Both Victorinox and Wenger have officially produced Swiss Army Knives for the better part of a century. Both the companies have supplied SAKs to the Swiss Army, as well as marketed their SAKs to the common people. Have you ever wondered how their SAKs differ from each other?
Though Victorinox and Wenger SAKs appear similar in looks and perform identical functions, there are certain differences between them. Especially, the design ethos of Victorinox and Wenger in addition to their quality, and creativity differentiates them from each other. In fact, these subtle but sometimes significant differences may even tilt your opinion in favor of one or the other.
Victorinox is an older company than Wenger, but they started manufacturing SAKs almost at the same time. In this article, we will go through a comprehensive list of the most notable differences between the SAKs produced by Victorinox and those produced by Wenger. Some of these differences are mere cosmetic where some are quite significant and make one of them better than the other.
1. Victorinox and Wenger Logo
The first difference that is clearly visible on the scales of the Swiss Army Knives itself is the logo. Both companies use the logo of a shield as the company emblem. The logos comprise of the typical design of the Swiss flag, a white cross in red background. However, the overall design of the logo is quite different for Victorinox and Wenger.
The Victorinox logo is more stylish. It actually looks like a shield with bilateral symmetry. The background red color is comparatively darker, almost like maroon.
The Wenger logo is also a shield, but it looks more like a rounded square.
The background color in the Wenger logo is pure red. The overall design is much simpler.
In a way, both the logos are actually inspired from the Coat of arms the Swiss Confederation. It has the well known white-on-red cross of the flag of Switzerland on a heraldic shield.
2. Victorinox and Wenger Marketing slogan for SAKs
Both Victorinox and Wenger have been producing and marketing Swiss Army Knives (SAK) for almost a century. To a great extent, the SAKs were designed and produced as per certain standard specifications and requirements common to both. The term ’Swiss Army Knife’ was used to identify the products of both companies.
But they naturally wanted to differentiate themselves from each other while marketing their products. As such two different slogans were used by the two companies for their SAKs. Victorinox used the slogan ‘Original Swiss Army Knife’, while Wenger marketed their SAKs as ‘Genuine Swiss Army Knife’.
Both the slogans gave the respective companies the much-needed credibility while marketing their respective range of Swiss Army Knives. As both companies were official contract holders from the Govt. of Switzerland to supply SAKs to the army, both could lay claim to the authenticity of their products.
3. Victorinox and Wenger SAK blade length and shape
The main tool in any Swiss Army Knife is the blade. Both Victorinox and Wenger are well known for the performance of the main blade in their SAKs. However, the shape and size of the blade on Victorinox and Wenger SAKs have always been slightly different.
The Victorinox blade is usually slightly longer than the Wenger blade in comparable SAK models. The Wenger blade however has more of a belly, as such, it is visibly broader than the one in a Victorinox SAK. The blade on the Victorinox is also slightly thicker when compared to the blade on the Wenger.
There are takers of both the designs, hence no point in arguing which design is better. The good thing is that because of the slightly different design, consumers could choose a SAK based on their preference of the main blade.
The tang stamp on the blade (the engraved writing at the base of the blade) is also obviously different in Victorinox blade and Wenger blade, as each has the company name engraved there.
4. Locking blades in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Many Swiss Army Knives have locking blades, and both Victorinox and Wenger have models that incorporate a locking mechanism for the main blade in the SAK.
However, Wenger has locking blades on their standard size SAKs (85mm). This is significant because none of the Victorinox standard size SAK models (91mm) have this feature. Victorinox only offers locking blades on their large models (111mm). So if you need a pocket SAK with a locking blade, Wenger is probably your only choice.
The larger Vic SAKs with locking blades are usually meant for hunting, and other outdoor activities. Some of them are one-handed variety. I guess they avoided this feature in their pocket-sized SAKs since there are restrictions on locking knives of a certain size in many European countries. Wenger, however, was bolder in this respect.
Wenger SAKs are slowly disappearing from the market since they stopped production. If you still want to get a pocket SAK with a locking blade, you will have to hunt for a Wenger model. I was lucky to be able to buy the Wenger 16824 Swiss Army Evolution Lock S11 from the listing on Amazon.
5. Scissors design in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
The difference between Victorinox and Wenger scissors in a Swiss Army Knife gets pointed out very frequently. More so, because scissors are one of the most used tools in any SAK.
The main difference between the Victorinox and Wenger scissors lies in how the spring action of opening the jaws of the scissors is implemented. Victorinox uses a thin metal strip that acts as a spring in the scissors. Many call it a leaf spring. It looks weak and feeble but gets the job done. Wenger uses a lever instead of a spring in their scissors. This Wenger design looks sturdier when compared to the Victorinox design.
However, the leaf spring in the Victorinox scissors is also easy to replace. Whereas for the Wenger, the SAK will have to be sent to the service center to get fixed if the lever in the scissors gets damaged. There is, of course, less chance of failure for the lever on the Wenger scissors compared to the leaf spring on the Victorinox scissors.
The other significant difference between the Victorinox and Wenger scissors is the cutting edge of the jaws. The Victorinox scissors jaws open up wider and have plain edges. The Wenger scissors jaws open up comparatively less wide but have serrated edges. The serrated jaws grab and cut thicker materials better than the plain jaws. However, the plain jaws of the Victorinox cut much smoother than the serrated jaws of the Wenger, which end up leaving a toothy serrated edge on the cut material.
Some say that the Wenger scissors jaw serrations are self-sharpening. While this is not true, the serrated edge does hold an edge longer than the plain edge. However, once dull, it is much difficult to re-sharpen serrated jaw scissors.
6. Can-Opener design in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Victorinox and Wenger have gone different ways while designing the can-opener. This is perhaps the only tool that functions quite differently in their respective SAKs.
The Victorinox can-opener is shaped like a spade and has a small flat head screwdriver at its top. This can-opener design is quite unique. The Wenger can-opener is like a claw-shaped blade, a design that is also found in other multi-tools, like in some Leatherman models. This design has a significant difference in operation while compared to the Victorinox design. The Victorinox can-opener is worked away from the user in an anti-clockwise direction, whereas the Wenger can-opener is worked towards the user in a clockwise direction.
Both the can-opener designs work quite effectively and it will ultimately depend on your preference of one over the other.
The other significant difference between Victorinox and Wenger can-openers is the lack of a flathead screwdriver in the latter. The small flathead screwdriver on the Victorinox can-opener is considered a very useful tool as it fits flathead as well as some Philips head screws. However, Wenger’s claw-like can-opener is sharp enough to act as a secondary knife. The pointed end can also be used to make holes like an awl or a reamer.
It is said that the Wenger can-opener is a Victorinox original design which they later abandoned in favor of their new design. Victorinox probably allowed Wenger to use it.
7. Scales in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Both Victorinox and Wenger have used different materials in the scales of their Swiss Army Knives. In addition to providing a good grip, the scales also house the scales tools, viz. the toothpick and the tweezers.
The main difference between Victorinox and Wenger scales is that Victorinox has plus scales for many of their SAKs. The plus scales increase the features and utility of the SAK as in addition to the toothpick and the tweezers, it also has slots for a ballpoint pen and a pin. Wenger does not have plus scales for any of their SAKs.
Wenger however innovated by making the scales more ergonomic in some of their SAKs. As a result, you will see some of their SAKs having scales with rubber/plastic inlays for a better grip.
Some say that the Wenger SAK handles are more fragile than that of the Victorinox because Victorinox uses better materials in the scales. However, while using SAKs of both the companies, I never felt any significant difference. Both look equally durable, and in the event of any damage to the scales, they are easily replaceable.
8. Toothpick and Tweezers placement in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Both Victorinox and Wenger SAKs have toothpicks and tweezers which are kept in slots in the scales. Apart from the Wenger toothpick being a bit softer and more flexible than the Victorinox one, there is no other significant difference.
However, there is a difference between Victorinox and Wenger in how the toothpick and the tweezers are housed in the scales of the SAK. In a Victorinox SAK, both the tools are accessed from the outside of the scales. In a Wenger SAK, the tools are stored on the inside of the handle such that they are almost invisible from the outside. Wenger toothpick and tweezers have to be accessed by pulling them out with your fingernails between the separators on the inside of the handle.
It takes a little bit more effort to get to the scale tools in a Wenger SAK as you have to get your nails in the gap between the separators to pull them out. However, because of this design, they are also harder to slip out from the SAK, and hence you are less likely to lose them. But in case you do lose them, they are easily replaceable in both Victorinox and Wenger SAKs.
9. Awl design in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Both Victorinox and Wenger SAKs have had awls even in their earlier models. Both kept on refining and changing the design of the awl over the years.
In their more recent models, Victorinox and Wenger SAKs differ significantly in how they implement the awl. The Victorinox awl has a sharpened edge which aids while using the awl as a reamer. Also, most Victorinox SAKs come with an awl that has a sewing eye. This further increases the utility of the awl. Wenger awl on the other hand is more pointy without any sharpened edges. It also appears a bit longer than most Victorinox awls. Wenger never designed awls with a sewing eye in them.
10. Cap-lifter screwdriver design in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
The cap-lifer with a flathead screwdriver at the top is one of the tools present in almost all the SAKs produced by Victorinox and Wenger. Though they work effectively in both Victorinox and Wenger SAKs, the implementation is slightly different.
The main difference between the Victorinox and Wenger cap-lifter screwdriver is that the one in the Wenger locks whereas the Victorinox one doesn’t. The locking mechanism in the Wenger comes into force when downward pressure is applied while the tool is in the open position.
The Victorinox cap-lifter screwdriver is held in position by strong slip joints, similar to all the other tools in most SAKs. However, the presence of a lock in the Wenger just makes you feel more reassured that the tool will not close on your fingers. This is especially useful if you use the flathead screwdriver a lot.
11. Victorinox and Wenger SAK sizes
Both Victorinox and Wenger make SAKs of various sizes and form factors. They have smaller SAKs that can be used as keychain tools, as well as much larger ones used for outdoor activities like hunting and gardening.
The main difference in SAK sizes between Victorinox and Wenger is that Victorinox has more size options compared to Wenger. The most common sizes in the Victorinox range of SAKs are the 91mm and the 111mm. But Victorinox also produces SAKs of sizes 58mm, 74mm, 84mm, 93mm, and 100mm. Wenger SAK size options are 65mm, 85mm, 120mm, 130mm.
As such, the smallest SAKs are produced by Victorinox. In fact, some of their all-time popular keychains SAKs, like the Victorinox Classic, belong to this category. Wenger on the other hand produced some of the biggest SAKs in their 130mm category.
12. LED in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Some of Victorinox and Wenger SAK models have LED flashlights embedded in the handles. Victorinox usually labels models with an LED light option as the ‘lite’ version. Some non ‘lite’ models also have LEDs.
From general usage and experience, it appears that the Victorinox LEDs are brighter than the Wenger LEDs. The weakness of the Wenger LEDs has been observed by a lot of people and some even claim that the difference in brightness is significant. This is probably because, in 2008, Victorinox introduced bigger LEDs in all of their SAKs that have a flashlight.
13. Slip Joints in Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Most of the tools in the SAKs produced by Victorinox and Wenger have slip joints to keep them firmly in the open or close position. As such, the difference in the quality of the back-springs used directly affected the performance of the slip joints.
This is somewhat evident in the strength of the back-springs that Victorinox uses in their SAKs. Whereas the back-springs used in Wenger SAKs are good, every now and then you might encounter a Wenger with a weak slip joint. With repeated usage, some Wenger SAKs develop the ‘lazy’ blade syndrome. The slip joint becomes so weak that the blade wobbles and starts to close even with the slightest pressure. In extreme situations, the slip joint completely fails and the blade even closes in the opposite direction.
Slip joint failure is not very common and only happens if the SAK is used in ways it is not meant to be used. But Wenger just has more incidents of failure as compared to Victorinox. Failure of the Victorinox slip joint is a very rare case.
14. Victorinox and Wenger SAK blade steel hardness
Both Victorinox and Wenger use martensitic stainless steel alloy for their blades. They look and feel the same and also cut as effectively. The actual composition may have been different for both, but the alloy they use has high Chromium content which makes the blade shiny and very resistant to rusting. But like every other knife, SAK blades do get dull over time.
The main difference between Victorinox and Wenger blade steel is that it is relatively easy to resharpen Victorinox steel. People have easily sharpened the blade with the Victorinox sharpeners that are available in the market. The same thing cannot be said of the Wenger blade. The hardness of the steel used by Wenger makes it particularly difficult to resharpen the blade.
The same amount of effort put into sharpening will get a Victorinox blade much sharper than a Wenger blade. Some even say Victorinox blades hold their edge longer than Wenger blades.
15. Victorinox and Wenger SAK design innovations
Over the years, both Victorinox and Wenger have refined their designs and introduced more variety and tools in their SAKs. However, while Victorinox made a name for themselves in quality, Wenger went a step further in their design innovations and creativity.
Wenger has been the first in introducing many tools and designs in their SAKs which Victorinox later also started incorporating in their products. Locking blades and ergonomic handles in regular size SAKs, and locking cap-opener screwdrivers have been some of their popular design innovations. Wenger even introduced left-handed versions of some of their SAKs. Some of the attachments that Wenger provided in their SAKs include cigar cutting tool, nail clipper, telescopic pointer, carabiner clip, whistle, etc.
Wenger’s SAK model called The Giant is the biggest Swiss Army Knife ever produced and has nearly every tool that Wenger has ever created. It has 87 tools in total that have 141 individual functions. It was designed as a collector’s item as a SAK that big is impractical for any real use.
More innovative designs and tools did make the Wenger SAKs more complex and expensive to manufacture. This might be the reason for Wenger SAKs sometimes being slightly more costly compared to equivalent models from Victorinox.
16. Quality, Fit and Finish of Victorinox and Wenger SAKs
Both Victorinox and Wenger are Swiss companies and well known for their product quality and attention to detail. Having competed with each other for nearly a century, both have almost perfected the process of manufacturing SAKs of impeccable quality. However, there are some subtle differences in fit and finish which indicate that Victorinox might have an edge over Wenger in the quality department.
Victorinox SAKs are considered to have better quality and overall fit and finish compared to Wenger. Whereas Wenger is no slouch in the quality department, over a longer period of time, Victorinox SAKs have performed slightly better. The robustness of the tools, the strength of the slip joint back-springs, edge retention of the blades, the snappiness of opening and closing the tools, etc. all seem to perform slightly better in Victorinox compared to Wenger.
However, this difference in quality is only visible in rare cases, and that also when the SAKs have been used for years or even decades. It may be also because Wenger’s designs were slightly more complex, and the comparatively simpler design of the Victorinox SAKs allowed for better build quality. But nevertheless, it appears Victorinox has better quality control processes in place than Wenger.
There you have it! the 16 important differences between the two legendary Swiss Army Knife makers, Victorinox and Wenger.
In case you are wondering who created the first knife Swiss Army Knife, it was Karl Elsener, the founder of Victorinox, who designed and patented the first multipurpose knife referred to as the ‘Officer’s Knife’, which later became famous as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ all over the world.
To know more about Victorinox and its history, read: The History of Victorinox and the Swiss Army Knife.
Most casual SAK users may not even see the difference between a Victorinox and a Wenger SAK as they look more or less the same. However, with their inherent differences, they do perform a few tasks better, or differently, from each other.
After Victorinox took over Wenger in 2005, they kept the entity separate and allowed Wenger SAKs to be manufactured and marketed as their own separate brand. But this has changed in 2013 when the product line was merged. Since then, SAKs are marketed only as Victorinox products.
Some of the original designs of the Wenger SAKs have been retained and are marketed as the ‘Delemont Collection’ under the Victorinox brand. However, the Delemont Collection is not pure Wenger design, as some of the tools in these SAKs, like the can-opener, cap-lifter/bottle opener (and a few other tools), have been replaced with their Victorinox counterpart.
In spite of the differences between a Victorinox and Wenger SAK, both have managed to capture the imagination of the people with their design, ease of use, innovation, effectiveness, and longevity. If you have a SAK in hand, you can rest assured that irrespective of the brand, it will perform admirably and get the job done.