Origins of Swiss Army Knife

Wenger and Victorinox are distinct companies. But both are owned by the Elsener family, with the great-grandchildren of Karl Elsener still overseeing production and managing a business that employs thousands of Swiss workers.

In Ibach, after a tour of a factory where up to 28,000 Swiss Army Knives are made every day, I sat down with Charles Elsener, one of the great-grandchildren of the company’s founder. He pulled a couple knives from his pocket and started snapping blades and implements out for show.

Original Ibach facility (top) and new Victorinox headquarters, also in Ibach

Charles Elsener talked about the hidden springs on which the blades and screwdrivers snap open and closed. It was a type of this spring mechanism, invented in the original Ibach cutlery, that made Swiss Army Knives stand out 100 years back.

From 1897, the Swiss Army Officers Knife

At my meeting this summer, Charles Elsener spoke about new implements, test products, and the science of metallurgy for making a perfect blade. From the factory below, I could hear the machines beat. It’s been 126 years in Ibach. The Swiss Army Knife machine continues to crank on.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of