What are the famous Swiss kitchen knives
It is one of the most indispensable components of the product, and it probably gave manufacturers the most headaches in the beginning: the corkscrew on the legendary Swiss Army Army Knife. Because unlike all the blades, scissors, can openers or magnifying glasses, its bulges do not fit perfectly into the construction. It also has to be forged, which appropriately happens in France, the home of great, hard-corked wines.
This makes the corkscrew the only exotic product in an otherwise 100% Swiss product, whose recognition value is probably comparable worldwide to industrial icons such as Coca-Cola, Nike or Apple. Bright red with a bright white cross, the folding knife embodies the Swiss Confederation with its innumerable functions - from the smallest eyelet to large, noble values: "The pocket knife is a symbol of Swiss quality and reliability," says Carl Elsener, the fourth generation runs the family business Victorinox.
Around 120,000 knives leave the factory in the small town of Ibach in the canton of Schwyz every day. That makes 26 million pieces per year, and you can find them not only on every continent, but once even in space. A Swiss Army Knife was part of the basic equipment of every space shuttle mission.
The market is far from saturated, after all, you can choose from 350 different models - from the simple standard knife to the Swisschamp with 33 functions, including combination pliers and wood chisel. As for other companies, China is an enormous growth market for Victorinox: "Imagine we could sell a knife to every Chinese," says Elsener with a dreamy smile. "Fortunately, knives are always lost and have to be replaced."
In 1891, great-grandfather Karl secured an important major order
129 years ago Elsener's great-grandfather Karl opened a cutlery in Ibach in Central Switzerland. Seven years later, in 1891, he secured a reliable major order: he supplied the Swiss Army with the soldier's knife he had developed. This led to the development of the world-famous Swiss Army Knife, which overshadowed the countless household and professional knives that Victorinox also traditionally produces.
The success story almost came to an abrupt, catastrophic end. "The terrorist attacks of September 11th in New York and Washington were the hardest blows in the company's history," says the 55-year-old company boss today. Since the fiery red knives were often sold in duty-free shops at airports and by airlines, sales collapsed practically overnight after the ban on sharp objects on board aircraft. "It was a loss of more than 40 percent," remembers Elsener. "The airports sent us back the products en masse." Even today, Elsener is above all proud that the company survived this catastrophe without having to lay off a single employee. "We have always focused on jobs," he affirmed. "We really see ourselves as one big family, in good times and bad."
One of the ingenious ways in which jobs were saved was the leasing of Victorinox workers to other companies in the area. At the same time, the other parts of the product range have been strengthened. The traditional household knives, as well as watches and luggage, the manufacture of which the company began in 1989 and 1999, respectively, because, as Elsener explains, they wanted to make the brand visible: "Because you can't see a pocket knife, it disappears in your pocket." Shortly before the attacks of September 11, 2001, casual clothing was also included in the range. After the takeover of the competitor Wenger in 2005, which also produces Swiss knives, a perfume line was added later.
"Save in time, then you have an emergency"
A few virtues that sound old-fashioned today have helped: "Save time, then you will be in need", Elsener quotes one of the wisdoms. "We always built up reserves, that saved us back then." "Organic growth" is still in the foreground today: "We don't want to go off like a rocket," says Elsener. "What rises quickly can crash quickly." The crisis, says the company patron, has strengthened the cohesion between employees and management.
Victorinox's unique corporate structure is even more important. The family has given up all ownership claims on the company. 90 percent of the shares are owned by a company foundation, the remaining ten percent of the capital is invested in a charitable foundation. Profits are reinvested in the company to the last penny.
Under these circumstances, it comes as no surprise that Victorinox can only smile sympathetically at radical attempts to cap managerial salaries. Elsener's salary is only about six times the wage of the lowest paid employee. "It's not fashion, it's always been like that with us," he assures us. "The company management shouldn't take itself so seriously." And of course she should always have a pocket knife with her as a "loyal companion" so that you can uncork a bottle of wine if necessary.
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