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Wilkinson Sword

Wilkinson Sword was founded by Henry Nock in 1772 in London. A century later, that small storefront business introduced the razor that would redefine shaving. However, over time the company began to diversify and develop its product lines, going on to manufacturer a wide range of items such as bayonets, typewriters, garden shears, scissors and even motorcycles!

Nock’s grandson, Henry Wilkinson, expanded business into sword making, establishing Wilkinson Sword Co., LTD. In 1890, Wilkinson Sword started to produce cut-throat, or straight razors. The company also began to develop other cutting edges, and particularly, one of the first safety razor designs. By 1896, the company had hit upon a new design featuring a hollow, rounded singe-edged blade. That razor became known as the Pall Mall, launched in 1898.

Cutting edges remained a company staple with the company's production became vital to the British war effort during World War I, with a contract for two million bayonets. Following the war, the company turned its production of cutting edges to a new area, that of pruning shears and gardening equipment. Wilkinson Sword soon grew into the United Kingdom's leading manufacturer in this market

Meanwhile, sword production had become a fading sector. By the outbreak of World War II, the bayonet had become more and more outmoded, and Wilkinson Sword's orders for that conflict amounted to just 10,000 bayonets. Steel shortages throughout the conflict also limited the company's razor blade production.

Carbon steel shortages continued to slow Wilkinson Sword's production in the years immediately following World War II. In the 1950s, however, the company began developing a new generation of shaving blades using stainless steel. For this effort, the company formed a joint-venture with Germany's Osberghaus KG, based in Solingen. By 1955, the partners had begun full-scale manufacturing of the world's first stainless steel blade, which was launched onto the consumer market the following year.

In 1962, Wilkinson Sword introduced stainless steel razor blades and soon the company's blades made rapid gains in shares of the market, because one blade, though somewhat more expensive, could be used for a week. The earlier carbon steel razor blades rusted quickly enough that many people used a several new blades a week. So, although Wilkinson gained a larger percentage of the market, the demand for razor blades declined to approximately 14 percent of its previous level. This introduction gave Wilkinson a substantive market share and previous market leaders quickly responded by introducing their own stainless blades. The technology had been available for some time, but the market leaders such as Gillette, which held a patent on stainless blades, presumably knew that any gain for them in market share would be overwhelmed by the dramatic reduction in the size of the market.

In 1970, Wilkinson Sword invents the world’s first user-replaceable razor “cartridge,” the predecessor to all modern cartridge-based systems

In 2000, the company closed its razor blade plant in the UK and consolidated production in Germany where they continue to this day.

Wilkinson Sword—Free your skin.

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