Product design: the wonders of the Swiss Army knife

So there you are in Monte Carlo for the superyacht show, suddenly awake in your sleek, 160 metre, £180m boat. It’s 2.45 in the morning. The staff have all gone to bed, but you get a sudden craving for a glass of Château Pétrus. A real urge. And why not? The 2016 vintage is only £22,000 a throw. You open the cabinet and take out a bottle. But, oh no! – you can’t find a corkscrew! Fortunately, you have with you …

The meal at The Ivy was light and delicious. Now it’s time to face the world’s press. But Margo makes a gesture, signalling that you have a speck of spinach lodged between two of your otherwise perfect gnashers, hardly a good look for an international supermodel. Your fingernail doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Then you remember! You dive into your Kate Spade handbag; and find what you need …

Which of these priceless gems for the wife’s surprise ring? Picking up diamonds to examine them with an eyepiece is not something to be done carelessly. Unfortunately, the stupid dealer hasn’t supplied tweezers. What to do? Then of course you realise that you have the answer! Inside left pocket of your $900,000 Stuart Hughes Diamond Edition suit. Ah yes, problem solved …

Without question, the most useful birthday present I’ve ever received is my Swiss Army knife. My dear departed brother, George, presented it to me on my fortieth, and scarcely a day goes by without my finding yet another use for it. It may seem only suitable for DIY wonks like me. But that would be to ignore the sheer multiplicity of its uses and adaptability to circumstances. It’s a masterpiece of product design: aside from its handiness as a simple pen-knife, with a range of basic blades, it’s come to my rescue on countless occasions as a screwdriver, a miniature saw, a set of pliers and a pair of scissors.

Then there are the more abstruse tools, such as one that can be used to thread string or leather through holes; another that can act as a file; a handy can-opener; and yet another tool that can punch holes in material. I’m rarely without it in the garden or when I’m doing some DIY work. Losing it is one of my biggest fears!

Apparently the Swiss Army knife (an expression originally used by US soldiers in World War I) was first manufactured in 1891. From 1908, the knives were produced jointly by Victorinox, a knife manufacturer and luxury watchmaker based in Switzerland, and Wenger SA , until Victorinox bought Wenger in 2005. Although my own knife seems an amazing implement, it’s fairly basic compared with some of the top of the range models, such as the SwissChamp XAVT shown below.

So when I do eventually step on board my own 160m superyacht, parked in the harbour in Monaco, you know what I’ll have in my inside suit pocket …


Picture credit: Swiss Champ XAVT – Dave Taylor from Boulder, CO, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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