Reuge SA

I don't know the elevation here in Sainte-Croix, a town of about 4,500 inhabitants, but it's high. Why am I so sure? Oh I don't know, maybe it's the ski lifts visible on the nearby hillsides.

Back in 1865 watchmaker Charles Reuge settled here to make musical pocket watches. His son Albert opened a workshop specializing in musical movements. Reuge Music was a family run business until 1988 when a group of Swiss investors purchased the company.

It's a five-minute walk from Sainte-Croix's city center to Reuge's four-story head office/factory. Built it 1929, the building looks and smells more like a gritty industrial factory manufacturing ball bearings than a place where fancy (and very expensive) music boxes are made. In the picture accompanying this story, the Reuge building is the long white structure in the middle of the photo. I took the picture from far away to make sure the grazing cow was included.

You can't just walk into the building but have to be buzzed in. I'm greeted by Myriam Alliman, personal assistant to the CEO, who answers questions and shows me around.

A total of 99 people works here and in a similar building a block down the street. By similar I mean the other building is just as old and gritty as this one. There's plenty of employee parking, smoking is allowed in the workplace and it's an hour and a half to Geneva's airport. There's no dress code, no recreational facilities and no company cafeteria-although there is a break room.

CEO Aldo Magada occupies a large corner office on the top floor. I note the laptop, three real plants and the great view of the scenic hillsides. Of course Magada has music boxes in his office-five to be exact. However, my favorite is the singing birds in the cage. Alliman winds it up and the realistic-looking birds start crooning away. The price? Alliman isn't sure but says it's in the thousands-as in dollars. Which reminds me, several large antique music-playing contraptions liven up the otherwise sparse décor in the reception area-by large I mean they're bigger than a jukebox.

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