Today, in the Fratello Shop, we’re excited to bring you an item with a real story. These are watch rolls, but they’re a little different than the everyday, mass-produced holders found online. No, these rolls are handmade and come from a small village in Slovakia. The reason for their existence relates to one of our longstanding editors. There was never a plan to bring these to market, but after another Fratello team member saw them, a plan to offer them in the Fratello Shop came to fruition.

In 2011, I moved from the United States to Germany. At that time, I owned a few decent watches. Still, in all the craziness accompanying an international move, I was concerned with safely stowing my watches in an already crammed backpack. I had an unpadded Christofle silverware roll, but that was staying behind with some old dress watches. And, frankly, the individual sleeves were too small to hold something like a Panerai (yes, it was 2011 after all.) So I wrapped my few watches in bubble wrap and threw them in small cloth bags. They survived the journey, but it felt messy. Still, once I arrived in Germany, the watches were stored in my small safe, and I was content…for a while.

Fast-forward to 2012

Sometime during 2012, the watch-collecting bug bit hard. The story is one that I tell often. I found myself in a massive duty-free union of countries, and the pickings were amazing. I was also traveling heavily to the USA and Asia. Plus, as an expat without a family, I had money to burn. The result was predictable: more watches were coming into the collection. When these watches were in the USA, I frequently ran into the same trouble of safely bringing them back with me. It sounds like a simple problem to solve now, but this was 2012, and watch rolls weren’t commonly available. Hell, watch collecting was only starting to gain legs. What was I to do? Well, I left out one important note. Shortly after arriving in Germany, I met a Slovak lady who would ultimately become my wife.

A link to Slovakia

Slovakia certainly isn’t alone as a former communist-ruled country. Unlike some of the more trade-oriented former Soviet bloc countries, though, Slovakia is steeped in its history of farming, mining, and other hard-working industries. I think this salt-of-the-earth history has led to an abundance of artisanal craftwork. I recall telling my then-girlfriend about my silverware roll and how I wished I could find more of them. She had an idea, and it was one that’s still in use today.

Quite simply, my wife’s mother can crochet anything. Small mice, a baby Groot, Minions, hats, and more are in the realm of possibility. She’s a wiz with the needle and thread. So, when we proposed a design for a watch roll in 2012, it was child’s play. I still recall receiving my first one, and it was fantastic. It became a tradition, and every subsequent face-to-face meeting brought another one or two rolls. She even made some for my friends.

Evolving the watch roll

My mother-in-law used a loose, stretchy weave for the watch rolls in their earliest iterations. They’re still perfectly suitable, but the rolls are quite floppy. Over time, though, she has perfected the design and uses a yarn made of 55% cotton and 45% acrylic. For the last several years, the watch rolls have been stiff enough to feel supportive but soft enough to protect the watches.

Admittedly, with the overwhelming avalanche of high-end watch rolls on the market, leather or otherwise, I never thought that my handmade watch rolls would jump out to collectors. It seems that I was wrong, though. Our own Dave Sergeant came down to London for a visit in late 2023 and noticed them immediately. He was impressed with both the craftsmanship and their functionality. Soon after, we were on a call with Fratello Shop manager Laurits, and we decided to bring these to market. In the meantime, I’ve been to a couple of watch get-togethers and had people come up unsolicited asking about the rolls. Who knew?

Some details

My mother-in-law — we refer to her as “Babi” as it’s a cute nickname for “Grandmother” — spends serious time creating these watch rolls. Each one takes her roughly a week of evenings depending on how much time she spends away from her young grandson, who lives down the road. If you purchase one, take some time to inspect the rows of stitches. They’re consistent, and the same number sits between each pocket. She also handcrafts the white ties that can be used to secure the roll. While I like mine in black or blue, she has created five colors — light blue, dark blue, green, red, and black — for the first run of watch rolls in our shop.

The watch rolls contain five pouches that are 7cm by 12cm. This allows for a wide variety of watches to fit inside each slot. A flap folds over the openings to help keep all the pieces secure. My experience with these rolls is that they help prevent scratching while keeping my collection organized. Honestly, I use them for almost all of my watches.

The first run of crocheted watch rolls

We’ve decided to offer 10 watch rolls made by my mother-in-law. She has produced four of each color, so there’s at least some initial choice available. As a note, we plan to offer these on an ongoing basis, but it may take one to two months between restocking periods, and the lot sizes will always remain small. This isn’t meant to induce some FOMO-like behavior; it simply takes her a while to make them!

You’ll find these crocheted watch rolls for sale in the Fratello Shop. We think you’ll marvel at the incredibly precise stitchwork on these handmade beauties and will love how they store and protect your timepieces. Of course, if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them. Enjoy!