Friday, November 1, 2013

Victorinox Factory tour

About a month ago I wrote a letter to Victorinox, hoping they would make an exception for me for a factory tour. They are rather difficult to obtain, because of the time it consumes (80-90min.), danger of filming in zones that aren't allowed and interference of the production staff... That's actually the reason they built the Museum in Brunnen, so people always have something to visit without the "interference" in the factory. I was one of the lucky ones and was called a few weeks after i sent the letter. Urs Wyss called me and told me that he received my letter. I only had to mail a date a few days in advance and he would take care of the rest. My first impression of the phonecall was a bit overwhelming... I expected a letter or even a mail, but never expected to be called by the manager of international PR... So after booking a hotel near Brunnen ( the same we always stay), it all went fast... 

Once arrived in Ibach, we went to the Factory shop as asked by Urs Wyss and told that we had an appointment. From there on they told us to go to the reception desk on the second floor... After waiting a few minutes, Urs welcomed us and started the tour with some background information. Walking from the under construction offices to the elevator, we passed Carl Elsener with a kind "hello". This might seem like something small, but for me this was the cherry on the cake. Seeing this guy made the tour complete. The first department we visited was the storeroom for the imported steel (picture A) . this was already impressive untill he told that there was another room beneath the one we were standing on. Next up was the stamping department (picture B). Here are the tools stamped out of the steel bands by large presses. A few tools caught my attention... The machine to produce the philips head screwdriver (picture C) and the one that stamps the Vic-emblem... It's just awesome to see how all my knives are made, step by step...The sound was intense, as you would expect in a factory...For a brief moment he showed us the rather small workshop where they made the templates for every tool and how they were maintained (picture D). It' impressive if you know that Victorinox not only produces knives, but also makes almost every machine (except the electronics) in house. From there on he showed us the vibrating polishing tanks (picture E). These tanks filled with small ceramic stones take care of the sharp edges of every tool they drop in there. Another one with smaller ceramic stones polishes the tools to its final shine... The next step was ofcourse the hardening (picture F). I've seen this about a thousand times on youtube and tv but it's always different when you can feel the heat of the oven and touch the different parts... Next to the oven there's the grinding machine with an extremely low tolerance (picture G). I asked Urs how you can maintain such a low tolerance, even withj grinding wheels that wear contantly. He assured me that everything was adjusted automatically and every now and then they use a micrometer, just to be sure... Next we went to another level and saw where all the finished separate tools go to when they wait for assembly (picture H). Urs told us that the people working in the factory get small "strech excercises" during a day to keep small stress-related injuries to a minimum. I took the chance to ask about their future with Wenger since the name's gonna disappear. In 2014, Wenger produced knives will have Victorinox stamped on the blade, but with the addition Delemont. Ibach produced knives will have the same stamping they now have. The Wenger scissors will be replaced with the Victorinox ones, the Wenger reamer will be replaced with the Victorinox one and the Wenger tweezers and toothpick will be replaced with the Victorinox ones. The Wenger evolution line with wooden scales will stay in production... There's much more info on that behalf, but I only got a small portion... More details will follow during 2014... One more important piece of information is this.... There was a rumour going around that the Victorinox corkscrew was made in Japan and then assembled in Swizerland, but that isn't true. Victorinox has a contract with a company in France for years. They forge the corkscrew in it's basic form and ship it to Victorinox where they polish and assemble it... After the educative tour in the tools-stock he took us to the assembly floor where the knives are assembled by hand in the well-known assembly machines (picture I). Every lock-bladed knife is assembled manually at these machines. Once the knives are assembled they go to the test-department where every knife is tested through and through... On the print-department he showed us the machine that hot-melts logos for companies and the new limited edition classics 2013 (picture J). It pushes a small "sponge" with logo on the scales where they fuse. This is repeated once with a clear coating to protect it from scratches. On the next table there's a woman that slides the scales on the assembled knife and pushes it into a small automated press to snap the scales in place (picture K). The last department was one of mystery. No pictures or filming was allowed and I soon began to understand why. This was the automated department with two lines of knife assembly. One for the four layered 91mm knives and the other 8 layered 91mm knives. This machine does it all. From the smallest detail till the most complicated handling, but I'm not going to give detailed info about this one, since they try to keep this technology in house... We ended the tour back at the reception desk and after receiving both a small gift and a discount coupon (WoopWoop ;) ) I just had to ask for a formal picture with Urs and me... Damn, what a day! :)

Here's me and the owner of the hotel Sternen in Sisikon where we stayed for the past three times we went to Ibach. A great guy with a lot of sympathy for the Victorinox factory since his wife is an employee... ;)

Here's the view from our room over the Vierwaldstattersee in Sisikon... Breathtaking...


  1. This must have been a truly incredible journey. :-)

    Also, the whole factory seems to be very tidy, not only the assembly spots.


  2. good, very good, you do not
    manufactured these knives in China.