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Sainte-Croix village was the renowned centre of the nascent music box industry.
It was this village – whose fame had travelled far and wider – that Charles Reuge discovered in 1865, when he established his first musical pocket-watch shop in Sainte-Croix.

Reuge Manufacture movie: how to create a music box

Kelys & Chirp: when tradition meets innovation

A Reuge music box takes about three months to produce (more if special design and/or complicated movement), during which our craftsmen breathe life and soul into their creations in every step of the creative process. The mastery of many professional skills, some of which are highly specialised for the fabrication of musical boxes, is necessary to produce one of these fine creations. Unique expertise indeed is the secret of mechanical music.

The arranger transforms the score into a tune. He is a magician who masters both technology and music. Many hours’ work are required for the multitude of notes in a piece of music to take the form of a harmonious tune.

A machine drills minuscule holes in the cylinder, in accordance with the positioning established by the arranger. The next step is pinning. Steel wire as fine as a needle is inserted into each hole, before being cut to form a pin.

Each cylinder is inspected visually with utmost care and attention to detail. Using a magnifying glass, a craftsman checks that all pins are perfectly straight and none is missing. If a pin is missing, he uses a “poussette” (pusher) to insert a new one by hand.

The inside of the cylinder is lined with resin, thus sealing each pin in place to ensure high-quality sound. The composition of this resin is one Reuge’s most closely guarded secrets.

Combs, speed governors and spring-housings are stamped from strips of steel or brass. The unceasing movement of these stamping dies, dating from the early 20th century, ensures very high-precision parts.

A drill-bit cuts the teeth in the solid steel comb. Designed and developed by Reuge, this machine creates the combs under the craftsman’s watchful eye.

Hardening gives the comb its desired hardness. Once heated to nearly 800°C, it is plunged into a bath of warm oil. The comb’s extreme hardness is then refined by tempering. Neither too brittle nor too elastic, the comb thus achieves its incomparable sound quality.

Lead is then poured under the comb teeth for the bass notes. Weighted in this way, they produce a clear and rounded sound. A craftsman then saws the lead by hand to create the individual teeth.

Like a piano, a music box comb has to be tuned. The secret of a perfect sound lies in the vibration of the teeth. The craftsman checks their vibration frequency, then uses a grinder to file each tooth to the correct note.

His eyes fixed to a binocular magnifying glass, the craftsman takes each kevlar damper in a pair of tweezers and glues it under the teeth which produce the bass notes. The dampers absorb parasitic vibrations and ensure purity of sound.

Musical movements are assembled entirely by hand. The cylinder, spring-housing, speed governor, trigger and tune indicator are assembled together on the base-plate. The craftsman’s precise gestures then breathe life into the movement.

Fixing the comb is the final and the most delicate assembly operation. The craftsman fixes the comb opposite the pins, neither too close nor too far. The fixer achieves the most perfect sound by relying on his experience and his musical ear.

After a final inspection, the movement is inserted into its box. The factory craftsman closes the lid with emotion, knowing the enchantment it will create when its owner opens it.

THE ART OF MECHANICAL MUSIC
For more than a century and a half, Reuge’s mechanical music has rung out and it still strikes a chord in people’s hearts. Thanks to Reuge, they can still recall the sounds of childhood despite time’s relentless advance. When one day, a certain period in their life, or even their entire life strikes too many wrong notes, the enchanting tune of their music box is there. Through these sounds, a woman finds peace after work. A man finds total tranquillity, as a sweet tune blends with the delicate fragrance of incense. A child sits quietly dreaming beside a music box as if held in a mother’s embrace; and an elderly woman forgets the weight of her years as her soul dances to the sound of the melody. Year after year, Reuge finds itself at the crossroads of these stories of extraordinary lives. The company is not only at the origin of this extraordinary music but also of the very particular effect it produces. The modern age has not just dressed old sounds in new clothes. It has also raised the question of “why” ? Why does a music box calm the innermost self? What happens exactly? Will the sounds heard today embellish, calm or enrich life for yet another hundred years? Will music boxes – the MP3 player of the early 20th century, indeed the MP3 player of the future – improve the quality of life and make it more sophisticated simply because it produces more than just music ? Reuge makes that music. It is up to you to listen! That for, Reuge owns very special and specific expertise like the following: A. Movement of 144 notes … infinite wealth of tunes, absolute machining precision and exceptionally finely finished parts …

Reuge musical movements benefit from the priceless heritage of music makers. They are still manufactured today in accordance with an art dating back centuries. An infinite wealth of tunes, absolute machining precision and exceptionally finely finished parts – these are the hallmarks of Reuge musical movements from the 5,000 pins of a Cartel Inter movement cylinder with bells to the blued steel screws used to fix a 36-note comb. With four tunes per cylinder, the Cartel movement is to mechanical music what the tourbillon is to watchmaking. A marvel of complexity and precision, it comes in three versions. With a special winding mechanism, the Cartel brings a rich repertoire of classical music to life thanks to its 3,800 pins. Enhanced with a chain spring-housing, the Cartel Fusee ensures the cylinder rotates at a perfectly constant speed until the running reserve is depleted. The interchangeable cylinders of the Cartel Inter, with their bells and a drum, play concertos, operas and symphonies just like a real symphony orchestra. The Sublime Harmony is the musical movement for the great classical tunes. Its two 72-note combs are tuned separately. The music makers developed this specific technique to give the arranger access to a greater number of notes, so that he could bring to life the masterpieces of the great composers. Plucked by some 2,200 pins, the 144 teeth of a Sublime Harmony movement produce an incomparable musical enchantment. Three tunes per cylinder, crystal-clear notes, rounded sounds - in short, sublime harmony. B. Movement of 72 or 36 notes … grand opera overtures, majestically orchestrated waltzes and finely arranged minuets …

The 72-note movement, entirely hand-assembled in its workshops with a conventional casing respecting the tradition of classical music, is the heart of the Reuge collection. The cylinder’s perfection harks back to the golden age of mechanical music, evoking a time when craftsmen working by daylight pinned each cylinder by hand – three tunes for the changing movement, fifteen for the interchangeable. The inexhaustible classical repertoire and Reuge’s tradition of fine craftsmanship were combined in one movement. A love of music. The craftsmen developed the interchangeable movement for those whose passion is music. It has an ingenious cylinder changing device: two levers free the cylinder then hold the shaft of the new cylinder in place. The musical horizon is thus opened up to other magnificent works: grand opera overtures, majestically orchestrated waltzes and finely arranged minuets – the transcription of a world of music through a single movement. In its 36-note version, the art of mechanical music takes on the form of a carefully executed movement. The most famous pieces by of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Vivaldi and Johannes Brahms are recognisable from the very first few seconds that the pins have begun to activate the comb notes. Music lovers never tire of their favourite tunes on the 36-note movement. This is authentic mechanical music in miniature form. C. Contemporary movements … Reuge has created and developed a special « Côtes de Genève » motif …

THE CONTEMPORARY MOVEMENT AND THE LATEST MUSIC BOX
In 2003, a revolution began within the walls of the Reuge Manufacture as the musical movement underwent a technical and aesthetic transformation. The comb and cylinder, always the essential parts of the music box, were now placed in a radically new environment. The contemporary movement now shines with an audacious metallic brilliance. The blued steel screws contrast subtly with the polished surfaces. Inspired by prestige watchmaking, Reuge has created and developed a special “Côtes de Genève” motif, giving the base-plates a delicate undulation. The jewels set in the speed governor are an understated reflection of the hundreds of hours of research required to develop the contemporary movement. A spring-housing and on/off button of a completely new style add the finishing touches to this harmonious design. The golden brilliance of the traditional movement highlights the music makers’ genius. The result of many years of development, it is still manufactured in accordance with their professional standards. A cylinder in polished brass, a stamped spring-housing struck with the «REUGE» logo and over 80 parts assembled by hand. When the notes of a tune ring out on a traditional movement, the listener is hearing the magic of one hundred and fifty years of history. D. Cabinet-making … prestigious in execution, timeless in spirit, Reuge boxes …

A Reuge musical movement, the result of mechanical perfection and acoustic magic, is raised to the rank of a work of art as soon as it finds its place in its sumptuous case, a true resonance box. Noble in material, prestigious in execution, timeless in spirit – Reuge boxes draw their strength from the unique skills of box-makers and the artistry of inlayers. Thanks to long experience, the box-makers select the finest quality wood on the basis of odour, timbre and vibration. As is nature’s way, these woods, which are both beautiful and history laden, may not be flawless. They are meticulously inspected for flaws and blemishes prior to selection. Reuge music boxes invite you on a journey of discovery to the distant lands that are the source of the many varieties of wood used. African mahogany surprises with its stylised veining; burr amboyna from the Far East scintillates with its reddish brown and pinkish-yellow reflections; Brazilian rosewood intoxicates with the warmth of its hues; Lebanese cedar seduces with its charming and characteristic odour and burr walnut from California fascinates with the depth of its purplish-red veining. In manufacturing its boxes, Reuge is committed to respecting traditional skills that are ideal for ensuring the sound quality of its boxes. Pine, for example, is used to make the double baseplate of certain boxes because it optimises the musical movement’s resonance. E. Wood inlay … a delicate harmony of woods combining honey blondes with the darker hues of the rarest of woods …

The centuries-old art of inlay requires rare skills that Reuge inlayers practise with passion and rigour. The quality and refinement of their art plunges us into a world where silence and intricacy dominate, reproducing original themes that can be replicated ideally in a delicate harmony of woods, combining honey blondes with the darker hues of the rarest of woods. The inlayer’s work takes place in three steps. It begins with a drawing that must be as precise as possible since it will guide the inlayer through his work. Each piece of the drawing is numbered and then allocated a type of wood and finish. Next begins the delicate, triple operation of cutting, assembling and gluing the wood. The inlayer then promptly becomes a veritable surgeon, using an extremely fine saw to cut the smallest pieces that are rarely more than 0.7 mm thick. This puzzle, sometimes with as many as 1,800 pieces and 30 types of wood, becomes the basic component in a kaleidoscope of colours, textures and hues. Most of the parts are then plunged into hot sand to create shadowing that will bring the overall result to life. Next the puzzle is assembled, a procedure that is charged with emotion, and requires absolute concentration. Each piece is individually positioned, revealing, step-by-step, the splendour of the ornamental decoration. The inlay assembly is then placed in a press to ensure the glue’s enduring adhesion. Sanding and varnishing are the final and hand-finished steps that accentuate and animate the inlayer’s sublime art. F. Singing Birds … the secret of singing birds is the complex interplay of cams driven by the movement …

Multicoloured birds with brilliant plumage and melodious song come to life in beautiful cages, hide in richly decorated boxes or pop out of an alarm-clock at dawn. What could be more fascinating than this mechanical object ? Wondrously, it imitates the harmonious song and the gracious movements of birds. Today, this magic lives on thanks to Reuge, the only company in the world still making prestige singing birds and, in so doing, carrying on this extraordinary tradition. Reuge singing birds bring exceptional objects to life. Finely wrought, the cages are a modernday version of the tradition of precision and excellence that was so dear to Blaise Bontems. Rare mechanical creations, the singing bird boxes belong to the enchanted world of automata. Created from an encounter between time and mechanical music, the alarms are a contemporary illustration of this unique heritage. Entirely hand-assembled, a singing bird movement comprises more than 250 parts. At its heart is the spring-housing drum. Inside, the single spring provides the energy; outside, the finely toothed crowns operate the cams. The secret of the singing birds is their complex interplay. Some cams drive the bellows that inject air into the whistle to create the birdsong, others activate the bird to open its beak, beat its wings and turn around in a circle. … with a small brush in one hand and the bird in the other, the craftsman dresses the singing bird …

The craftsman applies all his skill in assembling the singing bird mechanism designed almost two centuries ago. Wearing a binocular magnifying glass, with precise and rigorous handling, he assembles the 250 or so parts that form the movement: gears, springs and cams. One by one, each piece takes its place in the overall mechanism. With patience and minute attention to detail, the bird is brought to life. Once its final adjustments are made, it produces a song that so precisely and so perfectly imitates the call of a real bird that it could easily be mistaken for one. The automaton bird driven by its movement is comprised of twenty-five parts. The bird’s feathering alone requires four hours of painstaking work. With a small brush in one hand and the bird in the other, the craftsman dresses the singing bird. He selects each feather for its colour, texture and brilliance; he then cuts it and glues it to the automaton, first the tail and the wings, next the body and lastly the head, for which the finest feathers are reserved. Each bird is unique, bearing the hallmark of its creator. Once the assembly, adjustment and feathering are complete, it is time for the bird to enter a magnificent cage, a precious singing bird box or an avant-garde alarm. With the utmost care, the Reuge craftsman places the movement in the case where it will reside. In their hands, this automaton becomes the soul of an exceptional mechanical object. G. Watchmaking pieces … combining sweet tunes with automaton movements …

THE MEETING OF TIME AND MECHANICAL MUSIC
Reuge is committed to ensuring that the heritage of Charles Reuge lives on through its exceptional pocket watches. It pays tribute to one of the oldest watchmaking traditions: automaton watches. Unlike a standard watch, these timepieces, assembled by the master watchmaker in Sainte-Croix, expressed the full breadth of Reuge’s personality. Through these creations, he placed his signature on the history of watchmaking. Guido Reuge held pocket watches with music and automata particularly dear. He was keen to bring together the watchmaker’s skills with the craftsman’s expertise: the meeting of time and mechanical music. Incorporating the cylinder and comb into a watch movement was a challenge. Combining sweet tunes with automaton movements was a success. Watchmaking pieces beyond compare: a combination of technical expertise and music. The unique feature of Reuge pocket watches with music and automata lies in their finely chiselled figurines. The watch movement’s complex gear trains preside over the destiny of these small animated characters. Charming dioramas that turn a pocket watch into a unique object. Each one has a magic moment that can be viewed by simply pressing the pushbutton that activates the automaton’s graceful movement.