Schweizer Familie von Herstellern von Spieldosen, in St. Croix (1865–1886–1900–heute)
Die Firma Reuge, heute Reuge Music, ist auch heute noch bestehende Hersteller von hochwertigen Schweizer Spieldosen, Singvogeldosen, Musik-Taschenuhren und ähnlichen Produkten.
Ami Reuge, (*?, †?), father of Charles R.
Charles Reuge, son of Charles, *Sept. 4th 1839, 1865 founder of a watchmacker*s shop, †1887 (1st generation)
Albert Reuge sen., *1865, †1930 (Geneva), the sixth of the 7 children of Charles R., founder of At. [Albert] Reuge in 1900 (2nd generation)
Henri Reuge, son of Albert R., *1902 (3rd generation)
Guido Reuge, son of Albert R., *1904
Albert Reuge jun., son of Albert R., *1905
1900: Gründung der Firma At. [Albert sen.] Reuge
1932–1942: Alice Reuge und her three sons, Henri Reuge (*1902), Guido (*1904) and Albert jun. (*1905)
1988: Reuge family was no longer a majority shareholder
1932–1942: Alice Reuge und her three sons, Henri Reuge (*1902), Guido (*1904) and Albert jun. (*1905)
1956: Reuge SA
Charles Reuge, 1865
Die Geschichte von Reuge geht zurück ins Jahr 1865, als Charles Reuge sein erstes Geschäft mit Musik-Taschenuhren in Sainte-Croix (Schweiz) eröffnete.
“The Reuges were a middle-class family from Buttes. It was in Sainte-Croix that Ami, the father of Charles Reuge, born on 4th September 1839, actually lived. At the age of twenty-one, [in the year 1860] Charles married Elise Belle, who was a dressmaker from the French village of Jougne. They had seven children, among whom was Albert, the founder of the company. Their last child was born in Sainte-Croix in 1872.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
“In 1876 he equipped the workshop with new machines and, in cooperation with a machenic named Borel, he went in for machine knitting. […]
Albert Reuge, 1880
1880 eröffnete sein Sohn Albert Reuge eine Musikdosen-Werkstatt in Sainte-Croix. Er vergrösserte seine Werkstatt und wandelte sie in eine Musikwerkefabrik um.
In 1880, he started liquidating his machine-knitting affair. From there on,Charles Reuge devoted himself to the manufacture of fine musical watches, destined in particular for China. He used the technique of the pinned cylinder revolving on its axis, which allowed him to add a small automaton. He made about 100 pieces of excellent quality. Reuge still made these watches in 1996, under the label Charles Reuge in 1985. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
The consumer society
Albert Reuge was faster than the rest, and at the beginning of 1887, he announced that “The cooperative consumer society of Sainte-Croix is honored to inform the honorable public of Sainte-Croix and surrounding villages that as from today 29th January, it will open a shop in the Route-Neuve, in the house of Mr. Paccaud. It is a fully-equipped grocery with first-quality goods at most moderate prices.” (FAS 29th January 1997)
1887: Albert Reuge and his partner Oswald Froidevaux had a flair for business and so the shop flourished. A few months after opening this shop of colonial wares and wines, his father Charles died, too soon to realize that his successor, no doubt inhabited by the same inventive spirit, was also interested in music boxes.
In fact, on 1st April 1892, Albert Reuge took on his first worker, named Edouard Robellaz, who for years and years was to be his most faithful (and only) employee.
Froidevaux withdrew from the partnership, and in the village, the co-op store L´Avenir, created in 1892 by consumers themselves, offered its members a dividend of ten percent. It became increasingly successfull!
With the result that Albert took less and less interest in colonial wares and more and more in music boxes.
In 1896, Albert Reuge had vacancies for small music box comb-setters, “good tuners” and assemblers. Two years later, 1898 he joined several other employers in founding a trade union and applied for membership of the Société industrielle et commerciale (SIC).” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
1900: manufacture of music boxes
“In the same year  at the age of thirty-six, Albert Reuge married Alice-Louise Hemmeler, from Aarau. The couple had three children, Henri, born in 1902, Guido in 1904 and Albert in 1905, when the family moved into the splendid house built above the Rue des Rasses. The ground floor was used as a music box workshop; the family living quarters were on the upper floors.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
1902: Trouble in Sainte-Croix with a happy end for Albert Reuge sen.
The ordeal was painful for Alice Reuge, who had only just settled in Sainte-Croix and was no doubt not used to such manifestations of bad temper. For her husband [Albert], however, it provided an opportunity to show his courage and his skill at turning situations around. He had no difficulty in proving that he had been forced to lower wages, in view of all the other reductions which had been applied by his competitors in the previous years, and which the workers´ union had been unable to stop. He not only took up his pen and, via the local press, published proof of his good faith; he also urged all manufacturers, in particular his most relentless competitors, to sign the convention on wage scales proposed by the union.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
“This common objective on the part of the workers and the majority of manufacturers of small music boxes openly provoked the anger of a minority group of eight manufacturers from L´Auberson whose conditions for accepting the convention were judged totally unacceptable. It didn´t make any difference. Albert Reuge was in the front lines of those who encouraged the people concerned to march on L´Auberson on Monday 3rd March. The idea was to hold a meeting there to try and find a way to get everybody to sign the famous convention, synonym of peace in homes and hearths and in the factories. On 25th January 1902, the much maligned manufacturer marched at the head of a procession of more than 500 people going to the Gym hall in L´Auberson and after six hours of often stormy discussions, thanks to his intervention, all the local manufacturers agreed to the convention.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
After an abortive attempt with Talking Machines Albert
Reuge produced ski bindings
1914: From Al. to At. Reuge
In this capacity, she had to show an all-encompassing tenacity in order to manage a company which at the end of the war  employed more than twenty people in the villa and even larger number at home, to accomplish a variety of tasks besides making music boxes. The company kept up its traditional manufacture of pinions and watch-making supplies, as well as screws and lathe work. To survive the war years, production was diversified and soon there was not enough space, with the result that the construction of a workshop was envisaged. But the construction of the first factory was still a long way off. ” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
“After the depression in 1921 and 1922, business picked up the following year, and Alice Reuge had to ask for permission to extend the working time of fifty hours and a half to fifty-two hours a week, when since 1918 federal law had prescribed forty-eight hours.
At the time, Reuge produced movements with fifty notes, which were placed on Christmas tree bases. These articles sold well in Germany, as did the musical clocks and alarm-clocks which were finished in the Black forest and were based on Swiss movements.
Meanwhile, the three Reuge children, Henri, Albert and Guido had left Sainte-Croix to complete their education elsewhere. The eldest, Henri, was in Geneva with his father, where he studied engineering. He subsequently found employment with Dubied in Couvet and joined Reuge in 1942. Guido was at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he studied engineering and learned German.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
1926: At. Reuge replaced by Alice Reuge and her three sons, Henri Reuge, *1902, Guido *1904 and Albert Reuge, *1905
True, after long years of squabbling, congested workshops and attempts to find new premises, Alice Reuge finally decided to erect an industrial building corresponding to their needs … and the requirements of the Federal Bureau of Employment. The new building was put just opposite the villa, on the other side of the Rue des Rasses. It was 1929 and saled had been increasing steadily ever since 1922, so the time was ripe. The inauguration took place in November, a few days away from the Wall Street stock exchange staff.
In 1930, Albert Reuge senior died in Geneva and, two years later,  his youngest son Albert once again joined the company, where he was responsible for the manufacture of ski bindings. The product range gradually expanded to incluce other articles related to skiing, but music boxes were maintained.
In 1937, as the crisis drew to a close, Reuge was one of the seven manufacturers still active in music box production in the Sainte-Croix region. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
National Exhibition in Zurich 1939
The war did not affect the activity of Reuge, on the contrary. Staff levels increased from 19 in 1936 to 102 in 1842, admittedly thanks to the orders for Ski bindings, torches and other products destined for the Swiss army, thanks also to product diversification.
Music boxes remained part of the product line and in 1945, order literally exploded
The four solutions to manage growth
Alice Reuge never really paid much attention to Swiss legislation on employment and kept receiving indignant reports from the federal inspector. She expected her personnel to work overtime, without asking for prior permissoin from the cantonal authorities.
The staff increased significantly in numbers, going from 110 in 1944 to 150 in 1946, in addition to some 252 home workers, men and women, in total more than 400 persons.
To meet the requirements of such rapid development, to house staff and new machines, the surface area of the workshops needed to be increased. Reuge bought the Simon house and the old boarding house of Mont-Fleury in the Crêt-Junod, near Les Rasses, which was transformed into workshops specializing in wood work, music boxes and then trays under the brand name Platex.
Further annexes were added […] and in 1950, when the company counted 275 employees […]
Production in France. For a start Reuge chose an alternative solution, and in 1951 opened an assembly workshop in the neighbouring locality of Les Fourgs, on French territory, practically on the border. This caused some concern in the region, people had always been afraid that the music box industry would emigrate across the border. Then it was decided to add an additional floor to the factory in the Rue des Rasses, which was inaugurated in the presence of about 300 people on 7th May 1954.
1954: •Albert Reuge director of administration and production
In 1963, the premises in Les Charmille were added to the factory´s real estate in order to accomodate encasing, dispatch and also, until about 1990, the Reuge boutique.
The third solution to cope with the volume of incoming orders for music boxes: subcontracting. In 1946, Guido Reuge signed a contract with Baud Frères, who had just officially concluded their partnership, for the assembly of 10,000 small boxes per month. He supplied the components and the Baud brothers were to deliver to the station in Sainte-Croix and write out the invoices.
At about that time, Reuge subcontracted the manufacture of corkscrew spirals to the workshops of Emile Matthey in Vuitebouef. He was satisfied with their work and proposed that they should moreover assemble eighteen-note musical movements without trade mark, destined for the United States, for which Reuge supplied the components. Charles-Emile Matthey joined his father and took over the management of the company. At the end of 1947, Matthey supplied about a thousand movements a day to Reuge. Two year later, Matthey assembled certain components, had the combs tuned and produced bedplates, so that in 1950 he was able to produce 2,000 movements a day. He collected annual payment himself.
Reuge therefore subcontracted to other établisseurs in the village, but as soon as the demand lagged behind, he repatriated production in order to keep his staff in work and his machines running.
This feverish growth in the production of small music boxes was inevitably followed by a slump in sales prices, and consequently also the need to rationalize. Mass production of music boxes was held up in particular by cylinder-pinning, pre-assembly and final assembly, on account of the fact that the manpower available in the region – in spite of the daily arrival of workers from the valley and from neighbouring France – was inadequate. Around the forties, several manufacturers looked for faster and more economical production processes, as well as more and more sophisticated machines.
In 1948, Henri Reuge invented the first eigtheen-note pinning machine and later for the twenty-two, twenty-eight, thirty-six and fifty note cylinders.
1958 Henri Reuge brought out the first tuning machine, followed by ever more advanced versions, because the cylinder manufacturing process was adapted to the know-how and the resources existing at the time. Reuge was one of the first manufacturers to introduce the ‘raised pin’ technique, developed by Louis Jaccard in L´Auberson. All this with tools inspired by sewing machines: a cutter scratching the cylinder surface, forcing up a piece of metal, to become a pin. So Reuge bought cylinders from Charles Martin in L´Auberson which were pinned according to this technique.
Exhibition at the Basel Fair Trade 1945
Exhibition at the Swiss Watch Fair Basel 1947
Exhibition at the Swiss Watch Fair Basel 1948
During the forties and fifties, the three Reuge brothers showed great ingeniousness in their search for new mechanisms which could be adapted to new musical products and singing birds. They filed several patents, as is shown in the following examples:
The Swiss patents of Reuge, 1952 to 1956
Between 1950 and 1960, Reuge was at the peak of its development
The Reuge brothers Guido, Henri and Albert managed the company but their mother Alice Reuge-Hemmler (1874– 19th December 1958) kept a watchful eye on things, giving advice, on occasion suggesting some or other agreement between the brothers. She was the soul of the company she had run with an iron hand for so long. Her courage, her determination and her perspicacity were unanimously praised by the local population. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
In 1953, the ski bindings only amounted to twenty percent of the turnover, sixty-seven percent for the music boxes. Guido Reuge became more and more interested in music boxes which, to his mind, would have to replace the security bindings on which the patents were due to expire soon. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Perhaps Reuge was aware of the company´s incapacity to respond to Japanese competition in the small music box sector and preferred to skirt the issue by exploiting people´s preference for nostalgia, for the beautiful boxes which were relatively expensive but carried the Swiss quality label. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
In 1960, Reuge SA bought Bontems in Paris, a company renowned for its singing birds and automata. Several trucks moved the Parisian workshops to Sainte-Croix where its activities would continue. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Blaise Bontems, 1814-1893, gründete 1849 eine berühmte Singvogel-Automaten.Manufaktur in Paris.
(Mosoriak p. 69: Bontems, Blaise, Paris, 1868. Manufactured mechanical singing birds).
Sein Nachfolger war sein Sohn Charles Bontems, 1848- ? , und mit dessen Sohn Lucien Bontems (1881-1956) wurde die Ära Bontems beendet. . Auf der Pariser Welt-Ausstellung von 1878 beanspruchte die Firma Bontems einen Stand mit einer Länge von 5 Metern und einer Höhe von 3 Metern. Noch in den letzten Produktionsjahren wurden durchschnittlich 10 Feinmechaniker mit der Herstellung der Singvogelautomaten beschäftigt. Mit dem Tode von Lucien Bontems im Jahr 1956 endete die Produktion jedoch noch nicht sofort sondern wurde noch bis zum Jahre 1960 in Paris weitergeführt. In diesem Jahr erwarb die Fa. REUGE SA in St. Croix /Schweiz sämtliche Rechte sowie die gesamte Fertigung der Firma Ch. Bontems & Co. Der damalige Atelierchef, Herr Roger Borie, wurde von Herrn Guido Reuge nach St. Croix geholt, wo er unter seiner Anleitung die Fabrikation der Singvogelautomaten weitergeführt wurde. (Wikipedia)
1977, Reuge bought the German company Eschle, manufacturer of snuffboxes. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
“The production of music boxes and automata, alarm clocks and singing birds continued to progress to the detriment of sports articles. In the seventies, Reuge was one of the only companies supplying finished musical products, which represented about twenty-fice percent of its total production, equalling 6000 movements a day. About half of these were sold in the United States, after passing through toy factories. In 1970, Reuge employed 270 people and pursued its efforts to mechanize the majority of production operations, introducing new tuning and pinning machines which could take combs of up to 144 teeth.” (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
In 1985, Reuge initiated a systematic policy of buying out music box manufacturers in the Sainte-Croix area, making use of every opportunity offered: retirement, retraining or difficult financial situations. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
1985/1986/1992: Mélodies/Lador/Cuendet bought by Reuge
1985: Jean-Paul Thorens sells to Reuge
Thus Reuge acquired in 1985 the production techniques of the disc music boxes, which were still successful and which completed its product range. The building in L´Auberson was emptied, sold and transformed into lofts. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
On 11th July 1986, Reuge SA took over Lador, who had laid off his entire staff at the end of June 1985. Together with all the parties interested in maintaining, the music box industry in Switzerland, from trade unions to authorities, Lador participated in the search for a possible solution. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
On 30th June 1992, Reuge SA bought the John & Edouard Cuendet business in L´Auberson. The latter kept up its production, which was entrusted to Gilbert Cuendet, and in the spring 1993, Cuendet decided to leave the factory and to sell it to Léon Jaccard.
In 1996, Reuge remained the only music box manufacturer in Sainte-Croix. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
A successfull transition
1988: transition from a family business to a modern industrial company
In 1988, Reuge SA once again manufactured the famous station music boxes of Auguste Lassueur fame. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297). As a final tribute to Auguste Lassueur, Reuge made a limited series of station boxes [in the railway stations], presented as jukeboxes of olden times!
It was in fact quite a challenge: to leave behind a modern, computer-friendly, efficient and flexible enterprise. A restructuring project was elaborated. It started with the reorganization of the sales network, which rapidly produced an increase in sales. Reuge had agents in South-East Asia and operned a subsidiary company in California in 1993.
Next came the integration of the companies recently purchased (Mélodies SA, Lador, Cuendet), which had merely been added to the main factory without any rational concentration concept. And then the new management reorganized its catalog, which counted over 380 articles in 1988, not all of which were equally profitable. Choices had to be made, certain products abandoned and others more efficiently promoted. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
ROMANCE and REUGE MUSIC
It was also decided to specialize in high-end products. In the years to follow, the company brought out some really splendid music boxes, like the revolver, with six cylinders, each playing four tunes on a comb of 144 notes, which had been developed by Paillard a hundred years earlier. Reuge also made a limited series of station boxes, which had been popularized by Auguste Lassueur and which continued to delight adults and children alike. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
In 1993, Reuge established a watchmaking company in La Chaux-de-Fonds and launched a new range of musical watches, snuffboxes and singing birds under the name “Charles Reuge in 1985”, a tribute to the Reuge ancestor. This unit closed down 1995, and its activity was transferred to Sainte-Croix. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Of the three Reuge brothers, Guido (1904–1995) was the last to leave the company. Shortly after reorganization was completed, on the occasion of a reception given in his honor, the company presented him with a unique music box playing “La valse à Guido (Guido´s Waltz)”. All through his professional career and on his many travels, Guido and his wife Jacqueline acquired an impressive number of music boxes and automata which made up an extraordinary collection. It was housed in the villa in the Rue des Rasses and shown only to selected people. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297) […] Meanwhile Guido took ill and died on 3rd January 1995 at the age of ninety-one. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Early 1990s: automatization of the production of the 18-note-movements
The system was designed by engineers outside the company, who worked along theoretical principles without really being interested in the particularities of this type of production, or in the experience of the generations of people in Sainte-Croix who had been making movements for years. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Reuge in 2002: 100 people
Reuge SA is the only company in Switzerland manufacturing automata and musical watches, moreover capable of producing the entire range of muxic boxes, from small eighteen-note movements to large interchangeable cartels with 144 notes, the station boxes, singing birds and special pieces made to order. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
It starts with the rough handcrank movement, mounted in decorated cubes, pianos, cardboards suitcases or other boxes covered with pretty pictures. Then there is the tourist market with small musical chalets, transparent globes with snowflake inside, boxes with Alpine, naive, romantic or classical illustrations, the round or triangular paperweights with profiles of the great composers, the Matterhorn presented in a joking manner, etc. Ever since 1975, Reuge has brought out a new Christmas bell each year, with a matching ornamental cord and, for the collectors, a certificate indicating the year manufactured. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
Inlay work plays an important part in the Reuge product range. It is applied to a collection of sumptuos boxes in a variety of designs, executed by the craftsman-artist of the Philippe Monti company, who uses about fifteen different species of wood to obtain the precise shades imposed by the design. The product range would not be complete without the disc-playing boxes, transferred from Mélodies SA, which at the time came in the form not only of a gramophone or a portable record player but also of the traditional 1900 objects and met with a resounding but short-lived success. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)[…]
Last but not least, because they represent Reuge´s most important contribution to the music box industry, the catalog offers those grand and wonderful interchangeable cartels with double 144 note comb, the Sublime Harmonie. They are presented in cases ranging from simple boxes to cabinets with drawers for cylinder storage.
These include the boxes which Auguste Lassueur made famous in 1897 when he installed them in the station waiting rooms along the Jura-Simplon line.
In a smaller format, this type of box has two dancing dolls in the foreground pivoting in front of the cylinder, with an animated scene in the background. (Piguet 2004, p. 286-297)
In addition to music boxes, Reuge also offers singing birds of Bontems manufacture. It was Guido Reuge who had the foresight to maintain these fascinating products. In 2000, Reuge SA created a unique and exceptional music box for the new millennium. It was aptly called the millenium. (Piguet 2004, 297)
In 2002, Reuge is the only factory producing a complete range of music boxes, from handcrank to station boxes, snuffboxes, musical watches and large cartels. Occupying two buildings in the Rue des Rasses, the company has been active in the music box field for nearly a hundred years and has undergone many changes, adjustments and restructuring, which have transformed a family enterprise into a company managed according to modern principles and methods. (Piguet 2004, p. 286)
1960: Bontems (Paris, weltberühmter Singvogelautomaten-Hersteller von 1849 bis 1960)
Heute ist Reuge weltweit die einzige Firma, welche ein breites Spektrum an hochwertigen Mechanischen Musikinstrumenten wie hochwertigen Schweizer Spieldosen, Singvogeldosen, Musik-Taschenuhren und ähnlichen Produkten herstellen kann.
++++= Spieldosen / music boxes
Kleinformatige Spieldosen ( Exemplare)
Das heutige Angebot an Spieldosen: http://www.alscher.ch/de/musikdosen_alscher.html
LINK zur Firmengeschichte: http://www.alscher.ch/de/musikdosen_reuge.html