If you look up at any outdoor clock tower in Mexico, there is a good chance it has the name “Centenario” on its face.
The name refers to a small family business in the small town of Zacatlán, Puebla, an area known for its apples, and the cider most get made into.
Centenario is the first monumental clock maker in Latin America, founded in 1918 by Alberto Olvera Hernandez, a local boy with restless hands and a passion for all things mechanical. His interest in clocks came when a clock on the chimney of his house fell and he tried to fix it. In 1917, at just 17 years of age, he began to teach himself to make monumental clocks using junk and wood from the family farm. Soon after he began Centenario, which was based on the farm until 1929, when it was successful enough to move to its the space it occupies today.
To date the company has built over 2,000 monumental clocks which can be found on churches, government buildings, shopping centers and more. They are also the go-to people for the reparation of monumental clocks, whether built by them or of European origin. Their success spawned a small clock industry in Zacatlán, but this business, which is still run by the Olvera family, dominates.
Perhaps the most eye-catching work done by Centenerio are its flower clocks. These are very large clocks which are set into gardens, often with foliage serving as all or part of the clock’s face. One of these clocks is located in Mexico City’s Hundido Park, and is one of the largest such clocks in the work, occupying a space of 78m2.
Centerario is open to visits from the public and also has a clock museum, which documents the history of clocks as well as the production of the company itself.
Featured image of the flower clock in the main plaza of Zacatlán, Puebla. All photos by Alejandro Linares Garcia or Leigh Thelmadatter.