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Which hotel has a daily time-honored tradition that dates back to its founding in 1908?

Long before strapping wooden planks on one’s feet and schussing down an alpine slope became a popular recreation, the depths of winter in Switzerland were a time devoted to perfecting the intricacies of clock and watch making. In the 17th century, industry found a willing labor pool of Swiss farmers to create and assemble clock and watch components during the cold winters. This long history has evolved into a culture that appreciates finely made cogs, wheels, and gears, as well as the devices that precisely keep time.

Fast forward to today, the adage: “Before the hour is not yet the hour—after the hour is no longer the hour” is a prevalent rule among the Swiss. The natives of this alpine country continue to have a unique appreciation for time and, in general, take pride in being meticulously punctual, due in part to the artistry and quality of their timepieces.

One such timepiece has stood in front of the Hotel Waldhaus Sils executive offices since the turn of the 20th centurythe Magneta clock. The Waldhaus originally opened in 1908 under the direction of Josef Giger and his wife, Amalie, and today is run by distant descendants, brothers Claudio and Patrick Dietrich. Now a fifth generation of hoteliers, the brothers and hotel staff have continued the tradition of every morning winding the Magneta clock that keeps the hotel synchronized and daily operations ticking like a well-coiled machine.

Magneta clock and secondary clock

In operation since 1908, the Magneta clock (shown at left) guides a dozen wall clocks (right image) throughout the Hotel Waldhaus Sils. The Dietrich family cherishes this ritual every morning of keeping an over a century old system functioning as it should with no satellite or synchronizing via an internet time server required. With just a simple electric impulse, the start or end of daylight saving time is reset on the Magneta clock and all the secondary clocks throughout the hotel are adjusted as well.

Diagram magneta

At right is a diagram of an electric time system used around 1910 to keep time in hotels, factories, schools, and other large institutions (similar to the Hotel Waldhaus Sils network of clocks). The master clock (bottom center of diagram), controlled by a temperature-compensated mercury pendulum, is wired to secondary clocks throughout a building. In addition to wall clocks, the master clock in the diagram also controls time stamps that are used to stamp documents with the time, and a turret clock used in a clock tower. The “program clock” is a timer that can be programmed with punched paper tape to ring bells or turn machines on and off at preprogrammed times.

Amid the timeless mountainous landscape, the Hotel Waldhaus Sils guests can marvel that the cutting-edge amenities and unrivaled hospitality are all perfectly timed by a network dating back to the time of the telegraph and the dedicated hoteliers who daily wind the gears. Not everything new is an upgrade and at Hotel Waldhaus Sils, they prefer to rely on their time-honored tradition.

This has been a Historic Hotels History Mystery.

For more fun facts, trivia, and historic highlights, check out our History Mystery pages for Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter below and follow us on social media to play along.

  1. Antrim 1844, Taneytown, Maryland, United States
  2. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, United States
  3. Hotel Waldhaus Sils, Sils Maria, Switzerland
  4. Villa Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
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