A company whose clients are leading luxury brands will never divulge names – confidentiality is too important for that. Except when that company is Dietlin Swiss Showcases, which “works with over 25 of the most prestigious names in luxury.” Why be shy! Chief Executive Xavier Dietlin reels off a veritable who’s who in Haute Horlogerie: Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Blancpain, Breguet, Cartier, Chanel… and that’s only the first three letters in the alphabet. Virtually every major watchmaker is on the list, and for good reason. Dietlin has revolutionised display cases ever since Xavier, the fifth generation at the head of this SME, reoriented the business in 2002. Founded in 1854, Dietlin was originally a metal workshop specialising in wrought ironwork. It is now a watchword in the luxury sector whose straight-talking boss is driven by strong convictions, contagious enthusiasm and the firm intention to show that Swiss-Made is a sign of both quality and innovation. Proof of this, Dietlin display cases are packed with technology and expertise gleaned within a 10-kilometre radius.
“It’s our very own Silicon Valley,” says Xavier Dietlin, “but not just. It’s also steeped in watchmaking tradition, and no-one can take that away from us.” But with tradition comes responsibility: “It’s our job to make sure this tradition moves with the times, otherwise it will shrivel up and die. The watch-buying public has changed, but the industry acts as though its stores were designed not for the end customer but as a rendezvous for professionals. Can you name a single retail sector that hasn’t evolved these past years, whereas watch stores haven’t budged in five decades. The challenge today is to capture the attention of young generations. Getting them interested in something that doesn’t have a screen isn’t easy, and we’re certainly not going to do it with rows of identical display cases showing products that look similar, except one is worth ten times more than the other and the sales lady can’t explain why. This isn’t a made-up example, by the way, it’s something I actually experienced in Kuala Lumpur.”
Examples, anecdotes, funny stories, crazy situations, Xavier Dietlin has seen it all in the fifteen-plus years he has worked alongside just about every CEO in the industry – all attentive to what he has to say. He speaks enthusiastically about the need to elicit the emotions with situations the public aren’t expecting… and which always put the product first. “There aren’t a million solutions,” he says. “Technology is the only way to create the experiences we hear so much about today. Telling a story needs images, it needs sound. And it needs to be interactive. How can you expect the customer to relate to a product if they can’t be in some way involved? I hate it when the sales assistant rushes over and asks if I need any help. Staging the product is infinitely more effective.”
Hence why Dietlin display cases are akin to scenographies, in every conceivable shape and form. From watches that vanish – the now famous Raptor display case for Hublot – to others that float in mid-air, from animated sculptures to a soundboard in Vallée-de-Joux wood that amplifies the watch’s heartbeat, from holograms to scanners, and a multitude of iPads for ordering, visualising, dissecting and learning… the possibilities are endless. Ideas come thick and fast, illustrated by the in-house exhibition and by the Lab, where the company presents prototypes for the display cases of the future. Unsurprisingly, Dietlin display cases are positioned at the high end of the spectrum and orders are generally for small series, often exclusivities. They are a first step in the rarefied world of Haute Horlogerie where the product is king and the display case could well be its most loyal servant.