It all started with a staircase... 165 years ago. Today, Dietlin is world-renowned for its avant-garde display cases, most of which are designed for the watch industry, but also for the tobacco, telephone and automotive fields.
Its showcases find their way into shops all over the world – New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Moscow, Dubai – but their design has until now remained largely hidden from sight. Dietlin Artisans Métalliers, more commonly known as Dietlin Swiss Showcases, has been located in the heart of the Romanel-sur-Lausanne industrial estate since 1854. While the showcases imagined within the company are extraordinarily original, the CEO, Xavier Dietlin, is equally so. One idea per minute is born in his teeming mind, always eager to come up with new inventions and offer his customers displays exceeding their expectations. Throughout the month of September, Dietlin hosted not only the major players in the luxury industry (Swatch Group, Richemont, LVMH, Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève), but also independent companies, the press, retailers and universities, to discuss the question “What will tomorrow’s luxury boutiques look like?”.
Nothing had actually predestined the family business for such diversification. It all began 165 years ago in Porrentruy, with a staircase that still stands in front of the company headquarters now based in Romanel-sur-Lausanne. Xavier’s grandfather was a metal worker known for his specialisation in wrought ironwork. He was commissioned by the city of Paris to build a metal staircase for the Orsay railway station, which was to forge his reputation... Many years later, Xavier’s father took over and specialised more in construction work, particularly with metal. In 2002, after leaving a promising football career, Xavier Dietlin took the helm of the company, but did not at all see himself continuing in the same field. He took part in a Cartier competition aimed at creating an original showcase for the company’s products. This challenge, despite not resulting in a prize, opened up whole new horizons for him. A year later, a meeting was to influence this professional choice. François-Paul Journe asked him to create one of his very first showcases, which was named Archange. This timeless model is still used today. Its creator then had a second decisive encounter, this time with Jean-Claude Biver, which in 2006 led to the unveiling of the first secure showcase without any protective glass and which made the product disappear: Raptor was a complete revolution in the field.
To date, Dietlin Swiss Showcases has created dozens of showcases, each more original and diverse than the last. They do however share a common denominator: a real watch is always in the centre of the showcase, because however original the latter may be, it must not steal the spotlight from the timepiece. Despite high demand, the company’s production remains limited because the technological developments linked to the creation of a showcase are often the subject of exclusivity required by the brands. However, the company, which has a dozen employees, does not want to grow. Xavier Dietlin is not focused on money or volume. “There are other growth factors”, claims the CEO. These would involve maintaining innovative capacity, being capable of taking risks and remaining unpredictable. His ambition can be measured differently, through a constant stream of inventions, being the first, being different and perpetually raising quality standards. Production is limited, so the showcases are not for everyone. That’s luxury... keeping demand stronger than supply!
What about the future?
Throughout the September “Secret Weeks”, the question remained the same: what will tomorrow’s luxury boutiques look like? For more than half a century, the latter have changed very little and watch displays have remained standardised. Today, in order present the younger generation with a product as traditional as a timepiece, one must use ultra-contemporary instruments and put oneself in the shoes of tomorrow’s customers: what do they want and what kind of experience would they like to enjoy? Although Xavier Dietlin is full of ideas, he surrounds himself with Swiss universities (Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL), Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD), Vevey School of Art and Design (ESVMD) as well as business schools) in order to keep in touch with Millennials and remain attentive to their needs.
These “Secret Weeks” enabled Xavier Dietlin to take time to look back and appreciate the exceptional expertise of his company, which for 165 years has been offering entirely Swiss made products, all made with craftsmen living within a radius of 10 km. However, at the end of September, the CEO is focusing firmly on the future, for which his goals are: being prepared to challenge the status quo, continue listening to his loyal clients, and above all devoting his creativity to the end customer’s requirements.
Certain legendary showcase creations that have punctuated Xavier Dietlin’s career
- 2006: launch of the Raptor for Hublot. A revolutionary showcase which proves to the market that a timepiece can be presented in a way other than under a glass bell, while at the same time keeping the product safe.
- 2010: the Pulsograp, a showcase amplifying the natural sound of a watch by capturing the vibrations transmitted by the crown. The sound is diffused by a 350-year-old soundboard made of resonance wood from the Risoud forest in Le Brassus. No microphones are used, resulting in a sound quality of great purity and unequalled naturalness. It is unreservedly adopted by Breguet.
- 2012: Gravity makes its first appearance at the entrance of the Hublot stand at Baselworld. The concept? A levitating watch, alone in the centre of a space. Magical and intriguing!
- 2013: Patek Philippe presents its most important movements through an interactive showcase on its Baselworld booth. Visitors can choose a calibre on a keyboard and the movement then comes to life complete with explanations.
- 2015: the Carrousel showcase developed for Dubail, in Paris (Place Vendôme and Champs- Elysées), is based on the principle of rotating display cases, serving to show less, but in a better and non-repetitive way. A showcase that also sparks a small revolution, even in the United States.
- 2017: Audemars Piguet opens up private spaces that are no longer stores, but instead AP Houses. Customers can wander alone through these spaces and enjoy free access to four products in the heart of Captur showcases (free of any protective glass). A gesture with the hand serves to make the watches move in turn, while remaining secure.
- 2018: opening of the first phygital shop (physical and digital) by TAG Heuer, in Tokyo (Ginza). All products are showcased in the open air and they can be selected, stored or purchased using a simple mobile phone.
- 2019-2020: at the heart of its Lab, Dietlin offers its clients beautiful surprises, featuring showcases with advanced technologies that are just waiting to highlight the timepieces of tomorrow.
September 19, 2019