Mass production might be a great way to make lots of money, but it also generates anonymous objects and furniture. Luxury, by contrast, often takes the form of something unique and beautifully executed. Traditional crafts have become something rare and sought-after.
The quintessentially Swiss company Rüttimann is one of those little gems that one might stumble upon almost by accident. It all started three generations ago. In 1896, Peter Rüttimann founded the Rüttimann joinery in Siebnen, in the Canton of Schwyz. A joinery usually regroups carpentry activities, constructing doors, window sashes, panelling and other permanent woodwork; in essence, producing wardrobes and cupboards. Rüttimann was one of the first entrepreneurs in Switzerland to launch serial production while staying true to traditional, careful workmanship that was to go into every single piece of furniture. Following World War One, the company’s economic upturn continued thanks to the production of bedrooms and cupboards for Switzerland and France. Avoiding all the newfangled dictates from the market’s business prophets, the Rüttimann family marched forward applying the same recipe for success over three generations, and for all intents and purposes, with great success.
In 2010, they decided to sell Rüttimann to Urs Hefti, who decided to freshen up the company’s image. But the new CEO did remain dedicated to preserving the core philosophy and vision of the company and what is today one of the last of the country’s original, active furniture makers. A key to Rüttimann’s mission is the fact that the company produces exclusively in Switzerland and from Swiss sources. Furniture is handmade, using Swiss materials whenever possible. This is extremely uncommon in the furniture business today, a very competitive market that usually sees manufacturers delocalising or sacrificing quality in order to survive.
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The pressure has even further intensified with the euro exchange rate playing havoc with furniture producers’ clientele, a very volatile target group, indeed. Urs Hefti is well aware of those difficulties but has chosen to remain faithful to Rüttimann’s original dedication to quality and Swiss workmanship, and even uses it as an advantage over competitors. Hefti notes that what makes a difference and what has enabled the company to survive so far is the fact that “we listen to our clients, and we know them very well. We offer tailor-made, innovative solutions in the shortest timeframe possible”.
“Pushing prices further down is simply not a viable option anymore,” Urs Hefti says. He feels strongly that the products coming out of the Rüttimann factory offer more value to the customers than the run-of-the-mill, and this justifies the price because it has become so rare in this business: a top-drawer product that can be adapted to any of the client’s wishes and needs. As Hefti puts it: “Ready-made is far from what we wish to offer,” and Rüttimann customers can let their imagination run free when it comes to dimensions, materials, interior design, and even the latest technology: everything is possible with Rüttimann wardrobes. The list of Rüttimann innovations is long and reveals a great deal of ingenuity: a special colourfast lighting effect that is turned on by opening the cabinet door and is true to clothes’ colours; TV screens that seem invisible at first but that actually use the glass panelling of the wardrobes as support, appearing as if by magic; a technique that allows a customer’s personal picture to be printed on the glass of the wardrobe door; innovative solutions for storage places which are difficult to access at the top of the wardrobe … the list is endless, and the client’s wish is the only limit.
Rüttimann takes pride in finding solutions for every space, producing bespoke pieces that take into account specific room constraints, offering to clients the possibility to change their wardrobe doors should they get tired of its colour or material. The company has carved out a niche for itself in the furniture business by offering tailor-made, high-quality and innovative pieces that are built with the same care and craft as was applied more than a century ago, with a simple, yet often overlooked philosophy: “A wardrobe is perfect as long as its owners are completely satisfied and delighted with it.” It’s a simple and straightforward guideline. Perhaps software developers could take a page from that book. www.r-mann.ch
Article by Lauriane Zonco