Swiss Army Knife

Swiss Army Knife is exported all around the world and although its now produced in a huge variety of shapes, but when people see one anywhere in the world they still know what they are looking at and where it comes from.

The Swiss Army Knife is easily the most recognised symbol that Switzerland produces. Its simple, practical design makes it an indispensable part of living and it is so firmly fixed in popular culture that there has even been a Television series that revolved around it (The actors probably thought it revolved about them, but they were wrong). With its multiple blades and clever design, it can tackle a multitude of tasks from peeling an apple to rescuing someone trapped in a wrecked car, as long as you have the right model.

The Schweizer Offiziersmesser, or Swiss Officers Knife, to give it its proper title, was first introduced in 1891 by Karl Elsener who had taken over production of the Officers knife from Soligen in Germany. In 1896 he produced the new knife that featured a novel system that allowed blades on both sides of the knife to use the same spring, so double the number of implements could be incorporated.

Over time, the design developed with the introduction of new materials. After Elsener started using stainless steel in 1921, he changed the company name to include his mother’s name, Victoria and the French word for Stainless steel, acier inoxydable, or inox for short, creating the new name Victorinox.

Elsener did not have the field to himself though. In 1893 a rival company, Paul Boéchat & Cie, began producing a similar product. The new company was bought by its general manager, Theodore Wenger who changed the company name to Wenger.The Swiss government split the contract to supply the army and both companies got half each.

After 9/11, the market for the Swiss Army Knife was hit hard as airport security measures meant that knives could no longer be bought at airports and carried on board. This was a very lucrative market for the both Victorinox and Wenger and the sudden drop in revenue forced a diversification into other areas, especially for Wenger who produced watches, luggage and sports clothing. Despite the new lines, Wenger got into financial difficulties and in 1996 was bought out by Victorinox. Wenger is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Victorinox and retains its own logo and product range.

Tags: | Switzerland | Technology |


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