Florence’s Hotel L’Orologio – a watch-lover’s haven

Hotels that literally interpret a theme can be kitschy, fun, cool, or just plain overdone. It’s rare they walk the fine line of falling squarely into the luxury category. But, from what we’ve seen, Florence‘s Hotel L’Orologio, or Hotel L’O, for short, fits the bill. Part of the boutique Whythebest collection in Italy, the brand’s founder, Sandro Fratini, designed the property around his love of watches, hence the L’Orologio name. Fratini has more than 2,000 watches in his personal collection.

The hotel has a masculine feel, using materials like leather, parchment, bronze and wood along with the colors and aroma of tobacco to help convey a total sensory experience. Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to a specific watch brand – Rolex, Vacheron-Constantin and Patek Philippe. All of the 54 rooms are watch-inspired, with details including sinks knobs that evoke the winding crowns of a well-known watchmaker. Baths are done in marble and mahogany and all of the rooms include dark, masculine decor.

While we haven’t visited this property personally, we’re fascinated by the images … check them out!


High Gear Axio Max Steel watch

When it comes to travel watches, telling time is good, but a watch that can help pinpoint your position is even better. Each trip has a unique itinerary, and those who choose the path less traveled may require a bit more from their timepiece. The Axio Max Steel rises to the challenge with its humble styling and powerful navigational instruments.

The Axio Max Steel is made by High Gear, an up-and-comer in the adventure watch market. They produce a variety of styles, but this particular model packs several features into its unassuming shell. Most altimeter watches have an over-sized face for reading information. The Axio Max Steel does this in a decidedly smaller package that doesn’t scream, “Steal me – I’m expensive!” The stainless steel body could easily be mistaken for a less pricey brand. Below that steel casing, however, lies an army of features that will help you get from point A to point B… or get back to point A, if you’ve lost your way.The main appeal of the Axio Max Steel is this arsenal of features that can help the directionally challenged out of precarious situations. No particular expertise is needed to use this watch, just a good map and a little basic orienteering knowledge.

The altimeter on the Axio Max Steel claims to work between -2,303 and 30,045 feet. This means you could theoretically use the feature in the depths of Death Valley or on the icy summit of Mt. Everest. The altimeter uses barometric pressure to find the altitude. Once the altitude is set, the air pressure sensor reads the barometric pressure, and adjusts the altitude accordingly. As with most altimeter watches, the altitude and barometric pressure need to be reset each time the watch lands in a new place. For instance, when you step off the plane in Colorado, your altimeter might be a little confused until it adjusts.

Altitude is a great way to find where you are, if your map has contour lines and elevations marked. If your watch shows you are at 3,000 feet elevation, you can identify the 3,000 foot mark on the map and hone in on your possible locations. Don’t fret if your map has metric measurements – the watch can be adjusted to show meters as well.

Digital Compass
Beyond your map, a compass is the most essential navigational tool you’ll need. The digital compass on the Axio Steel works well. Our tests compared its readings to a magnetic compass, and they matched up almost identically. If you are ever unsure of your location, simply take a compass reading, find north from your position, and find north on your map. Turn the map so that north on the map lines up with actual north on your watch. Now you have oriented the map. Once this is done, you can take a look around at landmarks and natural features to get a better idea of your location.

Other slick features
Beyond the altimeter and compass, there are other features on the Axio Max Steel that make travel easier. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters, which works out nicely for a spontaneous dip in the pool or an accidental fall into the river. There are two alarms to keep you on schedule and ensure you don’t miss the next train stop. A dual time zone feature helps to keep track of the time at home while displaying the time in your current locale. The thermometer also makes for a fun feature when you’ve just got to exactly know how cold or hot it is.

The Axio Max Steel comes in at $210. This price is quite typical of watches that garner this many features. The styling works well for those who want a relatively normal-sized watch, but need the features of the larger computer-style watches.

Specs can be found at HighGear.com

Daily deal – 50% off everything in the Zagg InvisibleSHIELD store

My daily deal for today is a sweet 50% discount off anything you purchase in the Zagg.com online store. Zagg.com is where you’ll find the InvisibleSHIELD device protection film which provides a plastic barrier against damage to your devices.

The film is available for almost every popular mobile (smart) phone on the market, as well as for the iPod, gaming devices, GPS units and even watches.

Their product comes with a lifetime warranty, and the films start at about $15.

The Zagg store also sells several kinds of headphones and portable speakers (also included in the 50% off offer).

To get the discount, add your products to the online cart, and enter coupon code SHOWSP09 when you start the checkout process.

How 1920’s Englishmen found their way around

Forget GPS, Google Maps, Mappoint and the new iPhone; this is how navigation was done back in 1920. Drivers would insert the tiny scroll maps into the watch, and turn a little dial as they progressed.

Sadly, back in 1920 there were not enough drivers to make this a successful product, and it would take 80 years for personal navigation units to become popular, though clearly not as fascinating as this watch.

The watch is part of a large collection of 19th and early 20th century gadgets on display at the British Library business and intellectual property center in London. The gadgets come from the private collection of Maurice Collins OBE, author of Eccentric Contraptions and Ingenious Gadgets.

Other gadgets on display include the first automatic food processor and a cup specially designed to let mustached men drink their soup without getting bits of soup stuck in their stache.

The exhibition opened last Thursday, and will be open until Thursday November 10th 2008.

(Photo courtesy of British Library Business and Intellectual Centre/PA Wire)