One of the most recognizable tools ever made is the nifty little pocket knife with several other tools simply referred to as the Swiss Army knife.
There are dozens of different companies offering this multi-tool nowadays. But for over a century, there are just two names that stand for this clever little item: Victorinox, a name that is so well-known all over the world and almost synonymous to the SAK, and Wenger.
These two are nearly identical, it’s hard to tell them apart at first glance.
For example, both have the white cross on red background because this is what the Coat of Arms of the Switzerland Confederation looks like (both companies hail from that European country).
Even connoisseurs need to look closely at certain points to see the subtle differences and say which is which.
But if you’re thinking about getting a SAK and would like to know the distinction between these two awesome pieces, read on…
The Logo and the Slogan
As aforementioned, the white cross on the red background is the companies’ nod to their birthplace, Switzerland.
But the divergence lies on the border of the logo.
Victorinox’s looks more like a shield – heart-shaped up top, concaved on the sides, and pointed at the bottom. The white cross is surrounded by a dark red, almost maroon wash, and then bordered with a thick white stripe.
Wenger’s is like the Red Cross logo except that the cross is white that is surrounded by a brighter red smoothened square and then bordered with a thick, white stripe.
As for the slogan, the former calls itself the ‘Original’ one while the latter is the ‘Genuine’ one.
There is a level of truthfulness to Victorinox’s slogan.
In 1891, Karl Elsner won the contract to produce folding knives for the country’s army. Two years later, the head of the military decided to split the contract and awarded half to a cutlery company called Paul Boechat & Cie.
A SAK Trivia:
The folding knife Elsner was asked to make is modeled after the German Modell 1890 which has a small knife, a round cutter aka reamer, a can opener, and a screwdriver so soldiers can disassemble and re-assemble their rifles.
Although Karl Elsner began making surgical equipment in his small Ibach workshop in 1884, it was years later in 1921 when he officially named his company.
Victorinox is the combination of his late mother’s name Victoria and ‘Inox’ which is the shortened French term for stainless steel.
It only seemed like Wenger had their hands on the contract first because, a few months after Paul Boechat & Cie got their military contract in 1893, then-company manager Theodore Wenger bought the company and named it after himself.
The Blade Shape, Composition, and Their Locking Mechanisms
Although there are other implements in this nifty little kit, the blade is its most important item.
The two companies pride themselves on their steel craftsmanship and it is hard to conclude which is the best (because this depends on the user) so the only thing you need to know is their points of comparison.
Victorinox is usually longer and narrower. It is also thicker, particularly when you look at the spine. Its counterpart is shorter, has a wider profile, and has a more pronounced belly.
Both have logo engravings close to the tang. Check the description above regarding the disparities in the logo’s design.
The two are made from almost the same kind of high Chromium stainless steel alloy – relatively hard, shiny, and resistant to corrosion.
However, many have said that the former is easier to sharpen, especially with the sharpening tools made available.
It would seem that the latter has a bit more carbon in its alloy, making it harder and hard to re-sharpen.
When it comes to the locking mechanism, Wenger leads over its competition. Even its smaller pocket-sized models (85mm) have this.
Do be warned that these are not that common anymore since the company has stopped production. But you might be lucky and chance upon one on Amazon or eBay.
Slip Joint Durability
The slip joint is the screw or the back spring that puts all the tools in the kit in place. This is what keeps every single item locked in position whether it’s lined up inside or pulled out when it has to be used.
Many have lauded the strength and durability of Victorinox in this regard.
Unfortunately, some have criticized Wenger’s ‘lazy blade syndrome’ wherein the knife or specific tool wobbles when in use or does a complete 360 around the knob.
Availability of Sizes
This is an important point of comparison because some people like small ones which can comfortably fit inside their pockets while others want bulkier ones that are more ergonomic in their hands.
In this regard, the Original manufacturer is the winner.
They have more size options ranging from 58mm (a little over 2 inches) to standard sizes of 91mm (3.5 inches) up to 100mm (nearly 4 inches).
The Genuine maker came up with larger options, though. Its largest one is at 130mm (5 inches).
Specific Tool Comparison
As aforementioned, the first-ever SAK which was modeled after a Solingen creation only contained four items.
These two companies have come up with various versions over the years, some as stark as the original with just half a dozen pieces and others having 87 implements with over a hundred different functions.
But let’s compare only the more significant, often-used items:
V – This has a leaf spring that tends to get damaged easily but can be replaced. Its cutting edge is straight and easier to sharpen when needed.
W – This makes use of the sturdier lever instead of a spring. Its cutting edge is serrated.
• Can Opener
V – This is spade-shaped with a flat screwdriver on top, used in a counter-clockwise direction.
W – This is claw-shaped and is used in a clockwise direction (towards the user).
V – There are different kinds available which would fit your style. Also, these have slots for various other tools like toothpicks, tweezers, pins, and even a ballpoint pen.
W – There aren’t any plus scales for their SAKs.
• Cap-lifter Screwdriver Locking Mechanism
V – None
W – This is locked when you push the tool down while it is lifted open.
• LED (in ‘Lite’ models)
V – Has a brighter LED
W – Seems to have dimmer flashlights
Which Should You Spend On?
These two are at the top of their game when it comes to Swiss Army Knives; their marketing slogans of ‘Original’ and ‘Genuine’ aren’t fake at all.
The version or model you should go for must depend on what you need.
If you think you need 30 or more tools for your everyday activities, go for that. If you aren’t so adventurous, maybe a basic set is enough.
Also, ignore the brand because here’s another interesting trivia:
Victorinox bought Wenger in 2005. The former just kept the name of the latter.
Also, they’re both actual Swiss army knives. And that means quality.
Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Andy Wang