Reuge Interview with Amr Alotaishan
The CEO of Reuge and representative of the proprietor family is shaping a brand that chimes with today, with musical automata that spark wonder and emotion.
You took over at Reuge last winter. What have your priorities been since then?
First of all, it’s an immense honour for me to be at the head of such a prestigious brand. One that concentrates so much talent under a single roof and which represents Swiss heritage at its very best. When I arrived at Reuge, we began with a 360° audit of the company, starting with the manufacturing side. Quality and efficiency were our principal concerns. For example, we expect our musical automata to produce the purest, most organic sound possible, so we created the role of Acoustic Director specifically for that. Thanks to his expertise and our ongoing research and development, we have already significantly enhanced sound resonance in our musical mechanisms. In a word, we’ve gone from good to great!
You were at Geneva Watch Days with a new visual identity. Is this part of a new strategy?
Absolutely. We needed to redefine the contours of the brand. Reuge manufactures in Switzerland to an exceptionally high standard. This puts us in a strong position to offer increasingly sophisticated creations. It therefore makes sense that we should move in this direction. Our new visual identity is the new face of the brand. It’s simpler, cleaner than before, still with the two lines inside the U of Reuge that symbolise the lamellae on a music-box comb, a Reuge signature for many years. Importantly, this new identity is perfectly legible on digital platforms as well as traditional channels.
Amr Alotaishan © Reuge
Is your latest major creation, Miliarius, typical of Reuge’s new positioning with its emphasis on engaging the emotions?
Very much so. Miliarius is a strictly limited edition of 50 that combines our expertise in two fields: the creation of musical mechanisms and the crafting of automata. It truly is a technical tour de force, bringing to life the chariot races held inside the Circus Maximus of Ancient Rome by means of a patented mechanical system that produces a random outcome, so the winner of the race is different each time. We have recreated the sound of galloping hooves striking the ground then, once all the chariots have crossed the finish line, Miliarius plays the Victory Parade melody. At the same time, a laurel wreath is raised. What other high-end product exists purely and simply as a means to elicit such emotions?
What has the response to Miliarius been and what were the main challenges in making it?
Whenever we present Miliarius to our customers, they forget the complexity of the 2,200 mechanical components that go into its creation, or the 2,200 pins on the cylinder that vibrate the 144 lamellae of our musical movement. They’re utterly in the moment, captivated by the action and the excitement of the race. A lot of them bet on which of the five handcrafted silver chariots will reach the finish line first. After that, it’s all about the thrill of victory. Nothing else counts, not even the extraordinary skill that made it possible. Which is the magic of Reuge.
Miliarius © Reuge
Is the Manufacture in Sainte Croix ideally sized for this redeployment?
Absolutely. Almost every one of the specialist skills that we require has been vertically integrated under the single roof of our new Manufacture or Ateliers, which we opened in 2016. This enables us to maintain complete control over quality, for which we impose the highest standards, and also the rate of production so that we can serve our customers within the shortest possible timeframe. And of course, it leaves us free to let our imagination run wild.
We can also offer a high degree of personalisation, such as the choice of melody which the customer can select from our vast catalogue, ranging from classical to contemporary music. Because music is a very personal thing, Reuge can also take a song that has special meaning for the customer and transform it into a musical automaton with a bespoke composition.
How would you describe the type of customer Reuge now aims to address?
We’re attracting a younger clientele, with a growing number of Millennials and Gen Z alongside our traditional customers. These younger customers have high expectations and are a favourite target for luxury brands, which both raises standards and heightens competition. The one thing these new generations want above all is authenticity. Reuge’s age-old expertise offers reassurance in an age of high-tech products that become obsolete almost as soon as they’re purchased. This is where the strength of Reuge lies, in this capacity to transform raw metal into pure emotion – something we’ve been doing for over 150 years.
One of the challenges we face stems from our digital society, where the experience to be had from listening to our musical automata on social media is only a fraction of the experience to be gained when hearing the purity of the sound for real.
We also want to reach out to our female audience, who are loyal to Reuge and appreciate the poetics of the brand and its creations.
What inspirations can we look forward to for the musical automata you’ll be presenting in 2021?
The principle remains the same: elicit the emotions through music or sound of ever greater purity, using mechanical prowess to create a Listening Experience with a capital L and a capital E. We will continue to take our customers by surprise with creations that draw inspiration from nature, such as our new “Enchanting Birds” tabatière which will come as several executions, one of which will be an exceptional, highly limited edition in view of the rarity of the materials used.
“Enchanting Birds” tabatière © Reuge
At the same time, our engineers are working on the next version of a table piece whose remarkable sonority will be equalled only by its unique design. This will be a magnificent decorative object but also a demonstration of musical automata-making at its finest.
Would you consider a partnership with a watch brand?
As the last remaining company in the world to possess the expertise required to make the finest musical automata, we’re regularly sought out by the most highly regarded watchmakers who want to collaborate with the best in their field. We’ve had several partnerships in the past that have brought watchmaking and musical automata together in wonderful ways. For example, we look back on our collaboration with MB&F with great pleasure. Our friend Max Büsser put his inimitable creative spin on some of our musical automata, resulting in limited editions with a futuristic design and outstanding musical sonority. Beyond its commercial success, this was a creatively enriching experience for both partners. Our two worlds were in harmony, to borrow a musical metaphor!
To come back to the present, we give each potential partnership careful consideration and choose only those that align with our values. Currently we have a project with a renowned maker for a unique creation that unites their watchmaking expertise and brand territory with that of Reuge. It’s still too soon to talk about the specificities or the nature of the object in question, but I can assure you it will be… very surprising indeed!