Swiss Army Takes Road Trip

Victorinox Swiss Army is celebrating its 125th anniversary with an adventure-themed North American road trip in an Airstream trailer that made its final major-event pit stop in New York City’s Union Square Thursday.

The purpose of the trip has been to promote the brand, which is known not only for its iconic knives but also for its entirely Swiss-made watches.

Setting up shop in a trailer in public spaces throughout the United States gives the company a chance to tell the story of its humble beginnings. The company was founded in 1884, when the cutler Karl Elsener opened a workshop in Ibach, a small village in Switzerland. But it really took off seven years later, after someone in the military wondered why the heck Swiss soldiers were carrying knives made in Germany rather than Switzerland.  

Enter Elsener’s legendary “Soldier’s Knife,” which became known worldwide as the “Swiss Army knife” said Krista Woltersdorf, manager of events and sponsorships for Victorinox Swiss Army. The company, currently owned by third- and fourth-generation Elseners, now manufactures pocketknives, watches, apparel, cutlery, luggage and more.

In the watch sector, the company has in recent years expanded its options for women to include diamond-studded watches and even a pink watch that benefits breast cancer research through Susan G. Komen for the Cure. But given the growing interest among women for larger-sized watches, the company considers its various watch models to be unisex.


“No longer do we really say women’s and men’s timepieces,” Woltersdorf said.

The brand’s trailer, which was parked inside Union Square in Manhattan Thursday, made its first major road trip stop in Vancouver, British Columbia, in April, where it appeared at the Vancouver Sun Run. In subsequent months, the brand has wheeled the 34-foot trailer into San Francisco for a 12K road race; Vail, Colo., for the Teva Mountain Games; Seattle for the Seattle International Film Festival; Chicago for the Taste of Chicago; Boston for the Boston HarborFest/ChowderFest and Montreal for the Montreal Hot Air Balloon Expo. 

Curious consumers along the way were encouraged to climb aboard the trailer to view Victorinox merchandise. They could not purchase items on board, but were able to use laptop computers to find local retail stores and make purchases online.

They were also encouraged to take part in a contest to win a free trip for two to Switzerland by writing down in 10 words or less the most “interesting, innovative or creative way” that they would use a Swiss Army knife. The winning answers ranged from the humorous–a desperate bride whose father had to pry open a stuck church door so she could walk down the aisle–to the poignant–a Boston doctor who was visiting Africa and used the knife to successfully resize an IV for a 2-year-old seriously ill child.

Another goal of the trip was to solidify the “Victorinox” part of the brand, since North American consumers largely know the company as Swiss Army, while it is better known in Europe as Victorinox, Woltersdorf said.

On Saturday, the brand is sponsoring a free “Adventures NYC” event in New York City’s Central Park, where the public is invited to visit the band shell at 72nd Street from noon to 4 p.m., and join a campfire cooking challenge using the brand’s cooking knives. Other activities include trampoline acrobatics, a Jet Blue Climbing Zone, kayaking, obstacle courses and arts and crafts.

Nielsen Business Media

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