Reuge Interview with Kurt Kupper
Kurt Kupper, CEO of Reuge, agrees that the music box business is rather specialised, but he insists it wouldn’t do to underestimate it. Sentimental value often outweighs many other considerations!
The Swiss mechanical music box maker, based in the cradle of the watchmaking industry, Sainte-Croix, celebrated its 150th anniversary last October. Reuge started out in 1865, making pocket watches fitted with musical movements. It specialised in enhancing the acoustic properties of music boxes with improved combs and better cylinders. Which is all very... mechanical. So how successful are music boxes now? Who buys them? Aren’t they a bit old-fashioned? Interview with Kurt Kupper, CEO of Reuge, who shares his view of these objets d’art.
Who are your clients, these days?
We have a rather elderly clientele. The very idea of a music box has somewhat old-fashioned connotations. And yet we do innovate, we adapt to current demand. That is why we have created music boxes for coffee machines, for limousine arm rests, and the bedsteads of prestigious hotels. We recently designed a singing bird to go inside a sauna, where it would measure the time spent inside. We cater for specific requests, with bespoke pieces. Anything is possible, for anyone!
So people come to you with specific requests?
Yes. Because, if you think about it, who would buy a music box for themselves? No one. You buy a music box to give to a friend or relative. So if you want to get it right, you have to know that person extremely well, and understand their tastes and expectations, in order to give them a gift they will really appreciate. We make dreams come true. We need to understand things, understand objects, so that we can improve them and imbue them with sentimental value for the people who will receive them. Instead of buying flowers or chocolate, why not consider a music box?
It’s a very niche market, you must admit!
Absolutely! As I always say, in this market it’s not about money, it’s about sentiment. Our job is to touch people with the emotions generated by a music box. We touch people’s hearts, not their wallets. It makes a big difference!
And it’s quite an unusual present.
Of course! Originality is vital in the luxury market, where people want for nothing. A personalised music box has the “Wow!” factor that changes everything. Big companies such as Ferrari, Mercedes and Maybach also come to us with special orders.
What if the recipient doesn’t like music?
Music is optional, provided the person in question is won over emotionally! That’s what matters. You have to adapt to the client, to their requests, expectations and culture. If they want a music box made of precious wood, with a specific ornament or in a specific shape, that tells a story, but where the musical aspect is secondary, we’ll make it! We are making a work of art. In the Orient, for example, gift giving is a strong tradition. You must always bring a gift if you are invited to a friend’s house, and they will offer one in return.
Which is your favourite creation, from the models you presented at Baselworld?
All of them! (Laughter) I’m particularly fond of the Vivaldi box, which has a very traditional aesthetic. It is made of macassar ebony, with wood marquetry and mother-of-pearl detailing. The tree on the lid represents the four seasons, and one season is depicted on each side of the box. Then there’s the Mysterious, which is inspired by the iconic rose window. It’s a symbol of purity, love, the sun and the cycles of life, and it draws on the worlds of flowers, architecture and religion. It is deeply symbolic.