Learn the History of Wenger and their Version of the Swiss Army Knife

Wenger was formerly named as Boéchat & Cie. When the Swiss Government withdrew their manufacturing contract of the Swiss Army Knife with the Germans in 1908, it was Wenger and another company known today as Victorinox who worked side by side on the manufacturing duties of the Swiss Army Knife. 

Short History 

The Wenger company was founded in 1893 as a knife factory in a small place near Delemont in the Swiss Jura region called Courtetelle. It was not yet the Wenger company that we know today. Its original founder, Paul Boechat, named the company Boechat & Cie. Later entrepreneurs bought the company and renamed it The Fabrique Suisse De Coutellerie SA two years earlier, before Theodore Wenger, a minister who served in the US, returned to Switzerland in 1897. These entrepreneurs hired Wenger and made him a board member. He was later promoted to the director of the company. Wenger, being the new director renamed the company in 1901 to Wenger & Co SA, which was shortened later to Wenger SA, as known today. Wenger’s first mission was to obtain a manufacturer of spoons and forks to expand the products of the company.   

Swiss Army Knife


There were two reasons for the sudden technological development of a specialized standard pocket knife in the Swiss military: (1) the adoption of the 1899 Schmidt–Rubin rifles, which required a screwdriver to disassemble; and (2) the increasing use of tinned food for soldier rations.

Since the manufacturing capabilities of Swiss companies was limited, the government made arrangements with the Germans for the manufacturing and made an initial order of 15,000 knives. These knives were not yet the popular Army Knife of Victorinox and Wenger that contains the cross logo with a red grip, that we know today. It was a penknife made of a dark oak grip that featured four tool: a 100-millimeter spear-point knife, a reamer, a flat-blade screwdriver, and a can opener. This Swiss Army Knife was named Modell 1890. 

Victorinox founder’, Karl Elsener, was not happy with this arrangement and with his company started manufacturing the Swiss Army Knife. At first, Victorinox’ production was a failure since the manufacturing expenses of the Swiss Army Knife were so high that Elsener almost went bankrupt. 

A breakthrough happened when Elsener was able to patent a more refined version for officers, adding a razor blade and a corkscrew. Another was when he was able to find a way to put blades on both sides of the handle, using a shared spring to hold both sides in place. It allowed him to put in twice as many features as the previous multi-tool, allowing six tools to be locked by only two communal springs—which later became a standard for Swiss Army knives. Elsener’s almost bankrupt company was saved and he was able to continue the production of Modell 1890. Wenger was influenced to also manufacture the Swiss Army Knife.  It was only in 1908 that Victorinox and Wenger finally gained the 50-50 manufacturing production contract for the Swiss Army Knife when the government finally withdrew their contract with the Germans.

Since then, Victorinox and Wenger continued to make different knife models and other products that made them uniquely remarkable today. It is said that even though Victorinox and Wenger both worked on the same product, there were differences that made each one unique. 

Wenger and Victorinox Unique Differences

These are the different unique distinction between the knives of Victorinox and Wenger. We should take note that these differences were only applicable before the other company was acquired by the other. You must continue reading for the information.

1. Durability

Both companies use aluminum as separators and martensitic(a descriptive term meant to martensite a stainless steel; a martensite stainless steel is a type of steel with added carbon and a very hard form of crystalline structure) stainless-steel alloy as blades, which is corrosion-resistant. Both knives are assembled the same way: the dividers, springs, and tools are connected using rivets, with an additional spring and separator added for each device. The two companies differ in terms of warranty; Victorinox offers a two-year warranty, while Wenger offers a three-year one to their customers. However, both companies share the same policies against defects.  

2. Sharpness

Due to the same materials used, the two companies are similar in terms of the sharpness of their blades. The knives can maintain their edge for a long time, mainly if they are not used frequently. 

3. Easy to carry

Both companies offer knives in different sizes. Wenger products have additional tools added that are absent in Victorinox models, which makes Wenger’s knives multifaceted but a little bit bigger and heavier.

4. Versatility

Victorinox knives hold on to the idea of simplicity and practicality. Most of their model knives possess only essential tools such as blades, scissors, wood saws, corkscrews, and can openers. They are helpful for everyday purposes. On the other hand, as mentioned above, Wenger offers more tools compared to Victorinox. Its 16999 model Swiss Army knife, called “The Giant,” was awarded as the “multifunctional penknife” by Guinness World Record in 2008, featuring 87 tools capable of 140 functions. 

5. Convenience

Any tool must be convenient, especially if it is needed for emergencies. One of the significant differences between Victorinox and Wenger Knives is how easy they are to open. Even with the same blades and lubrication used, Victorinox is challenging to open, while the Wenger is a smooth experience. Although Victorinox is at a disadvantage in terms of opening, it has recovered its reputation regarding the secure locking system and the efficiency of looking for specific tools since only a few are present in Victorinox knives. Having more is only sometimes beneficial. Imagine possessing a penknife with 87 tools and not finding the right tool for an emergency.

6. Affordability

When it comes to affordability, since Victorinox has fewer tools, they are much more affordable compared to Wenger’s. 

Wenger = Victorinox

After the production of Swiss Army Knives, Theodore Wenger was also successful in producing other products. When he died in 1929, Kaspar Oertli took over Wenger SA. From then on, the company started making watches and luggage as its other products. 

The production of the Swiss Army knife continued to flourish throughout the years until the 9/11 bombing. The attack brought a terrifying crisis to the economy of New York and Washington; and the Wenger Company, regardless of being far from the place of the attack was also affected by this crisis. 

After the 9/11 bombing, sharp objects were prohibited on airplanes. Duty free shops that sold their products in airports saw sales drop by 43% and almost brought bankruptcy to Wenger SA. In 2005, Victorinox acquired the production of Wenger’s Swiss Army Knife, and in 2013, the separate brands for the knives were merged into one. That is why some Victorinox products have Wenger labels on them, and in advertising, Victorinox is labeled as: “Original Swiss Army Knife”, while Wenger is regarded as “Genuine Swiss Army Knife”. Victorinox exclusively manufactured the knives since then. Under their brand, Wenger SA continued to produce other outdoor products, watches, and luggage. 

Final Thoughts

Even with almost the same products they manufacture, Wenger and Victorinox remain strong partners today. Wenger SA believed that the choice of giving up the production of the Swiss Army Knife is not a loss since it is still in “Swiss hands”. Each company manifests the success story that they started many years ago.