Welcome to Ibach, Switzerland, home of the Swiss Army knife. Here you will find not only the factory but also the only shop in the world that carries every model of the popular knife.
The founder of the company, Charles Elsener, was born in 1860 and studied in both France and Germany until he became a master knife-maker, specializing in razor edges and surgical instruments. When he returned to Switzerland, he opened a small workroom in his hometown and sold his knives in his mother's hat shop.
When he was 30, he organized the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers, with the prime objective of cooperating in the development of a pocketknife for the Swiss military. The army already had knives, but they were being purchased in Germany. In 1891 the first Swiss-made knives were delivered to the Swiss Army. The original version had a blade, a screwdriver, a reamer for punching holes and a can opener and nothing else.
Elsener developed the early version of this knife in 1897, but the Swiss Army never accepted it. Maybe the corkscrew and the nail cleaner were too much. Nevertheless, it was immediately accepted by the troops, who purchased them with their own money.
Elsener's descendants are still delivering Swiss Army knives to the Swiss Army. However, a regulation issue Swiss Army knife is not that red number that has become world famous. Regulation Swiss Army knives are made of a dull silver lightweight aluminum alloy with one large blade, a reamer for punching holes, a can opener with a small screwdriver, a bottle cap lifter, a big screwdriver and a wire stripper.
When Charles' mother, Victoria, died, he changed the name of the company to honor her. Victoria knives soon became famous for their quality. When stainless steel was developed in 1921, it was called INOX. The Elseners added that word to the company name, to become what it is today -- Victorinox.
During the 1890s, Elsener introduced the schoolboy model, a farmer's knife and a cadet knife -- specialty knives are still being added. Today the company produces more than 400 versions of the Swiss Army officer's knife, including the soon to be introduced inline skater's knife and the cyber knife. There's even a knife with 1,973 different blades, the largest Swiss Army knife ever made. Are you taking your Swiss Army knife with you?