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Reuge - Putting the spotlight on Reuge 2.0

Reuge Putting the spotlight on Reuge 2.0

We spoke with Reuge’s CEO about the traditional music box brand’s role in the watch industry.

Reuge’s presence in a store just metres from the entrance to Baselworld serves as a great analogy for the company’s special position in the industry, not to mention its CEO’s canny approach to business. While the major watch brands finish their daily business at 6pm, when the exhibition officially closes for the day, Kurt Kupper is free to welcome customers until late at night. “Since I am not bound by the opening hours of Baselworld I can receive customers until 9pm, when they have time after Baselworld has closed its doors for the evening. That is my biggest advantage. We were about to close at 9pm one day and an important person stopped by so we stayed until 11pm. Our products need a quiet environment, which I wouldn’t have if I was inside one of the halls.” 

Being in Basel also keeps Reuge in contact with its two main customer groups: watch retailers and luxury watch brands. “We do a lot of work with watch brands,” explains Mr Kupper. “They come to us because they realise that the simple watch box is sometimes just not enough.” Increasingly, however, retailers are also showing an interest in some of the higher end offerings from Reuge. “We also work with retailers. They come to us because we can help them to sell their high-end pieces. With watches costing several hundred thousand francs, an item such as our power boat music box can make a big difference. Rather than just selling at a discount, the retailer can invest in the music box and offer his customer something truly unique that is only available at his store.” 

Putting the spotlight on Reuge 2.0

Byblos Sailboat, 50-piece limited edition © Reuge

Another field in which Reuge excels is collaborations with companies that are either the hottest or the most traditional in the industry, examples being the music boxes developed in collaboration with MB&F and the musical automata developed in collaboration with Frères Rochat. These pieces sell for between 750,000 and 1.5 million Swiss francs. And they do sell. “We sold the 1.5 million Swiss franc piece, so it’s nice to be able to tell customers that we have sold it and that we will not produce another one like it,” beams Mr Kupper. 

Sales and marketing remain a challenge for niche brand, however. “We are looking for additional ambassadors,” the CEO explains. “I don’t mean that in the same sense as watch brands do, or in the sense of more employees. We need people that move in the circles of high society and who have a network. One of our biggest weaknesses is that we are not well known enough. A German jeweller visited us during Baselworld who stocked Reuge until around 2000. I gave him a ten-minute presentation and he was impressed because he thought we still produced just the simple ballerina music boxes. We do still have them, but there is also Reuge 2.0, which is something entirely different.” 

Reuge has also been successful in concept stores that are further removed from the pure watchmaking world. These seem to fit in with the same idea of success for watch retailers: simply offering the customer more. “Take the Curiosity store in Lausanne, for example,” says Mr Kupper, “they sell everything from garden gnomes to Baccarat crystal. It’s all very beautiful and well though-out and it works. I have seen other examples in other countries that work equally well.”

Reuge also surprised the Geneva business scene by taking over the former De Bethune store in the very heart of the city centre. “People ask me why we have the store in Geneva,” says Mr Kupper, “on the one hand it’s nice to have a small show window, but even more importantly it means that I have a meeting room in Geneva. If I have customers in Geneva and it’s late on a Saturday night I can offer them a coffee and open the shop up. What is even better is that because the shop is only 30 square metres in size and we only have three chairs, their entourage of 20 people have to wait outside so I have the full attention of the VIP [he laughs]. Try doing that with Louis Vuitton, Cartier or Hermès. You would immediately have problems with security and insurance. It’s a different approach.”

Putting the spotlight on Reuge 2.0

Geneva Boutique © Reuge

It was refreshing to talk to Kurt Kupper during Baselworld because of his attitude to business. He recognises the problems that his industry faces but also the opportunities available to him. He also goes to great effort to surround himself with “people who have a vision and strategy” (which explains Reuge’s annual presence at the World Economic Forum in Davos). Moreover, he has a mantra that fits well with the current business environment, without once mentioning e-commerce: “We need to be open for business when the business comes.”

 

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