Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Few Minutes with Emmanuel Dietrich

From aspiring cabinet maker, to watch designer, to one of the most looked-forwarded to releases from this year's BaselWorld with his new brand, Dietrich Watches

And now, a few minutes with Emmanuel Dietrich -
Courtesy of Dietrich

Tempus Fugit - What was your first watch?  Was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Emmanuel Dietrich - I got my first watch when I was 7, the so called “age de raison” in France (where I grew up).  It was a hand-wound mechanical diver's model with a rubber strap.  I loved it and wore it for years.  It was a Cupillard Rième.  Since I was living in the watch area from Besançon in France, it was one of the many local brands that disappeared during the quartz crisis.

TF - When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

ED - At age 6, I started to dream of being a cabinet maker and kept asking for tools for birthdays and Christmas. Since then, I have always made or modified objects of any sort.

TF - Where did you go to school, what did you study?

ED - I first studied furniture fabrication.  I soon realized that this was far from the romantic idea of cabinet making that I had dreamed about as a young boy, so  I went to the “école Boulle” in Paris to study something more creative.  I graduated from there in interior design.

TF - What led you to watch design?

ED - At first I was linked to this world through location - I grew up in a region deeply connected to the world of watch making.  One of my parent’s friends was a watch prototype maker at LIP and he taught me a great deal.  But more than just location, I was drawn to the watch itself, as I also love the size of this object.  I love small and complex items that you can hold in your hand.  Plus they are like micro landscapes.  You can zoom into it and lose yourself for hours in reveries.

TF - Who are some of the brands that you designed for?

ED - I had the chance to start with Hermes.  I designed the Harnais watch for them.  With this reference, I could work with many other brands, but they don’t like that designers are talking about it…


TF - What made you decide to create your own watch brand?

ED - I refer you to your previous question!  I didn’t want to stay forever in the shadow of the big names.  I think this is not playing fair.  Plus, I wanted to express more completely my language of form and design and this was not possible working for clients possessing a strong DNA.

But first and foremost, having my own universe has always been my dream.  It took time to create the financial reserve to be able to start.  It took years to collect enough experience and contacts.  It took several attempts to find the right angle.  But this is the best experience I've ever had.  I will do everything to keep it going, to cherish it, and make it the most beautiful brand that I can.

TF - When we first met at BaselWorld 2013 you were very "quiet" about your plans.  How long have you been working on this?

ED - In 2012 I had presented first more classical items.  After that,  I realized that to succeed without deep financial strength, I had to find an expression that would be unique enough to stand out immediately.  And sexy enough to almost sell itself.  I decided to take time, and try as long as necessary to succeed.  I made prototypes for 2013 that I showed to possible partners.  The response was good, but not enough to start.  Immediately after Basel, I threw everything out again and went back to paper and pens… I came up with the current design during the summer.  And it was when I was showing it to people, I could finally see the reaction I was looking for.  And just as important, I had found the right production partner that allowed me to offer my creation at a selling price that made the package far more tempting.

TF - One of the big talking points (at least among the bloggers) is that you opted to use a Miyota movement instead of a Swiss movement.  Why was that?
Courtesy of Dietrich
ED - To achieve the price positioning, I had to renounce the concept of Swiss made, but I did it with a light heart.  The whole mystique of "Swiss Made" is a weird marketing rule that has no reality at all.  Everyone is using it at the limit.  There is no controlling organization.  The big groups are into their war with the result that you don’t find any more good affordable movements.  And honestly, when you buy a Mercedes, do you care where the engine parts are produced?  No, you just want German design, German engineering and quality control… for the best price.  I decided to go this much modern way.  I have dreamed about my watches and breathed these dreams into life around the beautiful lake in Zug, but they are produced worldwide to attain a price point that makes them accessible to many more people.  This is way more satisfying for a designer.  And Miyota makes excellent reliable industrial machines.  They maybe don't look very very beautiful, but they work!  And this is a really enjoyable quality…


TF - And the "all important" question (at least for some of us) - who will be carrying your brand in the US?

EM - I haven't decided yet.  Everything has moved so fast.  In the span of 5 months, we signed with 15 distribution partners worldwide.  I decided to pause and first deliver the existing orders. I also wanted to take some time to perfect the production, test it and test the sell through.  The US is a big and important market and we have to be ready for it. There is no hurry, we are here for years!

Courtesy of Dietrich
TF - What makes Dietrich special?
Courtesy of Dietrich
EM - The design language is mine.  These forms you cannot find in any other watch brand.  This mix: bold yet sensual, organic yet technological.  I always regarded the watch like an extension of the body.  Almost like a second external heart.  Beating in resonance with ours.

Courtesy of Dietrich
That is how my watches had to look and feel.  Futuristic yet so close to the body so that it immediately integrates with you when you wear it.  And this is something you have to try to understand.  These watches are REALLY smooth on the wrist and look surprisingly well integrated for their size.  People love to touch it and to wear it.  This is what makes me the most proud.

TF - I know that it is early on for your brand, but which of Dietrich's 3 offerings is your favorite?

Courtesy of Dietrich
ED - Depends of the day! Joking aside, if I had to choose just one, it would be the OT-3.  I love to see the “reality” of the material.

TF - What is wrong with the watch industry right now?

ED - They are taking themselves much too seriously.

TF - What is right with the watch industry?

ED - It is all about pleasure (who needs a watch here?) and identifying yourself with values.  That allows great brands with great values to exist and endure.  And therefore great jobs can exist and great people to live their passion and share it.

TF - Who is shaping up to be Dietrich's biggest/best market right now?

ED - We are delivering our first batch in 2 weeks, I will tell you this in Basel 2015 !!

TF - Enough about watches, what do you like to do in your spare time?

ED - Sport - climbing is another of my passions.  Pursuing culture, I am never tired of museums.  Spend time with my friends –I love to discuss for hours- and… women. What else?

TF - If you weren't doing this, what do you think you might be doing?

ED - I don’t know, it would seem that I am programmed for this.

TF - What advice do you have for the next designer aspiring to brand ownership?

ED - First, be patient.  This isn’t Internet hot shit here.  Excuse my French!  Building a watch brand needs time.  It will take at least 10 years before achieving some solid success.

Second, tons of passion. This is the only fuel capable of firing the engine for such a long run.

And third, (and to continue to "speak French", I AM French after all) big balls!
You have to take so many risks, to make so many sacrifices, to perhaps not respect so many rules to get through the first years!  That comes only with courage pushed to the limit of pure madness. All of your entourage will doubt, your banker will be furious, your first try will be terrible.  You need to be slightly reckless to keep sleeping well, and really passionate to feel the pleasure more than the pain.

If you recognize yourself here, just go!  This is the most amazing trip!

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