When I started Fratello in 2004, there was no bigger plan or strategy at hand. It was all about having fun! And now, almost 18 years later, we have many plans, but it is still about having fun.

Back in 2004, there was no Instagram or even Facebook (I think it opened up to the public in 2006). If you wanted to “blog” about watches, you had to buy server space, a domain name, and install a CMS (Content Management System). And that’s what I did because I was bored at work (sorry, former employer). Rather than putting a lot of time and energy into the forums that existed then, I’d invest it in something that I owned myself.

Rob and Gerard in front of our office building

It would take me at least another decade to make it a full-time occupation, but I am so glad that I made that step. I am doing something I love every single day, with an amazing team around me. 2021 was an amazing year for us (hopefully for you as well), despite the pandemic we all have to deal with. It is not always easy, and it rains down harder on some than on others, but we took the extra time we had available (instead of always traveling) to make some major decisions.

More hands on deck

First of all — and perhaps some of you noticed it already — our team grew. We now have nearly two dozen people, including some contractors (for photography, video, etc.), and many of those people are working full time for us. A year ago, we hired another managing director, Timo Holz, who fulfills the role of CEO of Fratello. It freed up my time to work on the content-creation side, whereas Timo takes care of basically everything else. He’s very much in the background of things, but that’s how he rolls.

A portion of the team in 2021. From left to right: Timo, Bert, Rob, Nacho, RJ (me), Lex, Gerard, and Dave.

One of the big first steps was hiring another senior editor earlier this year. The man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Lex Stolk. Together with editor Jorg Weppelink, they are the only ones who have an education in journalism. Together with all the other writers (Mike, Balazs, Rob, Brandon, Ben, Tomas, Gerard, Andreas, Thor, Karina, etc.), we published over 1,400 articles in 2021. This was all with the visual help of photographer Bert, videographer Matthijs, and video editor Bram. Once more, we have established some pretty impressive growth numbers with Fratello, thanks to everyone’s effort here in the team. The year 2021 has been our best ever, thanks to the team and to you, our readers.

Sinara and Robert-Jan Broer from Fratello

Our new Social Media Manager Sinara and Robert-Jan

We also decided to hire a full-time social media manager, Sinara, who joined us this past October. So whenever you send us a DM on Instagram, it’s her responding to you (not me, so all the messages in Dutch might get lost 😉). Brandon Baines takes care of all the copy editing, and Ignacio “Nacho Man” Conde Garzón fulfills the role of managing editor. Rob Nudds has become responsible for all our partnerships with brands, both through articles on the website and the exclusive Fratello limited edition watches that we sometimes sell in our shop. The shop itself is managed by Dave Sergeant. Nadja Burst takes care of the media sales we do. And last but certainly not least, we hired marketing specialist Sofia Severino to help us grow even more.

Czapek x Fratello Antarctique Viridian Green 2021

The Fratello × Czapek Antarctique we sold in 2021, limited to 50 pieces

Maintaining integrity

Besides hiring, one of the most important decisions we made was to reduce our number of media partners. Everything you read on Fratello reflects the opinion of the writer, even when a brand we cover is a media partner. Believe me, I do see some of the critical comments sometimes. But rest assured, we have received more angry calls from brands in 2021 than we ever did before, including from media partners. In my opinion, it is important and of added value to be able to give you the uncensored opinion of a writer. Otherwise, it’s all just a fluff of re-written press releases. In the end, it is all a matter of showing respect, both to you and to the brands, as well as to ourselves. We certainly don’t help the brands by selling you nonsense, right?

Fratello HQ in The Hague: Caballero Fabriek

Fratello HQ in The Hague: Caballero Fabriek

Furthermore, with the growth of the team, we also needed a new place to work from. So we moved to a larger and nicer office in our home town, The Hague. Some of you have already visited us for a coffee and a chat about watches. We hereby invite you to do so as well, if ever you are in the area.

To 2022

I don’t know exactly where the next year will take us. January will kickstart right away, however, with some new releases. They include some from the LVMH Group at the end of the month. Traveling still remains a bit uncertain at this point. With the way things are looking right now, we might still be stuck in our offices for a bit. What I can promise, though, is that we keep on doing the things we do. We’ll keep bringing you articles covering the latest releases, more in-depth stories, more contests, and more video. Also, we are currently working on planning watch events again, including ones for Speedy Tuesday. We will most definitely keep you up-to-date on any developments.

Last but not least, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for reading Fratello, commenting on our articles, voting on your favorite watches, sending us messages, ordering watches from our shop, and visiting us at our office. You have all been great, and we hope to see you both in person and online in 2022!

Happy New Year!