Collecting stories: Sandro Fratini

The Italian entrepreneur owns more than 2,000 highly desirable watches, and with the launch of his book My Time, he reveals the true extent of his passion for horology

‘My story is a love story of watches,’ says the convivial Italian collector Sandro Fratini, as he relaxes in a chair at L’Orologio, his hotel in Florence. ‘I love the harmony they have inside; they have a soul.’

Fratini’s passion began as an eight-year-old when he was given a steel-plated Longines for his first Holy Communion. ‘It was nothing special, a very simple watch, but I loved the movement of it,’ he recalls.

By the time he was 30, the heir to the internationally renowned Rifle jeans brand had begun to start collecting in earnest. He now owns some 2,000 watches, making his collection one of the most prestigious in the world. ‘I find them in different places when I travel,’ he explains. ‘I look at the dial because that tells you everything you need to know about the life of a watch.’

My Time Silver Edition, English and Italian text, 688 pages, individually packed in blue corrugated cardboard with scratch-resistant mat lamination. €750, early bird €600 if available on the website

My Time Silver Edition, English and Italian text, 688 pages, individually packed in blue corrugated cardboard with scratch-resistant mat lamination. €750, early bird €600 if available on the website

My Time Platinum Edition, English and Italian text, 688 pages, placed in a special clamshell box with a die-cut window and a soft-touch lamination printed with hot silver foil. €1,500, early bird €1,400 if available on the website

My Time Platinum Edition, English and Italian text, 688 pages, placed in a special clamshell box with a die-cut window and a soft-touch lamination printed with hot silver foil. €1,500, early bird €1,400 if available on the website

My Time, a 688-page tour-de-force featuring 650 horological masterworks from Fratini’s collection, was launched on 6 November. The book, which is published in collaboration with Christie’s in Platinum and Silver editions, reveals Fratini’s eye for the exceptional, and treasures from a collection that includes the finest and rarest watches made by Rolex, Cartier, Audemars PiguetPatek Philippe, and other leading watch brands.

Many of these unique pieces have not been seen in the collecting community before, in particular a rare Rolex split-second wristwatch. ‘There are only 12 in the world and I have two,’ Fratini says modestly. His favourite timepiece, however, is the highly desirable steel Patek Philippe 1518, of which Fratini has two examples in his collection. ‘It represents everything I am looking for in a watch,’ he says of a truly exceptional timepiece, even in the context of rare Patek Philippe watches, which can sell for upwards of $10 million.

A highly collectable Patek Philippe Ref.130. Steel, 1941

A highly collectable Patek Philippe Ref.130. Steel, 1941

This passion for horology has also led the entrepreneur to open L’Orologio, a series of boutique hotels in Italy that are dedicated to the world of haute horology and Fratini’s own love of watches. The elegant interiors are an homage to time, featuring cabinets containing rare vintage watch parts salvaged from antique stores.

A beautiful double-page spread from My Time by Sandro Fratini

A beautiful double-page spread from My Time by Sandro Fratini

While My Time  offers a singular insight into Fratini’s collection, like his hotels, it is also timely. The Swiss watch industry has led a remarkable recovery this year, with exports back up to $10 billion. This is partly the result of watchmakers reassessing their businesses in the light of new technology, choosing to embrace innovation, and in the process creating mini-masterpieces that combine beautiful craftsmanship with technological advances.

Fratini hopes the book will enthuse others to collect, although he offers some sage advice: ‘The most important thing is to choose the ones you really like and not worry about market value. For me, they need to transmit dreams and emotion.’