By Nicholas Varangis
Victorinox, manufacturers of the world-famous Swiss Army knife, made a recent announcement that the Victorinox soldier knife is on the official order list of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). This is the first time in the 133 year history of Victorinox that the company has been placed on this exclusive list, one on which is difficult for foreign companies to be placed. In keeping with the Swiss Army knife concept, the “Knife Combat Utility” will fulfill the function of a multitool.
History of the Swiss Army Knife
The Swiss Army knife was born out of the Swiss Army’s desire in the1880s for a small pocketknife for its troops capable of opening cans and disassembling their M1889 rifles. The first of such knives actually came from Germany and were designated the Modell 1890. Not content with outsourcing however, the Swiss Army quickly turned to a Swiss company to produce the knives. The company was founded by Swiss inventor Karl Elsener and his mother, Victoria Elsener. and produced surgical instruments.
Karl Elsener led the way in innovating the Swiss Army knife concept. As is the case for all military equipment, the soldiers in the field were eager to offer their opinions on the gadget. Critiques from some military officers led to two new and improved designs in 1896 and 1897 invented by Karl Elsener.
The company would go through two name changes. First, in 1909, Karl Elsener renamed the company Victoria in memory of his mother’s death. In 1921, the company was renamed Victorinox, after the company began producing its knives out of stainless steel. Inox is the French term for stainless steel.
In 1893, the Swiss Army also commissioned knives from a competitor, Paul Boéchat & Cie, which eventually became Wenger. From 1909, the two companies split their contracts with the Swiss Army, until Victorinox merged with Wenger in 2005. Victorinox continues to produce knives for the Swiss Army, along with dozens of militaries around the world, including Germany, the Netherlands, and France.
More than Just an Army Knife
While the term Swiss Army knife has become synonymous with designs from Victorinox, the company’s greatest source of revenue comes from commercial sales.
Paul Camenzind, in charge of Victorinox’s department for soldiers, spoke to Swiss news site Luzerner Zeitung: “The business with soldiers’ knives makes up only a very small part of our turnover, and the civilian business is much bigger”
According to Luzerner Zeitung, Victorinox is hoping that sales to the U.S. military will boost brand recognition in the U.S. commercial market. A weak Euro has weakened Swiss exports in Europe, making the U.S. an attractive market place.
Image source: Wikipedia