Having founded his eponymous company in 2009, French designer and horologist Emmanuel Dietrich has redefined the art of timekeeping.
Originating from Besançon, the watch capital of France and graduating from Parisian design school, Ecole Boulle with a diploma in Interior Design, it is no surprise Emmanuel Dietrichs calling is to create masterpieces. What sets his watches apart is the focus on “Organic Time”, a unique concept that draws inspiration from nature. Combining technology with art, the machinery of the watch creates a tiny landscape within the watch. The watch is designed as though it is a living breathing part of the human body and speaks the same organic language as the human body as well.
With over 20 years of experience in designing, Emmanuel Dietrich and his creations are cementing their feet firmly among the top horologists in the world. Perle Magazine spoke with the designer about how his years of experience have allowed him to transfer his dreams and expressions into his creations and has turned him into a distinguished designer.
1. When did you first start designing?
At the age of six I started to order tools for my birthdays and Christmases to create objects I was dreaming about. My mother pushed me a lot in this direction. She told me: “if you want something, learn do it yourself!”
I had numerous internships with artisans and learned how to work on leather, wood and metal to make knifes and even produces sandals. I always wanted to redesign my surrounding.
2. Has horology been something that has been in your family?
I grew up in Besançon that was the watch-making town in France. One of the people who taught me a lot was a friend of my fathers who was a watch-prototypist at LIP, the state watch factory. He showed me how to hold the tools in my hands, how to transform a bloc of raw metal into a tiny precise piece that fits and interacts with others. I was fascinated and owe him a lot.
3. In your 20-year design experience, have you only focused on horology or have you also ventured into designing other fashion products?
I started my career working on very technical subjects too. It was a great way to make a living and learn the industrial side of the job. I continue to design furniture, jewellery, and leather goods. I never designed fashion till now but that is definitely something that will come someday into the Dietrich world.
4. Having worked for some of the world’s greatest fashion houses such as Hermès, what were some of the most valuable lessons you learnt while working with them?
First, a very good knowledge of technique, ergonomics, and function. That is why we have a lot of compliment about the wearability and comfort of our watches. I think it should be evident for a designer to make a product that really fits, works and satisfies the clients. And knowing how the big brands are working in terms of DNA construction, which helped me a lot to structure my project and focus on the main points.
5. How did you come across Jean-Louis Dumas? When did you start working with Hermes and for how long?
Jean-Louis Dumas was a very curious and spontaneous person, and he simply reacted to a letter that I wrote him when I was 24, giving me an appointment to present my ideas. He was a fantastic person and a great life lesson for me. The Harnais watch came into the market in 1997 and I worked with them in different departments for a couple of years.
6. What was your inspiration behind the iconic Harnais watch?
I always was in love with leather, and as a designer, it seemed obvious to me that leather being flexible itself, it didn’t need a mechanical link to the case of a watch. Making the strap in one piece could enhance the leather’s presence in the watch and makes it more dramatically Hermès. This is an idea I am still pursuing within our collection. The single piece leather straps are allowing a unique wearing experience offering a comfort that you won’t find on traditional watches.
7. Apart from Hèrmes, what other fashion houses have you collaborated and worked with?
I designed more than 50 watch models for Calvin Klein during the past ten years, and I have had collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer, among others.
8. When it comes to designing the watches, especially the Organic Time timepieces, what are some of the elements that you draw inspiration from?
My main inspiration is definitely the human body, as the part of the nature we are naturally the closest from. Like in a body, I try to work on a “skin” that is absolutely smooth but not weak. I want you to feel a structure behind this skin, like the skeleton giving its functional logic to our body.
9. What is the design process and how long does it take?
I often start by seeking inspiration sculpting an “inspirational piece”, an expression of the feeling I want to give to the project. Then I continue with my sketchbook, which is the first step to verify if an idea is working or not. I work with clay or wood to experience with the form by touching it. It is a very important aspect for me. I am convinced that you can see at the end that my objects are conceived with my hands as much as with my brain. The sense of touch is central to me. When the form and proportions are validated, I go to the computer and construct everything in 3D. That allows me to integrate the technique and go to a development stadium where you can give your project to the engineers for them to program the production. And naturally, I follow the process until the validation of the first serial pieces. This is a long process that takes minimum one year, often two. I personally oversee the whole process, as it is the only way you can achieve excellence. You have to be present in every detail to make sure it will be produced or iterate the way you want.
10. What has the response been so far towards the watches since the launch in 2012, especially in the Gulf region?
First watches were indeed launched in 2012 but the actual collection that was the real start of the brand came early 2014. The gulf region was one of the first to react, and I was surprised how impatient they were to have their hands on the watches!
11. Dietrich watches specifically target men, will there also be a line created for women?
Well, women are allowed to wear our watches too! And in certain countries they definitely do. Having said that, I love to design for women, and we will launch a collection dedicated to them at Baselworld 2016.
12. What are future plans for Dietrich watches?
To establish ourselves as an avant-garde luxury brand and not just with watches, but a whole Dietrich universe.
Stockist: Marsh & Gold Est.
Available at Taqi’s Jewellery, Moda Mall Bahrain
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