Here is a brief overview of some of the best-known manufacturers of petanque boules.
La Boule Obut is the world’s largest manufacturer of competition boules.
The OBUT trademark was created in 1955 by Frédéric Bayet, a lock manufacturer in St-Bonnet le Château. New fully automatic production machines were designed by Antoine Depuy, a talented mechanic. Due largely to the efficiency of its automated manufacturing techniques, OBUT grew rapidly. In the process, it swallowed up many older boules manufacturers. Today Obut has about an 80% market share for competition petanque boules. It employs about 130 workers, and manufactures over four million petanque boules a year. Today its only serious competitors are Chinese manufacturers, who dominate the world market for cheap leisure boules, and Thai manufacturers (like La Franc and Marathon) who make less-expensive competition boules.
La Boule Bleue — the “blue” ball from Marseille. Still owned by a member of the Rofritsch family, the company has been producing boules since 1904. It is the last boule manufacturer located in Marseille, France.
La Franc Boule is owned by FBT, a Thai sporting-goods manufacturer. They manufacture the least expensive competition-quality boules on the market.
MS Petanque (formerly VMS) is a French brand of boules. It is most famous for its VMS-Plot and Tortue designs.
KTK is the newest manufacturer in France; it started up in 2009.
Brands bought by Obut
Obut is extremely successful because it is a relatively new company, and uses newer and more efficient manufacturing techniques and technologies than the older boules manufacturers. That has enabled Obut to purchase many of the older boules manufacturers. For a number of years Obut continued to sell those boules under their original brand names. In January 2014 Obut adopted its “marquage 2014” policy that all boules sold by Obut should bear the Obut logo. With that policy, many older brands permanently disappeared.
JB Petanque and Boules ELTÉ were the oldest manufacturers of steel boules. Both were bought by Obut in the mid-1990s.
La Boule Noire was founded in 1967 near Toulon by Edouard Couloubrier. Originally the brand name was “Couloubrier”, and later changed. It was Couloubrier who created the famous COU line of carbon-steel boules— the COU (semi-soft, 125 Kg/mm2), the CX COU (semi-soft, 120 Kg/mm2), the SUPER COU (soft, 115 Kg/mm2), and the X COU (very soft, 110 Kg/mm2). The brand was bought by Obut in 1985.
Okaro was the original manufacturer of two models of very soft (110 Kg/mm2) boules— Ton’r 110 (carbon steel), and Soleil 110 (inox, stainless steel). The brand was bought by Obut in ? .
Other vanished brands
La Boule Intégrale was the first manufacturer of metal boules with the La Boule Intégrale, a boule made of bronze aluminum alloy.
The company was started around 1923 by Paul Courtieu. Courtieu died in 1972 and the company continued as a family business until Courtieu’s son sold it in 1981. It struggled on for years under different owners, but eventually ran out of money. The business was sold at auction in 2011. The purchasers tried to, but could not, resurrect the brand, and in 2013 La Boule Intégrale was mis en sommeil (put to sleep).
La Boule Idéale
- About the history of boules and boule manufacturers, La Boulètheque.
- Musée de la Boule and English translation
- Pierre Turbang’s page about boules cloutées.