The Swiss Army Knife

Posted Thursday, 29 March 2007 by Gudmund in Icon of the week
A few selected brands are lucky enough to attain a status that makes them synonymous with a certain product, but I'm pretty sure that the Swiss Army Knife is unique in having entered popular vocabulary as a synonym for sheer versatility and multi-tasking ability.

Original Swiss Army Knife

Anyone who has seen an episode of MacGyver, will know that a Swiss army knife contains all the tools you need to perform a wide range of everyday tasks, such as dismantling or assembling computers, picking locks, defusing bombs or even opening a can of soup.

The core design of the Swiss army knife has not changed a great deal since 1897, when the designer, Karl Elsener, arrived at a special spring-loaded construction that allowed tools to be added on both sides of the knife. These days, there is a huge range of models available, but they still use the same base design, which allows a large number of features to be acommodated in a small package.

Some of you may have noticed that there are in fact two major Swiss manufacturers producing characteristically red-handled pocket knives with white Swiss crosses on them, so which one is really the original? Well, both Victorinox and Wenger have been producing this type of knife since the late 1800s, even if Victorinox was a couple of years earlier off the mark.

Despite being direct competitors, there never seems to have been any kind of hostile rivalry between the two manufacturers; in fact the relationship has been so amiable that they've agreed that Victorinox is 'The Original Swiss Army Knife', while Wenger is 'The Genuine Swiss Army Knife'. The Swiss army still takes delivery of about 50 000 knives per year, and the contract has been fairly split 50/50 between the two manufacturers for the last hundred years. Both brands still exist, although Victorinox now own both companies.

If you're not the kind of person who find yourself constantly having to slice, cut, saw and unscrew things, you might like to know that the Swiss army knife is trying to keep up with the times these days. Some of the newer models include alarm clocks, LED lights, USB flashdrives and even mp3 players, which – let's face it – many of us will find rather more useful than a can-opener these days.


» Victorinox official website
» Wenger official website
» MacGyver Online

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» Icon of the Week: The Leica Model I

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By Salazar on Friday, 30 March 2007 12:09 PM
I've got an alternate name for sheer versatility and multi-tasking ability: Notepad
By gudmund on Friday, 30 March 2007 3:55 PM
Yup, Notepad is definitely the Swiss army knife of PC applications :)
By skh.pcola on Sunday, 29 April 2007 5:23 PM
A "plus" of Swiss army knives is that they don't make most people cringe like some other pocket knives can, which is a good thing, since the more people carry knives, the less they'll ask me for mine. :)

There is a SAK for everybody, and they even make some very serviceable kitchen cutlery.

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