Thursday, September 23

Jerez de la Frontera: The art of counting the hours | The traveler

The jacaranda trees of Jerez’s Paseo de Porvera flow into Calle de Lealas and lead us, among the smells of the winery, to the Palace of Time. Upon entering we heard the noise of children asking at the same time. The man who kindly accompanies us looks up at the ceiling: on the upper floor of this white neoclassical palace, two guides talk to kids who hardly know what a clock is anymore: “Doesn’t your mother set the alarm clock for you to get up? ”. “My mother gives me the cell phone,” answers a savvy man. I wonder if children are still given wristwatches when they make their first communion and if they still learn to read hands. I know that communions are still celebrated, but I suspect that, with the digital arrival of the Casios and the empire of smartphone, the clock — that little hell in which life ends second by second, grain by grain — intensifies its character as an elegiac fetish, a lost world.

It seems that we are in an archaeological museum, a room for endangered animals, a pavilion of mummies. All the pieces mark 11.10 because we have arrived at 11.10: at 12.00 the interior of the palace will resonate like a music box because the clocks will chime. I feel like a bird that is scared by tearing the bars of its cage. This is a haunting place where I look back and forth in a tragic metaphorical exercise.

The art of counting the hours

That all the clocks are on time, work and emit their music is the responsibility of the man who has accompanied us and is now retiring. We are in a room with a four-sided clock, a lamppost clock, with machinery in the air, the work of the only Spanish watchmaker of which we find a piece in this museum: José Rodríguez Losada, the maker of the clock in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. We enter the ground floor contemplating the preciousness of the French samples of this collection, inaugurated in 1973 with the clocks inherited from the Countess of Gavia and augmented by Pedro de León. The owner of the palace, its gardens and the clocks and canes that today make up the Palacio del Tiempo museum was none other than Emilio Ruiz-Mateos. With the expropriation of Rumasa, the heritage passed to the Junta de Andalucía and is now managed by the City Council of Jerez.

French clocks stand out for their decorative vocation. The least important are the clocks themselves, small machinery. The main thing is the sculptural groups that surround them: mythological motifs, Ceres and sheaves of delicate spikes, Apollo, astronomers who measure their world balls with the compass, children who make bubbles, women in front of the mirror … Bronze, glass or painted porcelain. I have the uneasy feeling that, when I stop looking at the figures, they wink at me, a mockery: that of time. I am impressed by the round dial clocks with a glass portico and the obscene and magical skeleton clocks, which display their machinery, precise, labyrinthine, like an image of Escher both possible and impossible.

The obscene and magical skeleton clocks display their labyrinthine machinery like an image of Escher

English watchmaking, more formally grim, is no less beautiful: the leading role falls on the utility of the device that measures time, dial, chimes and the number of hands, which in some cases reach seven because these clocks mark hour, minute, day , month, degree of humidity … The sober watch boxes – in my childhood there was a television program, The house of the clock, which contained pendulums and other mysteries – they are usually made of mahogany or ebony, very noble woods, resistant to infections.

Tiny machinery

On the second floor lie the crown jewels: from pocket watches to portable and travel watches, among which a very small Turkish clock with minuscule machinery stands out, designed to tell the time, but whose adjacent receptacle serves to store other things. Secrets Maulas. A large, heavy and bulky English clock is dazzling, and another with the three graces sculpted in marble inside a glass dome, stopped, immobile, inaccessible. It is enigmatic and beautiful an Italian night clock that had the peculiarity of working, in addition to being a time machine, as a lamp, since a lit candle could be inserted inside it that illuminated its sphere.


The Palace of Time (Cervantes, 3. 956 18 21 00. belongs to the Museums of the Watchtower. The visits are always in groups and guided (from Monday to Friday every hour between 9.30 a.m. and 1.15 p.m., without the need for a reservation) and admission costs 6 euros (children, 3 euros) / Jerez Tourism ( / Andalusia Tourism (

A collection of walking sticks is also on display in the palace. Some are rapiers. In one of the walls a window opens to the fictional workshop of a watchmaker trying to build a perpetual motion machine. Recorded voices are heard and many children rush out: “Da yuyu”. Time, its passage, its loss, its measure and speed give a lot yuyu. If the children had seen the cabin as I first saw it, with interacting ghostly holograms, the yuyu They would have grown to be a void in the gut, which is accentuated by the mellifluous music, the sounds of the bones of the clocks, the sonorous effluvia that accompany the tour of the Palace of Time. A testament to the ability of the human being. A beautiful space for the imagination.

Marta Sanz She is the author of the novel ‘Amor Fou’ (Anagrama).

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