In the early 20th Century, not everyone necessarily wore a watch. Men carried expensive pocket watches, but until the advent of the wristwatch, time was tracked by clocks of various size within rooms. If you were walking around, you checked church steeples for clocks; in medieval times, church bells were rung to mark the changing of the hour gleaned from sundial readings. The study of marking time — the divisions of which are an arbitrary human creation — is a fascinating study.
Tracking the time in cities in the early 20th Century was also facilitated by the placement of large sidewalk clocks. It used to be easier to find massive street clocks in Manhattan and the five boroughs, but today, only four built earlier than 1960 remain in Manhattan, with a few scattered about in Brooklyn and Queens. In Manhattan, there’s the gilded clock at 5th and 23rd Street in front of what used to be the New York Hotel (today, Tiffany & Company offices occupy part of the building; I worked there in 2013 and 2014); at 5th and West 44th; #1501 3rd Avenue between East 84th and 85th; and this landmarked timepiece, at the historic Sherry Netherland Hotel at 5th Avenue and East 59th, across from Grand Army Plaza and the Plaza Hotel.
The clock was manufactured by the E. Howard Clock Company and likely was installed when the hotel opened. It was granted NYC Landmark status in 1981.