Time may be fleeting, but at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, iconic timepieces are part of the luxury brand’s heritage that’s always worth celebrating. The distinctive grand lobby clocks of Waldorf Astoria’s hotels have welcomed visitors for over 125 years, since Waldorf Astoria first opened in New York and is just one example of how the brand embraces timeless traditions.
John Jacob Astor IV purchased an ornate clock built by Goldsmith’s Company of London and commissioned by Queen Victoria for the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The four clock faces tell the time in New York, Madrid, Paris and Greenwich, England, with the octagonal base featuring Queen Victoria, Christopher Columbus, and six presidents, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. A gilded Statue of Liberty was added to the top later as a gift from the French government.
Displayed in the lobby of Waldorf and Astoria Hotels, the original location where the Empire State Building now stands, the clock became a symbol of modern luxury. When the hotel relocated to Park Avenue in 1931, the clock was moved to the new lobby, an iconic touchstone for what Waldorf Astoria represents today.
“Each clock is a finely crafted sculptural element; one that is functional, thought-provoking and uniquely designed to reflect the ethos of each Waldorf Astoria,” says Dino Michael, Global Brand Head, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.
New Orleans has its own celebrated timepiece at The Roosevelt, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019. In its lobby stands the opulent Mystery Lady Timepiece. Confident of her place amid crystal chandeliers, mosaic tile floors, gilt walls and coffered ceilings, the robed beauty gracefully welcomes guests who marvel at her golden scepter and her base of solid Algerian onyx.
She’s a one-of-a-kind clock, crafted by two of France’s most important 19th-century artisans, sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and clockmaker Eugène Farcot. Featured at the 1867 and 1878 Paris Exhibitions, Mystery Lady is the largest conical clock known in existence—half statue, half engineering marvel, with bells that chime on the hour and half hour.
The tradition carries on at Waldorf Astoria’s newest luxury hotels in exciting ways, Dino notes. To pay homage to the original New York timepiece at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, famed designer André Fu created an Art Deco clock-themed lattice to highlight Peacock Alley lobby bar. These precious timepieces take a more abstract form in some cases. At Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, it’s an armillary sphere, referencing the city’s nautical history.
We sat down with Dino to discuss the importance of honoring the past as the brand opens timeless new hotels in iconic destinations around the world.
When does the clock become part of the design process for a new Waldorf Astoria?
The clock allows us to pay homage to the original Waldorf Astoria and connect the past to the present. Typically, the clock is located at the heart of the hotel where our guests naturally gravitate to meet. We think about this at a very early stage of planning, and a lot of work goes into ensuring the timepiece represents local culture, tradition and design.
How does a clock connect to a particular Waldorf Astoria?
The key that links them all together is their relevance to the location, its history and the history of Waldorf Astoria. For example, at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Smith of Derby Ltd. was engaged to create a beautiful timepiece at over six metres that welcomes guests in spectacular style. The clock honours its Arabic setting with five rotating prayer rings at its base which show the exact minute of each prayer throughout the day.
We live in an age where we’re so attached to our digital screens. How can a clock connect with today’s traveler?
The clock is more than simply a finely crafted timepiece. It’s a focal point, a beacon, an authentic cultural artifact, and has established a legendary gathering place. For decades, guests of our Waldorf Astoria New York understood ‘meet me at the clock’ as the place to be, without question.
How will Waldorf Astoria embrace classic timepieces as the brand expands?
We continue to treat the clock as a subtle reference to the proud legacy of Waldorf Astoria New York, and that hotel continues to inform the foundation of our brand. It proudly sits in contrast to an ever-changing world where analogue lives in harmony with digital. Every horological project brings to life one of our core pillars of ‘Inspirational Environments.’
Create your own timeless traditions when you stay with Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.