Watchmaker De Bethune just acquired Reuge, a 155-year-old Swiss maker of music boxes and automatons

De Betune X Reuge

Reuge will be run by the De Bethune team of Denis Flageollet, co-founder and master watchmaker, and Pierre Jacques, CEO

De Bethune is entering the mechanical music machine business. The independent watchmaker, known for its complications and bold designs with cobalt blue elements, has acquired a majority stake in Reuge, the 155-year-old Swiss maker of music boxes and automatons, including singing birds.

De Bethune specialises in complications, with a traditional-meets-modern design aesthetic that combines classic Roman numerals with bullet-shaped or fully articulated lugs, ogive (pointed) arch elements and 3-D shapes, including spherical moon phases and unusually shaped hands. De Bethune was acquired last year by WatchBox, the global pre-owned watch platform, but is operated independently. Reuge will be run by the De Bethune team of Denis Flageollet, co-founder and master watchmaker, and Pierre Jacques, CEO. They will be co-CEOs of Reuge, while Amr Alotaishan, the current CEO, will continue to be a steward of the brand, serving as a strategic advisor and member of the Reuge board.

De Betune X Reuge
An artisan works on a Reuge music box

Reuge’s music machines are driven by mechanically wound comb-and-pin cylinders—referred to as movements, as in watchmaking—some of which can play several tunes. They typically play note-for-note classical compositions, but also modern music. Reuge has collaborated on several projects with watchmaker MB&F on unique clock/music box objects. The Reuge/MB&F MusicMachines 1 through 3, for example, play rock tunes and movie themes, including Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, and the themes from Star Wars, Star Trek and The Empire Strikes Back. Instead of resembling traditional music boxes made of exotic woods and marquetry, they resemble spaceships and are made of steel and aluminium.

De Betune X Reuge
Reuge x MB&F MusicMachine1 Reloaded

No word yet about upcoming co-branded projects between De Bethune and Reuge, but collaborations seem likely, and will no doubt be creative, technically outstanding and will include the colour blue. Both De Bethune and Reuge are based in Sainte-Croix, a village in the Jura Mountains, one of Switzerland’s key watchmaking regions. Both create high-end pieces in very limited editions. “Together, the two Sainte-Croix-based companies will expand their technical vocabulary, developing synergies to accelerate the renewal of art mechanics,” said a statement announcing the acquisition.

The BethuneReuge

This article was first published on Robb Report USA