The famous clock of the Puerta del Sol is one of the main protagonists on New Years Eve. Minutes before the start of the New Year, all eyes point to the clock, whether it is live or on television, anxious for the time to eat the 12 grapes arrives, bid farewell to the previous yea and welcome the year that is about to begin. It is an icon of the city that also has its own unique history.
The history of the Puerta del Sol, also known as the clock of the “Gobernación”, is a funny story that not everyone knows, but it is always a good story to tell at this time of year.
A few centuries ago, the majority of people did not have a watch or clock and they used the public clocks on the street as a guide. In the case of Madrid, citizens did so by checking the clock that was located on the former church of El Buen Suceso (which once stood on the site now occupied by the building with the famous advert of Tio Pepe) The problem was that this clock had only one watch hand and it did not work very well, so it was not a good reference.
In 1854, the church was demolished and another clock was placed on top of the building of “Gobernacion” so that the citizens of Madrid had a time reference. However, the people were still angry, as the clock was extremely imprecise.
That is when an official watchmaker from the Spanish Navy was requested to create a new clock, that would finally provide accurate time to people of Madrid. His name was Jose Rodriguez Losada, a former Spanish military who had left Spain after the restoration of an absolutist regime by King Fernando VII. He travelled to London, where Losada became an important clockmaker that created numerous machines located in important buildings in many cities in Europe.
Losada took three years to create the clock in Puerta del Sol, which he donated to the people of Madrid. It was an exceptional piece of machinery for the period, with a 3 metre pendulum, with chiming every hour and every the quarter hours, something that was very unusual. The clock was inaugurated on the 19th of November 1866, coinciding with the birthday celebration of Queen Elizabeth II, who was present at the ceremony.
Since then, the famous clock has not stopped providing the time to both locals and all passers-by who walk in front of Madrid’s Casa de Correos. Always with great precision.
If you are visiting the capital of Spain, we recommend that you take a stroll through the city centre to admire the most historic clock in the city. If you want to have a perfect experience, we recommend you stay at one of the many Petit Palace hotels has in Madrid.