Victorinox has been in the business of making Swiss Army Knives for more than a century!
Considering how durable these are, SAKs are often passed on from one generation to another as a token of love and as a memento. As such, there is every possibility that you might get hold of a very old model. In case you are wondering how old your Swiss Army Knife is, or which model you got, you are not alone.
Identifying the manufacturing company is pretty straightforward. But unfortunately, the year of production or the model name is not marked anywhere in the body of the SAK.
The most effective way of dating and identifying a Swiss Army Knife depends on identifying the blade tang stamps, the logo, the number of tools, and the design of the individual tools. This, and the SAK catalog that Victorinox publishes are the only ways of identifying a SAK.
Of course, if you have the original box or packaging of the SAK, then it is far easier.
The model name, color, and date of manufacture or date of import are written on the original box or packaging.
Identification of Manufacturing company: Victorinox or Wenger?
There are only two official manufacturers of Swiss Army Knives – Victorinox and Wenger. After Victorinox took over Wenger in 2005, it is now the sole manufacturer.
If you have a relatively newer model, then it’s most probably a Victorinox SAK. In the rare case that you got hold of a Wenger model, there are some pretty simple ways to distinguish it.
The most precise distinction is the logo or scale-cross printed on the handle.
While both resemble a shield, the Victorinox one is comparatively more stylish, whereas the Wenger one is somewhat squarish and simpler.
Here are some references of the scale -crosses used by Victorinox and Wenger over the years. Note that you can also date the SAK from the scales-crosses.
The second distinction is the marking on the tang of the main blade. These markings have changed a lot over the years as both companies are more than a century old.
But in the more recent models, Victorinox SAKs have the word ‘Victorinox‘ clearly stamped on the tang of the main blade.
Similarly, you will see the word ‘Wenger‘ stamped on the tang of the blade in Wenger SAKs.
There are many other major as well as subtle differences between a Victorinox and Wenger Swiss Army Knife that are explained in detail here: Victorinox Vs Wenger SAKs: 16 Notable Differences.
Identification of Year of Production – Dating a Swiss Army Knife
Now that we know the manufacturer of the SAK, let’s try to find out how old it is.
Note that from the scale-cross design, we already have some idea about the age of the SAK. But in case the scales are damaged to the point that the logos are not visible, or we need more evidence regarding the age, we follow the next step of dating the SAK.
In case you have the model that is assigned to the Swiss Army (Soldier), then you are in luck.
Usually, the tang of the blade has the year of issue stamped on it. This has been the case for virtually all ‘Soldier’ models.
In case you have a different model, then you can anyways get the required information from the box or the packaging. The exact month and year of manufacture (or the year of import) are available in the original box of the SAK.
In case you don’t have the box, unfortunately, there is no standard way of determining how old a Swiss Army Knife is. At best, you will get a date range.
Let’s go through the process of dating a SAK from the various official as well as unofficial resources available to us.
Dating a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife with tang stamp
We again turn to the tang or shank of the blade for further investigation. Note that the stamp is on the tang of the main blade and can appear on both sides of the blade.
Newer models manufactured after 2008 have the words ‘VICTORINOX SWISS MADE STAINLESS’ (in 3 lines) written on the tang.
If the knife is older, you may see a different tang stamp.
Here are some examples with the approximate year of usage of the particular stamps. Note that this information is based on the discussion and research done by SAK enthusiasts and collectors over many years. These may not be very accurate, but the conclusions are very near to the truth.
|1884 – 1931
|1891 – 1901
|1891 – 1945
|Victoria logo with a crossbow
|1923 – 1930
|Inoxyd and the letter E
|1923 – 1930
|Victorinox Switzerland Stainless
|1993 – 2009
From the above table, you might have noticed that many of the date ranges coincide. That is correct, Victorinox probably used more than one tang stamp at various periods. In fact, SAK enthusiasts have found more than 100 different stamps used by Victorinox over its more than 100 years of history of making Swiss Army Knives.
The forums at multitool.org have a lot of interesting discussions on dating Swiss Army Knives. Here is a collection of Victorinox tang stamps with their respective date ranges compiled by one member of the forum.
I hope the above information will give you a fair idea of the age of your Victorinox Swiss Army Knife.
Dating a Wenger Swiss Army Knife with tang stamp
Wenger has also produced Swiss Army Knives for more than a century till the company got acquired by Victorinox. For Wenger SAKs too, the information has to be derived from the tang stamp of the main blade of the SAK.
For newer Wenger SAKs, you will see “Wenger Delemont Switzerland Stainless” stamped on the tang of the main blade. For the older models, it is a bit difficult to estimate the date range, as, unlike Victorinox, there is not much information available on the history of this company.
But the guys at multitool.org have come up with a similar compilation of Wenger tang stamps along with the date ranges.
Dating a Swiss Army Knife with tool evolution
This is another way of identifying the age of a SAK. With time, Victorinox has brought in a lot of changes in the design of the Swiss Army Knife, including the materials used in the handles and scales. Most of the tools of Swiss Army Knives have evolved with time. Also, newer tools have been introduced or old tools have been redesigned to add more functionalities to the knife.
E.g. If the blade of your SAK is made of carbon steel, then it is probably older than 1923, since Victorinox switched to using stainless steel around that time. That is an important milestone in the history of Victorinox. Here are some more examples which may help you identify your SAK’s age.
|Body with exposed rivets
|prior to 1957
|Aluminium tweezer tips
|prior to 1978
|Awl without a sewing eye
|prior to 1978
|Corkscrew with 5 loops
|prior to 1975
SAAM’s website provides an awesome resource on the evolution of tools in 91mm models of Swiss Army Knives.
Identification of the Swiss Army Knife model
The model name is not available on the body of the SAK. If you do not have the original box, then there are two ways of knowing the actual model name.
Check the Victorinox catalog
The catalog published by Victorinox has all the information on the current models along with the pictures and the tool list. You can identify your SAK by looking at the layout of the tools it has and consulting the catalog. Another excellent unofficial resource is Sakwiki.
Seek assistance from SAK enthusiasts
Many SAK collectors and enthusiasts can identify a lot of the older models of SAK that are not currently in production. You need to share clear pictures of your model with all the tools in the open position, and they will probably be able to identify the model.
The dating and identification of a Swiss Army Knife is not a very straightforward process, especially since a lot of older models are still in circulation. But with some effort and using the various resources available all over the Internet, it is possible to identify most of the models, as well as the approximate date of production.
The good thing is that the popularity of Swiss Army Knives along with its century-long history has made SAK collection a hobby to many. If you are just starting your SAK journey, this guide will help choose the best Swiss Army Knife for you.
Both Victorinox and Wenger have designed Swiss Army Knives specifically for collectors. Victorinox Swiss Champ XAVT is one such model. In fact, the model Wenger Giant got featured in the Guinness World Record for being the largest Swiss Army Knife ever produced.