Wenger Knives History
|Wenger Knives have a history as interesting as any knife maker in the world. This famous European purveyor of knives has been around for over a century producing fine edged tools specializing in multi-tool configurations but is also well renowned for it's kitchen cutlery, fillet knives and of course watches. Recently, I sat down with Mike Gugliaciello from Wenger and discussed it's illustrious history. The following is a condensed version of that discussion.
The Swiss Army is one of the strongest in Europe. It is a tough, well-trained professional fighting force so formidable that it kept the country from being invaded through two World Wars. Every able-bodied Swiss male is required to serve and remains in the army as a reservist until age 50. As a condition of preparedness, each soldier is provided with the most advanced technology and simplest - a folding pocketknife. The history dates back to 1886 when the Swiss Army decided to equip every soldier with a regulation single-blade folding knife. In 1889, a new rifle was introduced, but to disassemble the rifle, a screwdriver was needed. A decision was then made to create a multi-purpose tool incorporating a knife, screwdriver, reamer and can-opener - The Swiss Army Knife. In 1893 at Courtetelle in the Delemont valley, an industrial cutlery manufacturer of Switzerland, Paul Boechat & Cie - and the future Wenger Knives - received a contract from the Swiss Army to produce knives. In 1895, a group of entrepreneurs from Delemont bought Boechat and built a new plant at Courtetelle. About two years later, Theodore Wenger was hired to be its General Manager. In 1900, he built a new 18,000 square foot facility where both the utensil operations and the Courtetelle cutlery production were incorporated into the new plant now called Fabrique Suisse de Courtetelle at Services. A few years later, Wenger acquired Fabrique Suisse, renamed it Wenger et Cie. and shepherded its growth for the next forty years.
While Wenger began supplying the Swiss Army as early as 1893, the traditional agreement since 1908 has been that Wenger provides half of the Swiss Army Knives to the Swiss Government, thus the company's title as the Maker of the Genuine Swiss Army Knife.
Words instantly come to mind. Powerful words, like precision, craftsmanship, and skill. For centuries the inscription "Made in Switzerland" has carried with it an untainted mystique... an air of quality, and not without reason. Passed from generation to generation, the attention to detail and the devotion to perfection are as natural to the Swiss as the snow in their Alps. Today, Swiss watches can be found on the wrists of kings. Swiss chocolates mark special occasions. And the Swiss Army Knife is the very picture of precision craftsmanship. Swiss pride in upholding this history is your guarantee that every Wenger Swiss Army Knife will live up to its reputation.
There are but a few objects attributed to the hand of men that have been elevated to the vaunted status of "classic". So few have achieved a level of style and function lofty enough to have them designated as the standard by which all others are measured. It will come as no surprise that two of these objects can trace their origins to the same country. That they should come from one company in one small Swiss town, however, must be considered truly remarkable. The Wenger Genuine Swiss Army Knife is as comfortable in the pockets of presidents and kings, explorers and astronauts, as it is serving as the standard issue to the Swiss Army since 1908.