Monochrome : Xavier Dietlin, the man behind the most innovative and spectacular display cases.
By Xavier Markl
Meet the man behind the scenes of the watch industry shaping customer experience in sales points
If you are into watches and happen to visit sales points or watch fairs, there are chances you have seen some of Xavier Dietlin’s creations, without even knowing about his small company. Dietlin Swiss Showcases is a 12-person business specializing in creating exceptional display cases and windows. As the company celebrates its 165th anniversary in the metal work industry, we caught up with Xavier Dietlin to talk about how he envisions watch presentation in sales points.
What is the story of your company?
The company was born in 1854, first with metal work, then metallic construction work. I took over the family business but crafting windows and doors was not exciting for me. I happened to take part in a tender organized by Cartier and found the creative process really fascinating. I become hooked on watches and from there decided to take advantage of the company’s know-how to create displays. Very soon it became our exclusive activity – 90% of our clients come from the watch industry.
How do you help brands showcase their products?
Up until five years ago, I was proposing a lot of spectacular, impressive projects. I now believe that adding an educational perspective is crucial. High-end mechanical watches need to be explained to customers. There is exceptional value in a watch and sometimes this message is forgotten. Our product is to showcase the products in all their glory, providing an insight on what’s inside, creating emotion and making sure that the perceived value matches the quality.
With the rapid evolution of the industry’s distribution, of the clientele, what is the role of traditional brick-and-mortar stores?
Traditional retail has not evolved much. But the world has changed. For a long time, there was no need for change. Today, the watch industry has realized that it needs to evolve with a new generation of clients. For the first time, watchmakers are asking themselves, who are our end customers? What do they want? Communication was one-way and now needs to be a dialogue. How does the young generation want to discover and buy a product? Several industries have undergone profound change, the fashion, the car industry. The watch industry is late. It’s time to change and that’s a good thing.
Customer experience is the buzz word…
Today customer experience is the reason to visit a point of sale. Look at museums today, there is so much interactivity. Watchmakers should ask themselves, what is the reason for a client to visit a boutique these days? What can we do to elevate the customer experience? If there is no outstanding experience for a client, it’s better buy on the internet. The CX must be authentic and exceptional. Think of the Audemars Piguet houses with their ‘home away from home’ concept. Transporting as much as possible of Le Brassus where the brand is headquartered to Hong-Kong, for example. This is a true experience… Just going hands-on with a product over the counter is not an experience.
What do you see as major trends?
I believe that the fundamental trend is interactivity. Look at museums, they have understood that interactivity is the key. People need to be surprised. People need to discover products. For instance, sometimes you might have to wait. Creating expectations is a way of discovering exceptional products. Think of the ceremonial enacted around the acquisition of a Patek Philippe Grande Complication.
Another example is free access. It is a truly desirable and engaging way to showcase products, specifically for the younger generation. You get the feeling that the product belongs to you. With traditional windows, behind thick showcases, watches sometimes look inaccessible. Free access allows you to break the ice and start a conversation with clients. Over the past four years, we have created free access displays for 13 brands! It is a way of presenting traditional products in a modern way.
How can a small (12-people) Swiss company be competitive, in particular with competition from low-cost countries?
We do things differently. I am creating niche products, complex products, unique products. This is not a business for low-cost countries which need to manufacture products in large quantities. Our business is driven by creativity. Very often, my clients from large conglomerates have corporate policies where they have to get offers from three different suppliers before purchasing products. But this can’t be the case with us because our creations are unique. You can buy another product from another manufacturer but our concepts are unique. You cannot ask for a competitive quote for a Raptor (editor’s note, a free-access display developed for Hublot); I am the only manufacturer for the Raptor.
How do you protect your concepts?
We have patents but their protection is really limited. The best protection for us is forward-thinking. We strive to always stay one-step ahead. We are not waiting for brands to come to us with their requests we try to anticipate, to propose ideas, to create new concepts, to be a creative force alongside our clients. We have no standard products, as it is an ongoing improvement process. Our free-access concept is now in its second generation but we are already developing the third one. We are now working on new technologies with the latest generation of Ipad, for instance using the potentialities of Siri.
For more information, please visit www.dietlin.ch
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