Auction Review: Epic Auctions and Estate Sales’ August 2023 Cuckoo Clocks Event
On August 19, 2023, Epic Auctions and Estate Sales of Leslie, MI held its 292-lot Cuckoo Clock Collection Auction. This single-owner sale included a full range of contemporary, vintage, and antique cuckoo clocks, parts, and associated horological hardware.
Cuckoo clocks first appeared in the 18th century in Germany’s Black Forest region. Today, they are a cultural icon for Germany and a popular travel souvenir for tourists visiting the country. Traditional cuckoo clocks are usually wall mounted and are often in the form of a chalet or are hunting themed. These traditional time keepers are usually pendulum-driven and mark the top of each hour (or other increment) with a bird call or trumpet blast. Their designs frequently incorporate an automated bird or other animal or figure that moves in tandem with each series of alerts. Importantly, many have on/off features which control their sounds at night for peaceful sleeping. Here are some sale highlights from this specialty event that caught the eye of the Auction Daily team. All prices noted include the auction house’s 25% buyer’s premium.
Bird’s the word when it came to the top lot in this sale. It was #0051, an auerhahn motif Beha movement cuckoo clock. This premier, German-made, four bellows example was estimated at USD 325 to $600, scored $3,625, and generated nine bids. It measured 24 inches tall overall and was beautifully carved with foliage, pine cones, pine trees, and a large auerhahn– or grouse– on its top. Grouses are related to wild turkeys and are popular hunting game across Europe. The clock’s inner movement was stamped Beha, indicating that this clock had ties to the workshop of famed Black Forest clockmaker Johann Baptist Beha (1815 – 1898). Beha was the son of master clockmaker Vinzenz Beha (1764 – 1868). In 1845, Johann Beha founded his own workshop in Eisenbach, a town in the district of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald in Baden-Württemberg in Germany, where he would start to make a name for himself across the European clockmaking community.
This sale featured a number of quail clocks– clocks that ring in the hours with a sound resembling a quail’s cry. Sometimes quail clocks also incorporated standard cuckoo bird sounds as well into their time telling repertoires. Lot #0031, a Black Forest deer and acorn motif cuckoo quail clock, was estimated at $400 to $700, realized $813, and generated nine bids. This German-made example could run for eight days when fully wound and struck every 15 minutes. This eye-catching timepiece was decorated with carved branches, oak leaves, and a full bodied deer gracing the top. The clock face itself was set into a square shaped base with a bark-like texture. It measured about 30 inches tall from the top of the deer’s head to the base of the clock.
Trumpeter clocks are a specialized type of musical clock made to sound like its namesake’s signature instrument call when activated. Lot #0009, a German three horn trumpeter deer motif clock, was estimated at $1,000 to $2,000, traded hands at $1,188, and attracted 16 bids. This turn-of-last-century German timepiece included its pendulum and weights, and it was skillfully carved with foliage, a hunter’s trumpet, hunting rifles, a powder horn, and a deer head on a mount on its top. It measured 26 inches tall, including the deer’s horns.
Shelf clocks were also well represented in this sale. Lot #0020, a large, Black Forest bird and grapevine motif shelf clock, was estimated at $600 to $1,000, sold for $1,063, and had eight bids. This late-18th or early-19th-century windup timepiece stood almost two feet tall and had a chain driven Fusee movement. Its inner mechanism was stamped with the number “6” and its face featured a central round dial with Roman numerals. It was handsomely carved with bunches of grapes, stems, and leaves, as well as a bird with outstretched wings perched on its top. Given its theme, scale, configuration, and weight, this flat bottomed model might have been designed to be displayed on a mantle as the focal point for a living room or study.
Cases, movements, faceplates, and contemporary interpretations of classic cuckoo clock designs rounded out this sale. Lot #0140, a pair of identical Sylvester & Tweety animated cuckoo clocks, was estimated at $75 to $300, made $250, and generated 14 bids. These talking examples, made in 2001 by ThinkTek, were in the form of an eager Sylvester the cat wearing a Tyrolian hat and hugging a faux wooden clock chalet. On the hour, Tweety bird would emerge from the clock, announce the time, taunt Sylvester, and then hit him over the head with a mallet.