Following the wild, avant-garde Organic Time watches, microbrand Dietrich is back with a refined, more disciplined approach with the Dietrich Device 1 (DD-1). Many design elements have been carried over to continue the organic design theme, such as a rounded hexagonal case, multidimensional dial and integrated lugs beneath the case, but the overall aesthetic has changed significantly. The movement has matured as well, advancing to a Swiss ETA automatic from the previous Japanese Miyota. It all culminates in a rare, unique package often reserved for luxury brands at much higher price points. Let’s take a closer look.
Founder Emmanuel Dietrich has both French and German roots and was born into a family of artists and artisans in Besançon (centre of French watchmaking). His passion for watches came at the age of seven when he received a “Cuppillard Rième” mini diver’s watch as a present. While attending École Boulle design school in Paris, he earned a degree in interior design. He went on to design everything from furniture and jewellery to watches for heavyweights like Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Cartier. In 2010, he was ready to share his vision of unconventional watchmaking after 17 years of designing for other brands. Two years after founding Dietrich, Emmanuel showed his early developments at the GTE Geneva, but spent the following year working on his signature (and affordable) Organic Time models, which officially launched at Baselworld 2014.
Following the success of this unusual, avant-garde aesthetic, he pushed the envelope with the Swiss-made Perception in 2017, an expensive piece (CHF 25,000) with an in-house complication. The design language was positively Dietrich, but with refinement and sophistication on steroids. It featured a 24-hour wandering hours display (six rotating disks with 4 numbers each, mounted on a carousel rotating once per day) and a long seconds hand sweeping around an oval(ish) track at 5 o’clock. It was a radical departure from the Organic Time’s value proposition but demonstrated an unexpected mechanical and design prowess rarely seen from such young brands. A stainless steel sports watch also launched in 2017, the Time Companion.
With the latest DD-1, the brand has come full circle with an affordable piece featuring many attributes of the prior collections – unconventional organic design, refined and disciplined build, and Swiss-made designation.
CASE AND DESIGN
The Dietrich Device 1 DD-1 case is anything but conventional, featuring a hexagonal shape with rounded corners and no bezel. The domed sapphire crystal with dual anti-reflective coatings expands to every edge like a wrist-worn biodome. Measuring 45mm x 46mm and 13.2mm in height, the PVD-coated stainless steel case is substantial, but the integrated lug design gives it a smaller presence on the wrist. Viewed from above, the one-piece strap seems to flow directly from the case, eliminating additional length from traditional lugs. A side view reveals a form of sculpted steel that slopes down in both directions to form one-piece lugs underneath the case, resulting in an arch that conforms very comfortably to the wrist. It’s one of the smallest, most comfortable “big” watches around.
Turn the Dietrich Device 1 DD-1 over and the back is almost as interesting as the front. The solid caseback isn’t your standard affair as it’s integrated with the formed lugs, almost resembling the steering wheel of an Indy car. The company’s logo is tastefully engraved in the centre and everything is secured with exposed screws. An oversized knurled crown sits at 3 o’clock with the brand’s logo engraved at the end and has the same rounded, hexagonal shape as the case. The knurling consists of three notches machined on each side and the attention to detail is impressive. The crown screws down, but the watch is water-resistant to just 50 metres.
DIAL AND HANDS
The unorthodox dial has multiple layers with an organic vibe, drawing design inspiration from nature rather than artificial objects. The black open-worked hour and minute hands have leaf-like tips with white Super-LumiNova and hover over a web of raised, asymmetrical brushed lines. Within those lines are seven open and bevelled circles exposing either jewels or gears, creating a third layer of depth on the central dial. The gold seconds hand also has a leafy tip with Super-LumiNova and a counterweight reminiscent of a fancy cocktail fork.
Rising to a fourth level is a black chapter ring surrounding the main dial with an integrated date window at 3 o’clock that protrudes a bit into the main dial. Hour and minute markers are coated with white Super-LumiNova. The brushed, webbed central dial expands beyond the chapter ring to form a smooth background for another unusual, quirky element. The detailed white seconds track and corresponding gold Arabic numerals are printed on the underside of the crystal, adding even more perceived depth.
Looking head-on, everything aligns perfectly on this Dietrich DD-1, but tilt it at angles and you get a floating, off-axis effect. Surrounding all of this is a raised matte black frame where a partially open-worked bezel sits at the outermost perimeter (that’s two more levels for those keeping count). Unlike the earlier Organic Time model, this bezel is under the glass with the signature bolts at four corners within oval cutouts. All of this depth combined with open-worked hour and minute hands, instrument-like gold seconds hand and seven circular dial openings exposing jewels and gears almost mimic a miniature orrery. Alas, you’re left with deceptively simple time and date watch, but one with a whimsical amount of detail.
Replacing the Organic Time’s Miyota movement in the Dietrich DD-1 is the ubiquitous, proven ETA 2824-2 automatic. It features 25 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 38-hour power reserve. As a result, the piece is now designated as Swiss Made. Functions include central hours, minutes and hacking seconds, and a date at 3 o’clock. Accuracy is rated at +/- 12 seconds per day (with a maximum allowable variance of 30 seconds per day). The solid caseback hides it from view, but you get that tease of mechanical splendour from the circular cut-outs in the dial.
The unique formed lugs under the main body are solid pieces without spring bars. This allows for a single-piece strap to easily slip through for simplified changes and removes the appearance of lugs while wearing the watch. Similar in practice to a NATO strap, the one provided is black nylon with a black PVD-plated stainless steel buckle. It’s simple, comfortable and follows the organic theme.
Emmanuel Dietrich has created a portfolio of watches that have wild, out-of-the-box designs – with the exception of his slightly more conventional Time Companion sports watch – but all play off of each other with recognizable elements. There’s an overall coherence that’s unmistakable and it’s a testament to his vision and mastery of design. The Dietrich DD-1 is a refined and restrained sequel to the Organic Time models. Comparing the two makes the DD-1 almost seem conventional, but on its own, it’s an idiosyncratic form of contrasting shapes, colours and textures, creating a visual spectacle that may or may not be your cup of tea. Regardless of where you stand, there’s no denying its originality and attention to detail, and Dietrich is never afraid to experiment and ignore mainstream trappings. And that really earns my respect.
The Dietrich Device 1 DD-1 retails for CHF 1,850 and is currently available only in black. That’s not a cheap price and shares company with solid offerings from Oris, Hamilton, Longines and other much bigger Swiss names. None of those competes with the eccentricity of the DD-1, however, and for those looking for something truly different, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more unique and refined piece for less. For more information and to place an order, visit dietrich.com.