In 1884, the cutler Karl Elsener opened his own workshop in Ibach, a small village in the heart of Switzerland. Just seven years after founding his company, Elsener approached the Swiss government about supplying the Swiss army with knives manufactured in Switzerland, rather than importing them from Germany—and started a remarkable Swiss success story. He went on to develop the Swiss Officer’s and Sports Knife – now the iconic Swiss Army Knife – in 1897, creating the foundation for a flourishing company that would be able to hold its own on the world stage.
In 1909, in part to distinguish his knives from competition, Elsener started putting the Swiss Cross on all his knives. It was also in this year that Elsener named his company “Victoria” after his mother, who had recently passed away. In 1921 the company started using newly invented stainless steel to make the Swiss Army Knife. Stainless steel is known as "inox", short for the French term acier inoxydable. "Victoria" and "inox" were then combined to create the portmanteau "Victorinox", the name still used today.
When Karl Elsener founded the company, he had a revolutionary idea in mind. He was looking for a compact and sturdy knife, which offered many functions combined in a single tool. What he developed has long become a legend: the Original Swiss Army Knife. Today, more than 130 years later, Victorinox is still in the hands of the Elsener family. This family business is now run by the third and fourth generations. Over the years, both customer needs and technology have changed and the Swiss Army Knife has evolved by responding to these needs, while remaining an essential tool their clients can rely on.
Ever practical, the Swiss Army knife was primarily a tool used by soldiers, which prompted the popular name in English “Swiss Army knife,” a term coined by American soldiers who had difficulty pronouncing their German name, “Schweizer Offiziersmesser,” or “Sackmesser” in the local Swiss-German dialect. To this day, each military recruit (which includes most of the male population, since the Swiss have compulsory military service for all men when they reach the age of adulthood) receives a Swiss Army knife upon beginning their service.
Besides the familiar and iconic Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox also produces household and professional knives, precision timepieces, design-driven yet functional fashion, high-quality travel gear, and fragrances, which all convey a sense of ‘Swissness’. All of the products from the Victorinox have one thing in common, they are an expression of a Victorinox philosophy based on solid values. Impeccable quality combined with great reliability, consistent functionality with innovation, refinement with absolute perfection and iconic design.
But it is not what turned the Victorinox Knife into an icon. It is about the stories their customers experienced in which their products played a vital role: stories about memorable moments of adventure and expeditions on earth, in the sky, and in space. Dramatic stories in which their products contributed to solutions and saved lives. Even stories of prominent encounters where Victorinox knives opened doors, helping to create ties between politicians, opinion leaders and nations. In all of these stories it becomes clear that thanks to the talent of their employees Victorinox have been able to develop products that excel in their functionality, quality and design – making them true companions for life. Victorinox invites you to discover the world of Victorinox and are proud to be a companion for your life.
Swiss Army knives are widely used outside the military. They are multi-functional tools, and many sizes and functional combinations are produced. NASA astronauts have a Victorinox knife as standard equipment. Victorinox knives have also been taken to Mt. Everest and the Arctic. The "Champion", Victorinox's original flagship model, prior to the introduction of the "SwissChamp" in 1986, is in the New York Museum of Modern Art's Permanent Design Collection.
Today, the "Officers' Knife" is available in over 100 different models. The Victorinox headquarters, manufacturing facility, and show room are located in the Swiss town of Ibach. Each day, over tens of thousands of these pocket tools leave the factory. Ninety percent are for export to over 100 different countries around the globe and serve as ambassadors for Switzerland quality and innovation.