Here’s our interview with Victorinox.
1. Can you tell us a bit more about the roots of Victorinox: when did it start?
Switzerland, 1884. Poverty and unemployment dominate life. Many people have no option but to emigrate. In these circumstances, embarking on any new venture demands immense courage and perseverance. Against this difficult economic backdrop, Karl Elsener opens a cutler’s workshop in Ibach-Schwyz (Switzerland), actively supported by his mother Victoria.Elsener has a clear vision: to build up a prosperous company and create jobs. In 1891, he founds the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers. Together with 27 associates, he applies for a contract to manufacture knives for the Swiss Army. However, he soon suffers a bitter setback when his co-applicants give up after an industrial enterprise in Solingen (Germany) puts in a much cheaper bid.Elsener presses on and ultimately wins the contract – but loses the money he had invested. Relatives come to his aid in this time of dire need, gaining a debt moratorium and averting bankruptcy. Later, following the success of his Officer’s Knife, Elsener voluntarily reimbursed all his creditors with interest and compound interest.The impressive story of the very early days continues to shape the company today. A feeling of solidarity, strong ties with its country of origin and adherence to strong values are the foundations upon which Victorinox is built.
Resounding success of the Swiss Officer’s and Sports Knife
The soldier’s knife issued during this era is very strong but also very heavy. Consequently, Elsener develops a lighter, more elegant and even more versatile knife for officers. This new pocket knife model with just two springs for six tools is named the Officer’s and Sports Knife. He patents the design on June 12, 1897.Unlike the soldier’s knife, the Officer’s Knife (now known as the Swiss Army Knife) did not officially become part of the kit carried by the Swiss Army. However, that did not impact on its success. Sales reached a new high after the Second World War, with the PX shops of the U.S. Army, Marines and Air Force selling large volumes of the Swiss Army Knife to soldiers stationed in Europe. From that point on, the knife’s global reputation and the demand for it rocketed.Over the years, more tools with new functions were added to the Swiss Army Knife. The Officer’s Knife is now available in over 100 different versions and combinations. The top model is the SwissChamp, which has 33 functions and 64 individual components, weighs just 185 grams and is excellent to handle. Some 450 procedures are involved in its manufacture.
Sales in over 120 countries
Each day, around 28,000 Swiss Army Knives (100 different models) and 32,000 other pocket tools (260 different models) are produced at the head office in Ibach-Schwyz (Switzerland) and in Delémont, along with 60,000 items of household, kitchen and professional cutlery. Of the items produced, 90% are exported abroad to over 120 countries. In addition, Victorinox has been permitted to make the soldier’s knife for the Swiss Army since 1891.
2. Where are the Victorinox main headquarters located?
The headquarter of Victorinox is based in Ibach-Schwyz, in the central part of Switzerland. This is near to the place where Switzerland was founded in 1291.
Victorinox headquarters in Ibach-Schwyz.
3. What’s the most popular Swiss Army Knife that you sell?
It’s our Spartan model with 12 functions. It is by the way the same model, our founder has invented and protected on 12th June 1897.
The Spartan today.
Spartan 12th June 1897.
4. What is the most expensive Swiss Army Knife ever produced? Are there any limited editions?
The most expensive knife was a Swiss Army Knife with platinum handles and 800 diamonds for 130.000 US$.
We launch every year a limited edition. This could be a knife with special handles made out of wood, aluminum or other materials or knives with a special imprint on the handles.
The most expensive Swiss Army Knife with platinum handles and 800 diamonds for 130.000 US$
5. What sets you apart from the competition in the kitchen knife industry?
I’m convinced it is more than 130 years of experience in knife manufacturing which makes this wonderful quality and all this to a very interesting price benefit ratio.
6. How can home cooks keep Victorinox kitchen knives sharp?
Best steel and professional workmanship as well as correct blade hardness and laser-tested cutting angle guarantee a high edge retention. Victorinox also offers a nice assortment of very efficient sharpening utensils. They are handy and easy in use and bring very good results in sharpening.
7. Do Victorinox workers carry a Swiss Army Knife with them, as an Everyday carry knife?
It is assumed that every employee is carrying a Swiss Army Knife with him. A pocket knife on the keychain or in the trouser pocket, an Army knife in the daypack or the handbag or they carry it
in a belt pouch. Most of our employees own several Swiss Army Knives.
8. Can you tell us a surprising story about the Swiss Army Knife?
Here is one: “During an excursion to the Swiss mountain region of Puschlav, our train stopped suddenly on the tracks. Curious, my wife and I stuck our heads out of the window to see thick smoke coming from one end of the train. The train conductor and driver had disembarked the train, discussing rapidly how best to deal with the problem. Finally, a passenger seated under our window asked for a pocket tool. I dug out my Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. A few minutes later following some amateur engineering, the train began moving again. The conductor later returned my Swiss Army Knife, saying he’d used it to fix the loose stud bolt of the brake hose. He thanked me excessively – as if I were a hero. I decided to suggest to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) that all members of the train crew be equipped with Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. Dieter Portmann, August 2005.”