor carrying the minute hand comes with a slipping clutch that allows the hands to identify the accurate time.

The frame in this case was made up of 2 specific pivots that would carry the weight of the gears and are often aced on four pillars. The weight that has now replaced the mercury in the mechanism to make the main gear move, forms a line that is coiled around a barrel, which is raised by the turning of the winding square or in some cases by the pulling of the line. The main wheel of the frame is engaged with the center pinion on the arbor and the front pivot of this wheel is stretched. This then carries the minute hand which are the gears necessary to make the hour hand move. To better elaborate, down below is an elaborative picture

A Picture Of The Main Components Of A Pendulum Clock

The central wheel also engages with the pallets fixed to the arbor. Moreover, fixed along with the pallet is also a crutch that ends at a fork that is connected with the pendulum rod.

The Bird Of The Cuckoo Clock

Well, as we mentioned before, every hour or so ( depending on the clock you bought ), a bird will come out and sing coo-coo or go along with another song. Along with the bird, there are two wooden pipes that are attached to the air chamber, which go along both sides of the clock. The process starts off by the air getting filled up in those chambers. And when they do, they will start to activate the birdThe air will then squeeze out of the whole on the mouth of the bird, making the infamous “Kuku” sound or singing in another way. The depth of the sound being made would depend on the size of the overall clock.

Moreover, no matter what the size of the cuckoo clock is, conventionally the first sound that the cuckoo clock would make would be something in line with a linear “cu” which would be followed by a bit more screechy “co”

a picture of the inside of a cuckoo clock to better answer "Cuckoo Clock Mechanism "

Lastly, all of the Cuckoo clocks come with a cuckoo bird. And that in itself defines why they are called by that specific name. The overall movement of the clock would be made with the help of the movements of the weight in the case of the conventional cuckoo clock. And if the cuckoo clock works with the quartz mechanism then the clock would be powered electronically to serve its purpose

There are also Quartz cuckoo clocks that don’t need to be rewound every now and then. Subsequently, they also don’t come with weights. These Quartz clocks are usually battery powered and usually work the same way as Analog clocks do, but will make coo coo sounds every hour and can be turned off of if you want, through a switch, which is mostly on their back or on their sides

Electronically powered Cuckoo Clock

Electronically powered Cuckoo Clocks basically use oscillators to keep the gears moving. And the movement of the gears prompts the minute hand to move which then turns and makes the hour hand move.

  1. So basically what happens is that the battery or the power source provides to the microchip circuit within the clock
  2. Then this current makes the quartz crystals that are precisely cut and placed within the clock to vibrate at a speed of 32768 times a second.
  3. The Microchip circuit detects the crystal’s vibrations and turns them into regular electric pulses, at a speed of one per second, because as we know that is what is needed for the accuracy and normal functioning of the clock
  4. These electric pulses then turn to mechanical power and move the gears
  5. The one gear that moves makes the other gear move. Hence, making the clock tick every second. Til the appliance of the power remains intact.
  6. The electronic pulse also provide the bird with the energy that was priorly needed to be filled up with air, and the bird then goes coo coo after every hour

Hopefully this article was helpful in answering some of your clocks-related questions If you have any clock-related questions, feel free to use the comment section below. And if you want to know why clocks don’t appear in dreams, we have a great article on just that so do give it a click if you are interested “Why don’t clocks appear in dreams? Clocks and dreams!“. Here is also a link about the history of clocks if you want to give that a look “History of timekeeping devices

AK Iqbal

A University of London’ student with a passion for writing. Clocks have always intrigued me and the importance that they have in our lives is way beyond phenomenal. So, on this site, I write everything about clocks, everything from answering any clock-related queries that you might have along with recommending some of my favorite clocks accordingly. Moreover, I will also be conducting some researches on clock related topics and sharing the things that I learn. So stay tuned to ohmyclock for all the fun clocks related content

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