Since its acquisition of rival Wenger in 2005, it has, once more, become the sole supplier of multi-purpose knives to the Swiss army. It is the biggest manufacturer of pocket knives in the world; in addition, they have a substantial line of watches, apparel, and travel gear.
The company was founded in 1884. Since 1891, the company has delivered knives to the Swiss army. Their famous emblem—a cross in a shield—has been used by Victorinox since 1909. That year, the mother of founder Karl Elsener died and he named the company "Victoria" in her honour. In 1921, with the introduction of "inox" (ab. for acier inoxydable, the French term for stainless steel) into their products, the brand and name of the company became the present "Victorinox" ("Victoria"+"Inox").
In 1972, the Forschner Butcher Scale Company of New Britain, Connecticut became the exclusive Victorinox distributor for the United States. In 1981, the company went public and Charles Elsener, president of Victorinox, acquired a significant percentage of its shares. In 1983, it was renamed the Forschner Group, Inc. In the 1980s, Forschner registered the Swiss Army name as a trademark in USA. In 1992, Precise Imports Corp., U.S. and Canadian importer of Wenger knives, sued and Forschner retained the rights to use the trademark on its compasses, timepieces, and sunglasses, while Precise could use it in marketing other non-knife items. In the mid-1990s, Forschner changed its name to Swiss Army Brands, Inc. (SABI).
In 2001, Victorinox teamed up with SABI to create an international watch company Victorinox Swiss Army Watch AG. In August 2002, Victorinox acquired all remaining shares of SABI to gain control of the Swiss Army trademark. Previously, SABI had sold the Swiss Army branded watch in North America and - under the license - the Victorinox branded watch outside North America. But afterwards, the combined Victorinox Swiss Army brand has been marketed worldwide.
On 26 April 2005 Victorinox acquired Wenger, the other official supplier of the Swiss Army knife, announcing that it intended to keep both brands intact. On 30 January 2013 Victorinox announced that the company will integrate Wenger's knife business to strengthen its competitive position internationally.
In 2006 the company had a workforce of 900 employees and produced about 34,000 Swiss Army knives, 38,000 multi-tools, and 30,000 household, kitchen, and knives per workday. Approximately 90 percent of its production is exported to more than 100 countries.
In 2012 the manufacturing of a Swiss Army Knife was featured on a season six episode of the Ultimate Factories (aka Megafactories) television series.
Victorinox has claimed never to have had to lay off an employee. To avoid this they set aside profits during boom periods to supplement recessionary periods, as well as temporarily contracting employees to other companies as outsourced labour during recessions.
Victorinox has licensed the Swiss Army brand and shield logo to companies producing watches, writing tools, luggage and clothing.
Swiss Army knife
The Swiss Army knife is the best-known product by Victorinox. Originally the sole supplier, Victorinox has shared the contract with Wenger since 1908. A compromise between the two companies gave Victorinox the right to advertise as the Original Swiss Army Knife, while Wenger laid claim to the title of Genuine Swiss Army Knife. Victorinox took over Wenger in 2005.
Swiss Army knives are widely used outside the army. They are multi-functional tools, and many sizes and functional combinations are produced. NASA astronauts have a Victorinox knife as standard equipment. Victorinox knives have also been taken to Mt. Everest and the Arctic. The "Champion", Victorinox's model flagship prior to the introduction of the "SwissChamp" in 1986, is in the New York Museum of Modern Art's Permanent Design Collection.
The SwissCard is roughly the size of a business card, typically with a small pair of scissors, a short non-folding knife, a small file with a screwdriver point, a plastic toothpick, tweezers, a slim ballpoint pen, and a straight pin, housed in a hard plastic case of 82 × 54.5 x 4.5 mm in size, with an inch ruler on one side and metric measurements on the other. Victorinox produces three types of SwissCards, the Classic, the Quattro and the Lite model. All three models differ in regard to the amount of functions they provide, ranging from 10 (Classic) to 13 functions (Quattro and Lite).
Victorinox has long produced other kitchen cutlery under their own name and the Forschner brand name. In 2011 Victorinox stopped using the Forschner name and produces the same knives with the Victorinox name.
Victorinox also produces the bayonet for the Swiss Stgw 90 assault rifle. The bayonet has an overall length of 310 mm and a muzzle ring diameter of 22 mm. The 177 mm long blade is single-edged and it has no fuller. The bayonets were manufactured exclusively for the Swiss Army by Wenger and Victorinox (before the two companies merged).
In 1989 Victorinox entered the timepiece business in the United States under the brand name "Swiss Army".
Victorinox has various collections of watches which range from luxury dress watches to rugged dive watches. They feature mechanical and quartz movements. Collections include Infantry, Divemaster, Airboss etc. The timepieces are produced in Switzerland and are praised for their quality.
SwissTools are Victorinox's multi-tools, i.e. a pair of pliers with other tools folded into the grips.
Victorinox has licensed its name to TRG Group to produce branded travel gear and business accessories.