THE BARCELONA SELTZER BOTTLE THAT NEVER DRIES OUT
One of the greatest pleasures in Barcelona is to sit on a terrace at a bar on a sunny day, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea with a glass of vermouth, harboring an orange slice, in hand.
Wait. We’re forgetting something. It wouldn’t be a proper glass of vermouth without a spritz of some seltzer, would it?
With its heavy glass, lever spigot and rising bubbles, seltzer — also referred to as soda or seltz water — is a staple of apéritifs due to its natural flavor and mixability with alcoholic beverages. It was, as the phrase was coined, “the champagne of the poor,” a beloved, fizzy drink. After years of living in Barcelona, it’s hard to imagine drinking a nice vermouth without it.
This brings us to the task at hand: the soda siphon clock found at Avinguda de Roma, 105. Its origin dates back to 1960 when it was installed at the old Puértolas factory, a company headed by two brothers that made siphons and carbonated water.
In 1895, Francisco and Santiago Puértolas came to Barcelona, leaving behind their native Huesca, and found work at a soda and siphon company on Carrer Aribau. The brothers went on to acquire the company for 5,000 pesetas when the owner passed away. During the Civil War, however, the company was collectivized. When the war came to an end, the brothers had to start from scratch; Santiago requested the factory’s reopening, even though more than 80% of its assets had been looted. Despite the difficulties, the factory was able to plug along.
At the end of the 1940s, the company found a new home when Francisco’s son, Agustí, bought a factory on Av. de Roma. He changed the company name to Géiser, which is, today, the company’s iconic soda siphon. In 1960, the sifón clock, sporting the characteristic green bottle, was installed above the entrance. Back then, the clock marked the factory workers’ entries and exits. In addition to installing the iconic clock, Agustí established a group of about fifty trucks that circulated around Barcelona, distributing the Géiser siphon bottles. The vehicles sported the brand on their bodywork, becoming highly effective traveling advertisements.
Some time later in the 60s, management changed. Géiser’s reins were now in the hands of two other Puértolas brothers, Santiago and Miguel; the two marked the family’s third generation to take ownership of the company. One of the first things the pair did was to create a new line of soft drinks under the name Sanmy, a combination of their first names. Not long after, the now 125-year-old Catalan company would adopt Sanmy as the company’s umbrella brand name, making Géiser a sub-brand.
The Avinguda de Roma factory, which was one of the most important in the sector at the time, was moved a few decades ago to Terrassa. The soda siphon clock remained at its post, though, preserving the factory’s memory and has since turned into a relic and emblem of the Eixample neighborhood.
If you go to visit the cement seltzer bottle clock sculpture, you’ll notice that the clock is now just a simple white circle. Back in its heyday, the clock was originally translucent and had a light bulb inside to keep it illuminated at night.
The carbonated clock went years without marking the time until 2006, when the Barcelona City Council included it in a set of five old Barcelona clocks that were to be repaired; the others were the Patronat Ribas clock, two floor clocks on Rocafort and Via Laietana and one on the corner of Ronda de Sant Pau and Paral·lel.
Thanks to that effort, the Can Puértolas’ clock should be in safe hands for many years to come, serving as a reminder that the wonder of this particular seltzer bottle is that it doesn’t fade with time.
By EMILY BENSON
Photos by ISABEL TROYA
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