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Swiss Army Knife makers sharpen brand

By Oliver Joy
updated 4:32 AM EDT, Thu September 27, 2012
  • The makers of the Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox, are expanding into more "can't leave home without it" products
  • A strong Swiss franc has forced the penknife maker to innovate and produce a range of consumer goods
  • The company is now selling socks, time pieces and fragrances

(CNN) -- The creators of the Swiss Army Knife are expanding into more "can't leave home without it" products.

This time, the company behind the much-loved pen-knife is turning its design skills to socks.

Victorinox is expanding into new areas as it seeks to combat the pressures of Switzerland's strong currency. Alongside socks, time pieces and fragrances are on offer.

While the products may seem diverse, there are commonalities, Victorinox chief executive Carl Elsener told CNN's Richard Quest.

"They are a companion for our customers, and they all are inspired by the values, and the heritage, of this little red knife. And these values are high quality, functionality, innovation and iconic design," he said.

Elsener said the strength of Switzerland's currency, the franc, had eaten into margins, forcing the company to be "more innovative than our competitors in the rest of the world."

Last year Switzerland's central bank pegged the franc to the euro in attempt to stabilize the currency. The Swiss National Bank's move meant the franc would not drop below 1.20 to the euro.

Elsener said this tactic extinguished the fear among Swiss companies that the franc would go to parity with the euro. He said "This was a big relief for most Swiss companies who depend on exportation."

The Victorinox dynasty was founded in 1884 by Karl Elsener Sn. and the company -- famed for its cross in a shield emblem -- has been handed down through generations.

Elsener said corporate sustainability rather than quarterly results were of paramount importance to the group. He said: "Our family has always really considered the company not just our own, but as something that has been entrusted to us.

"The goal of the foundation is to try to keep Victorinox, in the long term, financially independent, and to make sure that during an inheritance the company is not financially weakened," he added.

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report

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