Milan is the location of perhaps the most famous opera house in the world, and so it is only fitting that S.T. Dupont’s lighters should once again be staged in Via Montenapoleone. S.T. Dupont lighters are famous for their multi-sensorial performance, which, like opera, involves sound and sight. The brand’s hallmark is the ‘ping’ that you hear when you flick open the top, followed by the satisfying touch of the roller that sets the flame alight. S.T. Dupont is presenting its latest lighters at the Larusmiani boutique, Via Montenapoleone 7, Milan, from 20 October 2016, and for a week after this date, you can see an exhibition of some of its historic lighters, models used by personalities including Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and many others.
We were also lucky to see a truly exceptional piece, made to celebrate the 75th anniversary of S.T. Dupont petrol lighters: the Complication Lighter. This piece is like a combination between a lighter and a complication watch, with a movement of 200 components, jewelled bearings, and a skeletonized case so that you can see the internal mechanisms. We talked to Michel Adé, International Sales Director, in the boutique.
“This is currently the only piece in existence. It will be made to order, and limited to eight numbered pieces. The movement opens the lid automatically, and the lighter has two flames. First, a yellow flame lights, and then, by pushing the levers on the side, the yellow flame becomes blue, and you can modulate the flame as you wish. A lighter that gives you the choice between two types of flame is a world first, a new patent that we have developed. The Complication Lighter is a collectors’ item, at the price of 38,000 euro, with just 8 pieces available and made to order. When we use new technology, we are always thinking of new development, and so we would like to develop this idea into more commercial lighters that share the feature of producing both types of flame. This is very interesting for cigar connoisseurs, amongst whom there are two schools, one preferring traditional yellow flames, and those who think that a blue flames is better because it lights the cigar faster.”
It’s a truly beautiful piece, but the S.T. Dupont range includes more accessible products alongside such masterpieces of fire. “We have launched the Slim 7, the slimmest torch-flame lighter on the market. It is very elegant, at a price of 160 euro. Throughout our history, we have always been the first to innovate, and this product is an example.”
Amazingly, S.T. Dupont’s history of sculpting flame began by chance. Simon Tissot Dupont founded a luggage and leather goods workshop in 1872, making quality pieces for distinguished travellers all over the world. In 1938, one of the brand’s customers, the Maharajah of Patiala, ordered a hundred solid gold lighters, one for each of his concubines, and in 1941 the result was the first luxury lighter. This was followed by 75 years of fiery success. I asked Michel Adé which are the strongest markets today.
“You may be surprised to learn that the two strongest markets are France and Korea. In France we sell more pens than lighters, but the reverse is true in the rest of the world. Other significant countries include Japan and Russia. We have the advantage of not being mono-category: we work in three areas, lighters, pens and leather goods, plus accessories, such as cufflinks and coordinating belts. A common denominator is metalworking, in which, right from the start of our history almost 150 years ago, we have developed a true expertise.”
Could you tell us about your retail structure?
“We have almost 40 boutiques worldwide, amongst which there is a beautiful flagship in Paris, a boutique in Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, five in Hong Kong, two in Moscow, a lovely store in Seoul, and several in Dubai including the Dubai Mall. In the UK, we are present in the Writing Room at Harrods. The company is enjoying continuing growth, 10% in 2015, slightly lower this year. We are working a lot in the USA, which is the world’s largest market for cigars. We have signed an agreement with Davidoff who are very strong in America. Another area to which we are dedicating particular attention is products for women, because our purchasers are currently more male than female. That’s why we have introduced the slim lighters, along with the Liberty pen made specifically for women, and other accessories that will be launched soon.”
S.T. Dupont have perfected the art of adding beauty to a utilitarian object. I asked Michel about his personal idea of luxury.
“Luxury is something which changes your life at small moments. For instance, when I dress, when I put on my cufflinks I have the feeling of doing something exceptional, even if this is just a small gesture. It adds something and changes your life from the commonplace to something quite different. I think that there are two types of luxury, the luxury that you experience, such as a nice hotel with good service, and the luxury that you own, your own possessions. That is the area in which we work: we make objects that you can enjoy for a lifetime, and then give to your sons and daughters, who will in turn pass them on to the next generation. Objects that conceal a world of passion, a small gem of sophistication that can set alight the flame of passion for an object.”
Read more about the S.T. Dupont anniversary at www.artoffire.st-dupont.com