The turn of the century was a technological boom in industrialized America. With railways already spanning the width of the lower 48, the continued urbanization of American transit needed lots of hubs in its most populous cities. One particular hotspot chosen for the ever-growing metropolis New York City was the now-famous Grand Central Station. In today’s terms, the terminal for this railway intersection has an iconography all its own—featuring a famed piece that still has people saying, “meet me under the clock”. This clock has been featured in countless films capturing the New York state of mind; a plethora of wedding announcement photos; an unrelenting stream of smiling selfies; and otherwise continues to be one of the most photographed clocks in American history. But who designed this famous clock? Well, none other than famed Connecticut clockmaker Seth Thomas. Though Thomas himself had died in 1859, his legacy lives through his established name and his offspring’s tenacity in business. Striking a deal with the city to have their work featured in Grand Central, Seth Thomas’s four-faced masterpiece was revealed on February 2nd, 1913—nearly 60 years after Thomas’s death.
Some Specs, Value, and General Info
The clock itself is housed in a beautiful brass tower-case—head to toe. It’s a fitting material for Seth Thomas, considering they gained their notoriety while making clock movements from that ubiquitous material. Atop the body of the clock there’s an acorn shape. Acorns and oak leaf clusters were a symbol that the Vanderbilts used to signify their hand in the making of Grand Central—they’re found all over the station. However, the information center where the clock stands proudly is one of the most notable acorns in the entirety of Grand Central. Being more than just a decorative piece, the Vanderbilt acorn atop the Seth Thomas designed clock functions as an accurate compass.
Each of the four clock faces are where the highest monetary value is found with this impressive time teller. Every convex shape covering the dial is made from precious opal. This valuable material, combined with the masterful design work, has the clock valued at over $10million! Aside from its general iconography—and the notoriety of its original manufacture—every detail of its design carries a quantifiable pricetag. Although this is true in terms of any market value, the sentimental and historical value of this clock goes well beyond the millions of dollars of suggested resale tender.
When the days run late, another fun feature of the Grand Central Terminal Clock is that it is entirely backlit. Since it’s located directly above the information terminal, this makes it an easy-to-find meeting spot—and information gathering site—for the entire terminal. Its glow looks like something from an art-deco dream and lends itself to the overall New York classic aesthetic surrounding.
Below the clock the information center receives nearly 1,000 questions an hour. It is said that even further below this information center there’s a secret staircase that leads down to the many tunnels and hidden walkways below the Grand Central Terminal. A lot of the secrets and time that went into building the terminal itself have given the whole place a mythical quality. With the Grand Central Terminal Clock sitting dead center to this intrigue, history, and mystery, it’s no surprise that it’s still seen as an object of fascination to this day.
A Continued Legacy
Being over 100 years old, this Seth Thomas gem will likely continue to capture the hearts and attention of anyone traveling through the Big Apple for some time. The Grand Central Terminal clock has received countless sums of money in renovations—from private citizens and corporate businesses alike—that keep its brass and opal shining across Grand Central with every single tick of its life. So if you find yourself a sightseer, are a fan of movies or horology generally, give this classic American piece a look see. Its romantic presence is to be treasured for another century or more.
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