Mélodies SA

Jean Paul Thorens

Mélodies SA

Jean-Paul Thorens, 1955 director of the music box sector
“Jean-Paul Thorens was born in the Villa Clos des Alouettes in Sainte-Croix, where he spent his childhood, in a family dominated by Hermann Thorens, his grandfather and founder of the company. Like all other members of the family, Jean-Paul Thorens had a place reserved for him in the family business. The sector assigned to him was the music box sector, of which he became director in 1955, his brother Rémy and cousin Robert preferred taking on record-players and research. During the negotiations relating to the takeover of Thorens by Paillard, Jean-Paul intimated that he was interested in pursuing the manufacture of music boxes, so on 17th December 1963 he created Mélodies SA with his father Paul-Hermann and Eugène Mermod, called Fränzi.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

Mélodies SA (1963–?)
“He [Jean-Paul Thorens] took over the factory built in L´Auberson by Louis Jaccard-Bahon, together with the tools, and brought back the Thorens SA music box sector (machines and tooling), the balance of assets and liabilities being sold to Paillard a few days later.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

In 1963, Paillard took over Thorens [...] But Paillard was only interested in premises and staff, so they sold the music box part to Jean-Paul Thorens, who continued production with Mélodies SA. (Piguet 2004, p. 276-285)

“However, Jean-Paul Thorens did not have the right to take the staff of the old factory with him to L´Auberson, which he was really interested in doing. He therefore took on staff locally for his workshops, as well as from the home industry. Mélodies SA took over all know-how, the patents, the products, the brand name and the reputation of Thorens and in its publicity insisted on the renown of the Swiss quality since 1883 of the company.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

“He also took over customers and agents in many countries, a market which the boss maintained through regular visits to the main agents as well as the major international toy fairs. Paul Margot, cabinetmaker in L ´Auberson (the company subsequently run by his son Denis) was general representative for Switzerland at the time. The latter bought movements from Mélodies, made the boxes, and assembled and sold them in the country.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

“Even today [1983], the Thorens music boxes are still made by hand, with the same precision as 100 years ago”
“In its advertising, Mélodies claimed: ‘Even today, the Thorens music boxes are still made by hand, with the same precision as 100 years ago. Each movement is tuned individually in order to guarantee that characteristic crystal-clear sound over the entire musical range. The boxes are produced in small quantities and, depending on the models, decorated with precious inlay.’ (Thorens 1983 catalog) “  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

“Thorens also took over a market very few people occupied, which was not as saturated as the twelve and eighteen note movements and far more lucrative: the middle-range, i.e. the twenty-eight-note to seventy-two-note interchangeable cylinder boxes, playing up to six tunes, as well as the small format disc-playing boxes which were unique Thorens products. Jean-Paul Thorens developed new models for his whole product range. They were a commercial success.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

To distinguish between small and very small movements click here.

“The company was obliged to expand the factory in the Grand-Rue. It employed about thirty people in its workshops and as many at home. Thereafter it made complete movements, except for the bedplates machined at Le Repuis (socially oriented institution) in Grandson, and benefited from the rapid growth of the postwar boom years.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 262-264)

The slumps of 1973, 1979 and 1985
“In 1973, there was a sudden slump in the music box market as a result of the fall of the dollar and the oil crisis, a phenomenon repeated in 1979 and yet again in 1985. Consequently, orders stopped coming in and jobs became scarce.“  (Piguet 2004, p. 263-264)

1985: Sold to Reuge
Jean-Paul Thorens, who was a jack-of-all-trades (deutsch: Alleskönner) in the company and supervised administration as well as production, was nearing retirement age. He could therefore no longer see much future in this type of activity. He understood that his son did not show any interest in the business, and so the time had come to hand over the reins. He decided to sell the company to Reuge, which had excellent reasons to be interested. On 18th march 1985, the general assembly of Mélodies SA consecrated the takeover by Reuge SA and some time later, the move to the Lador SA premises took place, the latter company having been bought out also. This made Reuge the most important manufacturer of music boxes. With this operation, it killed two birds with one stone. First, Reuge got its hands on a prestigious brand name and, secondly, it took over the most interesting part of production – that of the small disc boxes, thus becoming the sole manufacturer. In addition, the operation allowed them to fill a gap in their product range“  (Piguet 2004, p. 263-264)