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SWISS KNIVES: WENGER VS VICTORINOX

Those who are acquainted with blade weapons, and in particular Swiss knives, will know about the protracted debate which has gone on between Victorinox and Wenger. There has been no shortage of blogs and forums where enthusiasts of these knives and penknives have expounded, to greater or lesser effect, their opinions on each brand. Nonetheless, for those who are starting out in this vast world of Swiss knives or simply want to find out a little about this subject, they can do so from the lines which follow.

Wenger Swiss knife with 85 functions

The history of the Wenger and Victorinox companies is linked almost from their beginnings, and is also connected with the origins of the Swiss knife. As has happened since the beginning of time, human beings have adapted to whatever medium presents itself, inventing new technology and mechanisms which could help them to overcome obstacles. In other words, when man comes face to face with a crossroads, he develops something which helps him to overcome it. In the case of the Swiss knife, it was the need of the country’s army which brought about the manufacture of the multipurpose tool. In 1886 the Swiss Army needed an instrument which could cut and at the same time permit them to dismantle the rifle which they used during their military operations.

For this purpose, it was the knife designer Karl Elsener who in 1891 founded the Swiss Association of Knife makers, in which 25 Swiss companies participated. It was this association that manufactured the knife with which the Swiss army was supplied, the so-called ”soldier’s knife”. This tool had a wooden handle and comprised various uses which went on to form part of the legendary pieces of a Swiss knife: screwdriver, spoon, hole punch or reamer and tin opener. Nonetheless, the dreams of the Association of Swiss Knife makers were thwarted prematurely when it couldn’t meet the high demand from the Army; besides this a German company in Solingen began making this new “multi-tool knife at a lower price. These events brought about the break-up of the Association.

Soldier knife made in 1891 by the Swiss Association of Cutlers led by Victorinox founder: Karl Elsener

Nonetheless, the efforts of Karl Elsener didn’t stop there. This Swiss artisan helped by the economic and moral support of family and friends, succeeded in maintaining the production of his own workshop, which had been founded in 1884. The “soldier’s knife” had certain aspects which could be improved on, and for this reason Elsener continued working on and enhancing it. On 12 June 1897 the so-called “Swiss knife for Officers and Sports” which was lighter and neater was registered; although the major innovation of this knife lay in the two unique springs which successfully incorporated six utensils (along with the four original ones on the “soldier’s knife”, a corkscrew and blade were added).This Swiss knife was less successful than the first one since the army did not adopt it as part of its military equipment. Elsener’s company continued working, and in 1909 adopted its definitive name and company logo. Victoria Elsener-Ott, Karl’s mother, died, and in her honour “Victoria” was chosen as the company’s corporate name. Years later, in 1921 to be precise, when stainless steel was discovered and the “Victoria” knife and penknife company started to use it in its factories, the definitive name of the company was adopted: Victorinox.

The future of the Victorinox company wasn’t shaped alone. In 1893 the firm Paul Boechat y Cía, which was the second largest knife company in Switzerland, began to manufacture a knife for the Swiss army similar to the one produced by Victorinox. This company would be led years later by Theodore Wenger and would consolidate its position in the market by offering a solid competitor to the Victorinox knives. The Wenger knife company had its headquarters in the Delémont valley, situated in the canton of Jure; while its adversary Victorinox was situated in the canton of Schwyz. There was much rivalry between the two Swiss cantons due to their differences, the main one being language: in Jure French, and in Schywz German. To avoid confrontation the Swiss government decided on an agreement to entrust half of the production to Wenger and the other half to the competition. In accordance with this division, the slogan of each of the knife makers was established. The Victorinox company named its knives the “original knife” of the Swiss Army; and on the other side Wenger used the description “the genuine knife” of the Swiss Army.

Victorinox knives factory in Switzerland

Both companies were making new models and incorporating new ideas with the intention of improving the original product. With their determination and force they succeeded in establishing themselves as the Swiss knife makers par excellence. And thanks to the caution and care with which they manufactured their pieces the Swiss knife has achieved worldwide fame. Their products have been distributed in a great number of countries, reaching the United States, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, China… In reality we can obtain Wenger Victorinox penknives and knives in almost every point on the planet, either through real or virtual outlets like Aceros de Hispania.

In 2005 the Victorinox company acquired Wenger Ltd., securing the production headquarters in Switzerland, however, they decided to respect the brands, and for this reason we can find both Wenger and Victorinox knives and penknives on the market. The two manufacturers have made some of the important decisions together, and jointly perform the purchase of steel for their products. They have also expanded their line of products, widening their range of Swiss knives and including other products such as watches, kitchen knives and travel goods like suitcases or wallets.

 

Victorinox Swiss Army Champion Plus 54525

If we want to identify a Victorinox and a Wenger knife on the market, we can find one obvious difference. We are talking about the logo displayed on the handle of the knife. Both manufacturers use the typical cross of the Swiss flag as their symbol, however the Victorinox knives and penknives display a shield with bilateral symmetry, whereas the Wenger knives and penknives are identified by a quadrilateral shield.

As has been said, the debate about which company makes the best Swiss knives is still a burning issue, and is extremely difficult to conclude. The opinions of the users are very varied, from those who defend to the end the Victorinox brand, to those who do the same for the Wenger brand. Based on the general opinions of those who have occasionally used the knives or penknives from Wenger or Victorinox, we can define the basic comparative features between both knife companies.

Victorinox knife with USB, one of the recent developments of the factory

The knives of the Victorinox brand are really beautiful, with a great deal of attention paid to their appearance, and in this sense they could be considered superior to the Wenger knives; however, Wenger puts applies creativity when designing its knives, which must also be taken into account. In fact, recent innovations which have had definite success among users are: the design for the locking of the blades, the new wrench, the ergonomic handles and the self-locking bottle openers-screwdrivers. What is clear is that the appearance is a question of personal taste. With regard to the length of the blades, both companies have designed models which respond to the many requirements of the users. On the market we can find models of Wenger and Victorinox knives, with a total length ranging from 58 mm up to 85 mm. As regards the price of the knives, Wenger’s prices tend to be slightly higher than Victorinox, however, the prices are very competitive. The handles of the Wenger knives are more fragile than those of the Victorinox ones due to the fact that the plastic isn’t as durable, but in the event of any of the handles becoming damaged they can easily be replaced.

Swiss Army Knife Wenger Evogrip model with ergonomic design

The most significant difference and the one which stops some enthusiasts from purchasing a Wenger knife is the hardness of its steel which makes the job of sharpening more difficult. While Victorinox knives sharpen easily even with a sharpener, the Wenger knives are more difficult to sharpen and can also result in a more complicated task for those starting out in the world of blade weapons. Many users express a unanimous opinion, in response to the question which knife is better: Victorinox or Wenger? Both. Each has its own strong points.

In conclusion it can be confirmed that the knife which should be used is determined by the way in which it is to be used; in other words , given the variety of knives on the market from these two brands, depending on the work we are going to carry out with our multi-purpose tool, we will select one or the other. Therefore, when specific users opt for one of the two knife brands they could end up making the wrong choice and thereby use the wrong blade for the job. In any case, when we have in our hands a knife or penknife from the Wenger or Victorinox brand, we can rest assured that both will offer us quality, tradition and effectiveness.


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