Of all the blogs dealing with watchmaking, Fratello Watches has always been the one we consulted most willingly.
Easy, accessible and well done, with that “Italian” touch that seemed to be right for us. This is why today it is a real pleasure for us to present to you this interview with Robert-Jan Broer, the creator of Fratello Watches and the person who, albeit indirectly, inspired us to open our blog.
Grab sodas and popcorn and enjoy the interview!
P.S: this is our first article completely in English, I apologize in advance if there will be any grammatical errors! If there are non, go and write on Facebook to my high school teacher that I didn’t deserve that 6/10 in the report card 😦
Hello Robert-Jan! When was the idea of your blog born and why?
Simply said, because I love watches and love to write. After being active for many years in online forums etc., I decided I wanted to have my own platform. So back in 2004 I started a blog, to share my thoughts about watches, the watch industry and do watch reviews. It was always a hobby project to me, but a few years later things got more serious and the blog turned into this online watch magazine it is today. I don’t think the word “blog” covers it properly anymore. In 2015, I was able to make FratelloWatches.com my full time job and from that moment on it really grew rapidly. We are now with a team of 16 people working on Fratellowatches.com, of which 8 people are full time. The pure essence of the website did not change though, we want to share our experience with the watches we get for review, we want to share our thoughts about the watch industry but more important, we want to hear the voice of our readers too. We like to interact and be part of the watch community. Our reader’s engagement is very high, which we love. That is actually the most rewarding thing about what we do, see the responses of people on our articles, podcast and videos.
What is a successful blog based on?
Authenticity. Don’t write nonsense and don’t bullshit the audience. It is perfectly fine to have a different opionion than some (or most) people who read you, but make sure it is genuine. I think the audience wants to see that passion in the articles, read what we really think or feel about certain watches. Not everything is lovely out there, so we don’t write it is. But when we are excited about a watch, you will certainly feel this as all, as a reader. Also not unimportant are the quality of the writing, the quality of the images and the pace of publishing. But those are things that can be worked on, being authentic needs to come first.
Having created iconic movements like #speedytuesday must be a source of great pride for you, how do you feel about it?
My wife told me last week I don’t celebrate our successes with Fratellowatches.com. And it is true. She said that because we are about to move to a new and larger office, a super nice place in The Hague with an incredible potential for creating content (including video). And I don’t celebrate this milestone. SpeedyTuesday is slightly different, we celebrated the community and movement with a watch, the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday from 2017. And a year later again, with the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday Ultraman. And I take great pride in colaborating with Omega on those watches, and luckily, Omega’s CEO Raynald Aeschlimann took the time to celebrate these successess with us. Otherwise I don’t think I would have taken the time to do so, and just moved on. My wife is right though, I need to stand still some times and look back at what we achieved with Fratellowatches.com. It has been an amazing journey! You know what I like most about the SpeedyTuesday community though? Seeing all those posts on Instagram using the hashtag #SpeedyTuesday (and not only on Tuesdays) and meeting with the community in person. We did so many get-togethers in 2018 and 2019 for #SpeedyTuesday, those are really the highlights of what I do. The Speedy Tuesday watches are a tangible memory though which I will cherish forever, and something to show my daughter when she’s old enough to understand. But SpeedyTuesday is just a portion of what we do, we cover so many brands, we did some many nice events (and watches) with other brand sas well. In the end, I think I enjoy the GTGs that we organize most. Meeting with our readers and talking about watches with them, listen to their stories.
Is it difficult to keep such a large blog running?
I won’t lie to you. It is! It is a costly operation, which is often underestimated because it is “digital” but content in whatever form does not come for free. And it has become a business, so it needs to be operated and managed like a business instead of a hobby. When it comes to the creative part, it is not that difficult. Luckily, there is a lot happening in the watch industry. Good things and bad things, and we have enough inspiration to cover these on a daily basis.
Is there any of your staff who were not fond of watches before entering?
No. Not a single person. Even our sales manager likes to wear her mechanical watches! From those who write or create other types of content, it is absolutely mandatory to know their stuff. You need to know what you’re talking about in order to be taken seriously. Funny thing is, that we use an agency to help us with web design, and even these guys started to develop a love for watches after a while as they started to read all our articles. Now they’re sporting some pretty nice watches!
In a world that is increasingly social and “dependent” on influencers, how do you position yourself towards your followers? Is it difficult for you to guide the enthusiast?
I don’t see myself as an influencer, but I know that this is not realistic. There are people that buy watches because what we write about them on Fratello or show them on our Instagram etc. So we definitely have an influence, but it is not something I am constantly taking into account or are even aware of all the time. But we do feel responsible for what we write about watches. We don’t write that a watch is all lovely and fantastic while in fact it is not. We criticize watches on valid points but also praise them when deserved. I feel that today, the word “influencer” has a bit of a negative connotation. This is mainly because there are brands that hand out watches like candy to influencers, but there’s no substance to it. This way, the watch becomes just an accessory, a fashion accessory and there’s no context, no explanation etc. That might be fine to some people, but as a customer or enthusiast, I want to know more about the watch, learn about it, decide if it’s something for me. Sometimes we start to think that buying a €10,000 watch is normal. It isn’t. It is a major purchase for most people in the world, let’s not forget this. Some brands want to make you think otherwise, and cleverly put influencers into play to make the watches even more desirable. But if I spend a big sum on a watch, I want to know if it is any good. That’s where websites like ours come into play. But I don’t want to generalize, there are also influencers that do know their stuff and use their channels to educate customers as well. Funnily enough, some of these people on social media don’t even realize they are influencing others. Also here, authenticity is key.
We thank Robert-Jan for his availability and for his beautiful words!
For sure the secret of a good blog is to be authentic and honest in your opinions! We will try to be honest until the end, adding that touch of irreverence that, (who follows us on instagram knows it well) distinguishes us!
Thanks for reading this wonderful interview to the end! See you on Instagram!