Celebrating 125 Years Of Victorinox’s ‘Little Red Knife’ With Mr. Carl Elsener, CEO at Victorinox

THM Desk
3 Nov 2022 |
clock icon5 min read
like image
comment icon image
like image
SUMMARIZEarrow down


A few items stand out from the crowd and become icons, recognized at a glance for their unique style, startling visual appeal, and intuitive usability. The Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox is one such symbol. 1897, a year that marked an important milestone for the brand with the creation of the Swiss Army Knife. From then on, there have been several laurels that make the little red knife a huge success.

Victorinox Anniversary

War is not something we commonly associate with Switzerland. It also isn't a key player in the global steel industry. Despite its humble beginnings as a tool for the Swiss military, the Swiss Army Knife, designed by a professional cutler in Switzerland, has achieved worldwide fame.

The history of the Swiss Army Knife may be traced back to 1897 when Karl Elsener patented the Officer's and Sports Knife, better known today as the Swiss Army Knife. Did you know, the Swiss Army Knife was used in World War II by US Soldiers, marking an important milestone for the brand as the sales grew tremendously?

And now…

This year, Victorinox commemorated the 125th anniversary of the renowned Swiss Army knife that has become the brand's symbol of quality, utility, innovation, and design in an evening filled with insightful conversations at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. At a closed-knit event hosted by Victorinox, we interacted with Carl Elsener, CEO at Victorinox as he shared the renowned tale of the knife and took us through what’s next for the brand.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife, that Victorinox produced for the first time in 1897, served as an inspiration for the company to create many more unique and award-winning goods across a wide range of categories, including household and professional knives, watches, travel accessories, and fragrances. Every year, Victorinox produces 10 million Swiss army knives and 20 million household knives.

For the Indian army and navy too, Victorinox has graced forces like the NSG, SPG, Garud, MARCOS, etc.

It is said that a time capsule was discovered hidden behind some large rolls of steel at the Victorinox headquarters in Ibach, Switzerland. The finder, intrigued by the mystery surrounding the container, took it directly to the office of Carl Elsener, the great-grandson of Victorinox's namesake, Karl Elsener. Together, they opened the capsule and found the first-ever Officers and Sports Knife.

Victorinox Workshop

For those who want to carry on the journey long after this era has passed, Victorinox has released a replica of the original Officer's and Sports Knife. This legendary implement comes in a unique presentation box that doubles as a time capsule and tells the history of the knife it contains. As you unfold the packaging, you are transported back in time and given a first-hand look at the exciting history of the first Swiss Army Knife and its long and winding road to the modern day. When someone opens it, they join the adventure through time.

The appearance of the Replica 1897 is identical to the original, yet it features cutting-edge technology on the inside. Scales made of red vulcanized fiber provide a warm and pleasant grip. The screwdriver's broad blade bears the instantly recognizable embossing of "Elsener Schwyz," and the little blade holds the proof of the patent "Gesetzlich Geschützt," which translates to "protected by law." As for the latter, it was a major selling factor back in 1897. The Replica 1897 is easily distinguished from other pocket knives because of its pointed short blade, original shape corkscrew, precisely integrated awl, and innovative can opener design.

Victorinox Anniversary

This limited edition is available now in Victorinox stores, select points of sale, and online the world over; it makes a great present and will quickly become a collector's item. Limited to only 9,999 pieces, this collectible is presented in a beautiful time capsule and box with an accompanying certificate of authenticity. Each knife is a one-of-a-kind testament to the brand's dedication to traditional craftsmanship and the high levels of utility, quality, and innovation that have come to define the brand since 1897 when the company was founded.

All knives and equipment sold by Victorinox are assured to be made of premium stainless steel, according to the company. Products from Victorinox are built to last a lifetime because they include environmental responsibility and sustainability into their design from the ground up. One property that all goods share is material and labor flaws are covered for the duration of the guarantee. Victorinox is proud of more than Swiss knifemakers with more than 130 years of experience producing cutting tools of the highest quality. Additionally, the replica 1897 comes in enticing Swiss-made packaging.

1_Sorte_VX_Leporello_125Y_2022_FR-DE-EN (002)

“When my great grandfather patented the original Officer’s and Sports Knife in 1897, he had no idea that this was the launch of a truly Swiss icon and the basis for the success story of the company. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all our employees, customers, collectors, and fans of the brand worldwide”, Carl Elsener, CEO at Victorinox says.

But there’s more. Did you know in 2017, Victorinox celebrated the production of its 500 millionth Original Swiss Army Knife by releasing a limited-edition model available solely to workers?

To put this in perspective, consider that Victorinox currently manufactures and sells over 400 unique models of the Swiss Army Knife and other tools, and produces roughly 10 million of them annually. Regularly available models range in features from one (Swiss Army 1 to seventy-three Swiss Army 73, Swiss Champ XXL). The Victorinox Classic pocket knife is the company's all-time best-seller, with sales of over 100 million units. The smallest Swiss Army Knife, the Escort, weighs only 17g, while the heaviest, the Swiss Champ XXL, weighs 353g.

Swiss Army Knife

36% of the Victorinox sales come from pocket knives. From being relevant in the world of today’s digital age, this knife can also be used in space! With constant innovations, they aim to cater to the younger generations. But the brand’s story goes beyond just knives and travel gear.

Victorinox has ventured into the world of watches too! In 1989, they worked along with their old US distribution partner to create the first Victorinox Swiss Army watch series, which was first solely offered in the North American market. The series is currently in high demand all over the world and is produced in the company's Swiss factories utilizing premium parts and supplies and according to exacting quality standards. The models impress with their unmatched longevity, which has been shown in various tests, and combines great quality with a timeless design.

Victorinox Watch

When we asked Mr. Elsener what made them start a watch collection he said, “Most of the time the Swiss Army knife is hidden in your pocket or in your bag. We came to a conclusion to make our brand more visible to have a competitive edge. Our end consumers in our most important markets helped drive this decision. We were quite impressed with the success and that led us to start our own watch manufacturing unit.”

Carl Elsener, CEO at Victorinox

Victorinox is also rebranding from Victorinox Swiss Army to Victorinox. Sharing his thoughts on the same Mr. Elsener said, “We sell all our products under the name Victorinox; watches being the exception. This was a little historical issue as we started selling our watches in the US markets. In those markets, the Swiss Army was more important than Victorinox. Later when we went global, we started to use Victorinox Swiss Army for the watches. But, due to the complications, we want to strengthen the brand as a whole.”

Do you believe the Swiss Army Knife and The I.N.O.X Mechanical Watch share a synergy in terms of functionality? Even though watches account for 10% market share for the brand, the I.N.O.X watch is one to make a roar in the market with its ability to withstand 130 tests! Well, let’s hear what the CEO had to say. “For all the products we have different teams. However, the little red knife is the essence of them all. Its functionality, values, reliability, high-quality, constant innovation, and iconic design is reflected in the I.N.O.X. Whether used outdoors or indoors, our watch retains its quality.”

Victorinox Watch

To end with, Victorinox is known for its various collaborations like the Swiss Army Knife chocolate, The Nespresso cup made out of aluminium, etc. Talking about what’s next for the brand, he said, “We are always open to collaborations. Our Nespresso collaboration was very well-received by the customers.”

Would we also see an aluminum I.N.O.X? Yes, why not! With steel, gold, titanium, and carbon products already, they would love to use aluminum and position our watches in the premium category! In fact, Victorinox is very excited to share news of an innovative shift in the timepiece market.

Victorinox Professional Diver

In 2023, Victorinox watches may expect to see advancements in the form of new product introductions that are both exciting and unified under the brand. Make no mistake: this is genuine Victorinox equipment.

There will be the first glimpse at Victorinox's future design in February 2023 together with the introduction of the brand-new Journey 1884 series. The company's goal for 2025 is to unveil seven exciting new watch collections that represent the ethos of the Swiss manufacturer.

Read more about the I.N.O.X. here