Swarovski has a great name as a manufacturer of sparkling, eye-catching, crystal ornaments and fashion accessories. But many more know it as a top name in optics, says Stan Piecha.
Swarovski Optik – based in Absam, a Tyrol region of Austria – is very much part of the world-famous Swarovski Group but specialises in making arguably the world’s finest long-range optics – identified by their simple but elegant design that harbours sheer technical brilliance.
The organisation was launched in 1949 by Wilhelm Swarovski – son of the original founder Daniel Swarovski – who loved astronomy and decided to build his own improved binoculars.
With the specialised glass production and finishing technologies already used to make jewellery stones in his father’s factory, Wilhelm managed to develop a novel prism fabrication and grinding process that he applied in constructing his first 6x30 binoculars.
That initial vision formed the foundation of the sports optics company and it was followed by the first serial product – the Habicht 7x42 – which is still an industry standard in the field of hunting optics.
The Habicht was the launch pad for even more innovative products, for it was followed by the company’s first riflescope in 1959, its initial extendable telescope eight years later and, in 1971, the world’s first rubber-armoured binocular.
In 1976 Swarovski Optik caused a sensation in the shooting world by making a riflescope equipped with a proprietary shock absorber designed to prevent recoil injuries to the eye.
Its first telescope was made in 1994 followed five years later by the EL binoculars, unveiled with the world’s first wraparound grip and instantly voted the development of the decade.
Since 2007 the Z6 riflescope range with the first 6x zoom has reached international acclaim among top hunters.
And it can expect more accolades and awards for its recently launched ATX/STX modular telescopes that completely redefine how people look at ‘spotting scopes’ both optically and functionally.
Fans of Swarovski Optik products are already saying how the company has taken spotting scopes to a level few could ever have envisaged.
The scopes have been an instant success thanks to their outstanding detail resolution and up to 70X magnification which many feel pushes optical tests to their limits.
One review of the products claimed: “It’s a new generation of scopes where optical brilliance, user-friendly ergonomic design and modular flexibility combine to create a real revolution in the history of the telescope. The zoom is right next to the focus on the barrel of the scope so you don’t have to switch hands and reach for the eyepiece to zoom in on a distant bird. It ticks all the boxes.”
By constantly delivering five-star, high-precision-made products it’s easy to see why Swarovski Optik continues to stay at the very top of its field with sales of its binoculars, telescopes, riflescopes, ‘optronic’ instruments, rangefinders and image-intensifier tubes – all made at its Absam headquarters – last year reaching €100.4 million.
Globally it has a workforce of 700, many of them highly skilled craftsmen.
More than 90 per cent of its products are exported and Swarovski Optik has a presence on all five continents, with its own sales companies in Austria, the Benelux countries, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland, plus representation in the USA. Products are available in more than 30 countries through well-established sales partners.
Hunting for the best
One reason it is recognised as one of the world’s leading suppliers of long-range optics is that it constantly searches for innovative ideas for improving its already top-class range.
Swarovski Optik‘s Lydia Kalb told Gun Trade World: “From its foundation our company philosophy has always been to constantly improve what is good. Our products are always evolving and we feel that, with new technologies constantly being introduced, there is always room for improvement and we will always be looking for ways to make them better.
“Whether it’s introducing a specialised coating to improve light transmission through our binoculars or a new technology – as with Swaro-Aim – in our EL range-finding binoculars, we want to provide customers with the best and most useful technology.
“We are fortunate to have an excellent team of dedicated employees, many of whom do shoot, hunt or are active birders and naturalists.
“We encourage all employees to use our products and host several company events throughout the year to ensure employees use the products – including shooting days at local clubs.
“Any company looking to be successful should ensure its employees have a sense of loyalty, drive and, most importantly, pride in what it is producing. We are very proud of our family atmosphere, which makes our people feel they are part of something special.
“Shooting sports remain a very large percentage of our business but the birding/wildlife segments are equally important. Sport/target shooting is becoming an increasingly popular pastime and one we are eager to cater for. Many of the shooters in this year’s Olympics – and a large percentage of the people taking part in the archery competitions – were using our spotting scopes.”
The company has won a host of top awards since first being formed, and this year Outdoor Life recognised the firm’s newly redesigned Z6i second-generation illuminated riflescope and EL Range as two of the Best Innovations of 2012. Field & Stream also honoured the EL Range with a ‘best of the best’ award.
Thanks to the innovation it has shown throughout its history, it’s a safe bet that Swarovski Optik will be adding to the trophy cabinet.
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