I recently read an article about a Black Forest shield clock called the Butcher Clock or metzgeruhr, and I remember thinking that this is one clock that’s definitely not going to hang on MY wall! But more on that later.
An early design of Black Forest cuckoo clocks was called the schilduhr or shield-clock, which originated in the 1750s. The clocks are quaintly pretty and are making quite a comeback nowadays. Some of the reproductions available are true to the original centuries-old design of a wooden flat painted square face with a semi-circle of painted wood on top which functions as the door for the cuckoo (interestingly, some early models didn’t have the cuckoo in them). All the mechanisms of the original shield clocks were concealed behind their wooden faces because they had no cabinets. Actually, they were considered quite primitive in design because they had no clock cases, no carvings, and no ornamental inlays that are part-and-parcel of the types that came after them.
Another name for this early model was the “wood-wheel paper-shield cuckoo” because the movements and wheels were wooden and the square face had paper pasted on it which was painted with watercolors. Some of the paintings on available reproductions are fantastic if you are a lover of the vintage-look in floral design, landscape, fruits, or figures. The semi-circle generally got the most attention from the painter, with very bold depictions of rose or flower patterns. Something I like about this clock is that miniature depictions of the floral or landscaping themes generally cover the outer corners of the square and inner sections of the dial as well. Shield clocks have dials that characteristically take up a large amount of surface space–certainly much more than they do on most other types of cuckoo clocks.
The schilduhr was at its peak of popularity in the late 18th and early 19th-century probably because they were popularized by clock peddlers who would carry them on their backs and sell them to customers throughout the Alpine regions. In fact, there are many cuckoo clocks that now feature these clock-seller figurines as a nostalgic reminder of their humble beginnings.
Back to the Butcher clock which has a (disgusting) scene of a butcher striking the head of an ox with his ax whenever the clock strikes the hour. I’m not sure what you think, but I infinitely prefer the innocent designs that embellished the original versions of the iconic Black Forest shield cookoo clocks!