What is Swiss Army Knife? Who Invented It?

Karl Elsener was a Swiss man of refined taste and fashion. His company manufactured surgical instruments and cutlery in the Alpine country. When Elsener got to know that Switzerland was importing blades from their neighbor Germany, he decided to change things. In 1890’s, Elsener set up a factory at home to create multifunctional tools like the Swiss Army Knife.

Elsener’s first model of this special pocketknife had a wooden handle, a blade, screwdriver and can opener. Soon, after many tweaks and changes and using a revolutionary spring mechanism, the swiss army knife was born. The company was named Victoria after Elsener’s mother and produced swiss army knives for Alpine troops without importing anything from abroad.

Elsener also founded Victorinox, which become synonymous with Swiss Army knives all across the globe. It was the only brand who used the term “original swiss army knife” whereas other manufacturers used genuine and other similar terms on their line of products. Because of its branding and strong roots, Victorinox has managed to dominate and acquire companies like Wenger to gain worldwide market share.

Army Knife

 A Handy Tool

While the history of the swiss army knife is still a matter of debate within the country, we can all agree on one thing: it is one of the handiest tools you can possess. Since its invention, the knife changed how we dealt with pocketknives and brought all essential tools within a portable carrier. As the name suggests, the swiss army knife was made to help swiss soldiers in any job that needed to be done quickly. As time passed by, more tools were fitted in the chamber to increase the utility of this knife set.

Swiss Knife Goes Universal

The pocketknife became a household accessory in the 1940’s around the World War II. More people needed utility knives or a handy tool to open lids, use the screw or cut things with a blade. Two companies in Switzerland produced the knives and supplied them to the army, and later to any buyers around the world. Nowadays, you can order one on Amazon and carry it in your pocket/purse.

How the Swiss Army Knife got its Name

What we know today as the Swiss Army Knife is called Schweizer Offiziersmesser or Sackmesser in Switzerland. When the knife went universal, it was difficult for people to say the name in Swiss-German dialect. Therefore, the name came about as swiss army knife. It is still pronounced in its native dialect in Switzerland, where every adult man has to serve in the military and receives a knife set when starting service.

What’s to Come

While the current varieties of Swiss Army knives serve as handy tools, the upcoming ones are expected to boast a range of tech features, including Bluetooth, flash drive, and laser pointers. We also expect to see models with tools built to repair PCs, as well as varieties in a range of fashionable tones (although we do admit that red is hard to ace). Other models are expected to be built for certain users – golfers, campers and handymen.


Today, there are over 100 models of the swiss army knife. The Victorinox Company located in the Swiss town of Ibach still proudly manufactures swiss knives and many other products. Over 34,000 of these models leave the facility every day and 90 percent of the models are exported around the world. The red handle of swiss knife with a white cross is an ambassadorial product of the country.

Retailers selling swiss army knives also give you an option to customize your knife or gift set for someone by engraving names on the handle. Victorinox knife manufacturing company also opened its doors for tourists and you can book a tour through Alpenwild.