Cuckoo clocks have been popular timepieces for more than 200 years. Originating in Germany's Black Forest, they come in a variety of styles. Local villages often specialised in the production of the specific parts that make up the cuckoo clock. Gradually, the process of cuckoo manufacture became more industrialised. Different makers became noted for certain kinds of clocks. The clock's overall design, and also the movement inside, can help to identify the name of the cuckoo clock maker.
Check the cuckoo clock case for the name of a manufacturer. This is the most straightforward way of identifying the clock, but not all cuckoos feature the manufacturer's name on the case.
Look at the works inside the cuckoo clock. The works are the collection of gears that actually run the clock. A name should be stamped somewhere on the machinery that makes up the clock works.
Compare the name on the clock works to the names of movements used by manufacturers of cuckoo clocks. Most cuckoo clock makers use movements that are produced by other manufacturers, such as Regula and Hermle. The Hubert Herr Co. is one of the few cuckoo clock makers that still makes its own movements. Reference works for identifying movements and clock makers include "Black Forest Clockmaker and the Cuckoo Clock" by the Clockwork Press (1998) and "Black Forest Clocks" by Rick Ortenburger (1991).
Examine the overall style of the cuckoo clock if no name can be found on either the case or the movement. Cuckoo clock styles are highly traditional and conservative, but the popular railway house style was not developed until the mid-19th century. The railway house looks like a small Black Forest house with a peaked roof. Reference works can aid in identifying particular examples.
Look at the type of movement to get a rough idea of the date if the cuckoo clock has no other identifying features. Even today, most cuckoo clocks have mechanical movements, but quartz movements are a definite sign of a clock that dates from the 1970s or later. Movements with wooden parts are extremely old and date to the earliest days of the cuckoo, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Take your cuckoo clock to an expert appraiser or antiques dealer if you are still having trouble identifying the specific piece.
Web sites such as AntiqueClocksPriceGuide.com offer thousands of pictures of cuckoo clocks and include views both inside and outside the clock. However, detailed information is available by paid subscription only.