It's About Time

AT FLORENCE’S HOTEL L’OROLOGIO, THE MAGIC IS IN THE DETAILS.

BY STU NIFOUSSI

To the casual tourist, the Hotel L’Orologio is a luxurious boutique inn overlooking Florence’s famed Piazza Santa Maria Novella, with a theme relating to clocks and watches. But to those who share owner Sandro Fratini’s passion for horology (the measurement of time), the hotel is a treasure trove of memorabilia and unique design, with discoveries around every corner.

Fratini owns the small upscale hotel chain WTB (which stands for Why the Best?) with six hotels in Florence; he is also chairman of Super Rifle S.p.A, the parent company of Rifle jeans. A lifelong collector of vintage watches, he owns more than two thousand, mainly from his three favorite brands: Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. At L’Orologio, Fratini has been able to combine his affinity for fine watches with his talent for consumer marketing, creating a singular and fascinating hotel experience.

Each room at Hotel L’Orologio is identified in two ways: with a room number, as you might expect, and also with a name corresponding to a watch owned by Signore Fratini. Each floor is devoted to a particular brand: the first to Vacheron Constantin, the second to Rolex, and the top two floors to Patek Philippe. Within each room are photos or artwork related to its namesake watch.

For true watch aficionados, however, the real excitement is found on the ground floor, within rooms off the lobby. Claudio Delli, general manager of WTB Hotels, showed off the incredible details waiting to be discovered by those who choose to look more closely. Among them: the exclusive mirrors designed in the style of Rolex watch bands, and the sundial etched into the floor beside a reflecting pool that appears to be illuminated by stellini, tiny stars in the ceiling above. Then there are the door handles in the shape of Rolex watch hands (sometimes called Mercedes because they’re similar to the Mercedes logo), and the hand-painted reproductions of watch faces that decorate the floor in the smoking lounge beside Il Bar de L’O. But the pieces de resistance were the elegant busts of Messieurs Patek and Philippe that grace the pedestals in the sitting area. One could spend hours cataloging the little touches that make this hotel unique in the world.

WTB plans to roll out L’Orologio as their premier nameplate to other “artistic” cities in Italy, with new hotels planned for Venice and Rome. The company also markets L’Orologio products including scarves, alligator sneakers and other items, with an eye toward building L’Orologio into an internationally recognized brand.