Cuckoo clock repairs – common problems & fixes


I repair a lot of cuckoo clocks. Most repairers wont do them as…well you certainly work for the money and every clock is unique and handmade in some way. In short they are considered a pain in the back side and theres other easier work to persue. Not for me though because I really quite enjoy them. Its as if somebody has spliced train set DNA with an alarm clocks while drunk. Some of the key switches inside the clock that make things happen are simply hand bent wire. Amazingly this architecture keeps running fine and consequently a properly set up cuckoo will be reliable, accurate and about the same to service and run as a more ordinary clock.

Its taken me some considerable effort and investment to honour my “I fix ANY clock” promise on these but I am there now with a full set of spares and all the diagnostic equipment required.

I do a fair amount of Reglula clocks as well as Hubert Herr which I can recommend (the best built and most reliable) and I can cover all the popular makes if yours is not a Hubert.

So what are the common problems….

  1. Dirt. These clocks collect dirt like you wouldn’t believe. To keep a clock clean it needs to be enclosed so the dust doesnt get it. Bearing in mind cuckoo clocks are designed to open and shut a door a hundred or so times a day its hardly surplussing they collect dirt so quickly. Cleaning the movement requires great care and the right cleaning fluids because the clocks often contain plastic components which melt in solvents or degrade in aggressive household cleaning products that are now formulated to remove everything – Cillit Bang doesnt work – “Bang and the clock is gone” springs to mind.
  2. Component seizure. This happens a lot specially around the weight arbors. Reseting requires the clock to be stripped down.
  3. Out of sync automaters. Basicly the chain linkage slips and your little dancers or cuckoo come out at the wrong time or only get halfway through their dance before just stopping. Cuckoos sing the wrong amount of notes and pop out all over the place – all this can get quite comical and its not ucommon for me to spend the first 10 minutes of fix time just laughing at what the owners have put up with before taking the plunge and sending it to me.
  4.  Broken hands and front of face components. These are generally glued on or held with a friction fit so they often fall off or work loose over time. All can be replaced with contemporary spare parts however if you want bone or colour matched hands it takes a bit longer to source parts.

I do repair all cuckoo clocks and am currently restoring an 1860 black forest table top clock in the Dresden style (a stunning clock and its ALL MINE!). Most of the clocks I get in are mid to late 20th century units but its a varied field and cuckoo clocks have been made in volume since about 1800 so its quite a job covering them all (but I do!).

Half the clocks are sent to me in the post which is fine. As long as you use a bigger box than you need with plenty of packaging they travel ok. I send them back set up correctly with all the chains and loose fixings tied into place with cable ties so you can just unbox it and stick it on the wall ready to go – I include written instructions.

Im always happy to exchange emails before quoting etc and I take calls in the day if you want to ring. Some people just work out Im good at these and stick them in a box to send me without any  warning – thats fine too but don’t forget to put a note it with your address and some brief notes on what is wrong and what you want done.

The only thing I dont do on cuckoos are replacing bird skin bellows material (chicken skin was used in the bellows of early clocks) but if you want that I know a man who can!. Even on my expensive Dresden clock Ive just gone with modern replacements – they are consumable items and trying to preserve them through services is just putting off the inevitable and adds rediculous money to repairs bills.  Cuckoo clocks should be fun, not expensive or high maintenance.

In terms of costs its no more expensive to get a cuckoo fixed by me than it is to get a mid range mantel clock fixed so dont worry about it being prohibitive. £60 for an over the counter while you wait fix (where possible) or up to a max of £400 plus parts for a top end modern Bavarian cuckoo that will have typically cost £1500 new.

Any questions…just give me a ring for some help or a chat 07462 269529.