The company is a component of Johnson Family Enterprises, previously known as Johnson Wax Associates, and grew out of diversification and acquisition efforts by S.C. Johnson during the 1970s. It became a profitable, self-sustaining outdoor equipment business known as Johnson Camping, Inc., later renamed Johnson Worldwide Associates (JWA).
The Silva Compass
The company acquired the Silva Company USA operations in 1973, followed by Silva Ltd. Canada in 1985. From 1980, JWA imported Swedish-made compasses manufactured by Silva Production AB (Silva Group) for sale in North America.
In 1996, a decision by Silva Production AB of the Silva Group parent to begin marketing its Swedish-made Silva brand compasses via a new distribution network in North America with Brunton, Inc. led to litigation the following year between JWA, which owned the North American Silva distribution network, and Silva Production AB, the Swedish manufacturer.
In 1998, JWA and Silva Production AB reached a settlement whereby JWA retained the exclusive right to sell compasses under the Silva brand in North America, made for JWA by other manufacturers. Silva Production AB retained the right to manufacture and sell compasses under its Silva trademark outside the United States and Canada. JWA also retained the rights to some product names such as Explorer, Polaris, Ranger, 1, 2, 3 and others commonly recognized in the U.S. and Canadian markets and popularized during the time Silva Production AB was manufacturing Silva-brand compasses for JWA. Silva Production AB was allowed to state on Nexus packaging and in the Nexus catalog that Nexus compasses are made by Silva Production AB, but did not retain the right to advertise this fact. As of 2008, JWA (now known as Johnson Outdoors, Inc.) was sourcing most of its Silva brand compasses from PT Uwatec Batam, an Indonesia-based wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson Outdoors, Inc. The discontinued Silva 424 Wrist Sighting Compass was made for Johnson Outdoors by Suunto Oy of Finland, while the Silva Lensatic 360 compass is made in Taiwan.
Scubapro was founded in the United States in 1963 by Gustav Dalla Valle, Beuchat representative in USA and Dick Bonin to manufacture scuba gear. The "S" logo was adapted from the Beuchat “Souplair” regulator. In 1966 Scubapro introduced the first analogue "decompression meter", a forerunner of the dive computer and created the first "stab(ility) jacket", a vest-type buoyancy compensator, in 1971.
Scubapro merged with dive computer manufacturer Uwatec in 1997 and became part of Johnson Outdoors. The company, now known as "Scubapro Uwatec", currently manufactures diving regulators, buoyancy compensators, dive computers, masks, fins, snorkels, wetsuits and drysuits, as well as scuba accessories.
Uwatec was founded in Switzerland in 1984 as a manufacturer of scuba gear. In 1987 it introduced the Aladin PRO, establishing a reputation for making diving computers; however, multiple lawsuits accusing Uwatec (and later Johnson Outdoors) of a seven-year cover-up of a potentially lethal dive-computer bug tainted that reputation. Uwatec merged with Scubapro in 1997, becoming part of Johnson Outdoors.
Subgear is the rebranded name of Seemann Sub a diving brand active in Germany since 1979 and focused on providing divers with quality dive equipment at reasonable prices. In April 2007 the Seemann brand was acquired by Johnson Outdoors Inc. as part of its diving division. As a result, Seemann products became available in the rest of Europe in 2008 and the brand was renamed SUBGEAR in 2010, coinciding with the brand expansion to the worldwide market.
The company produces tents and other camping and outdoor equipment under the Eureka brand name.
Since 1998, JWA, now Johnson Outdoors, Inc. has distributed Silva brand compasses in North America made by other manufacturers to Johnson Outdoors specifications, as well as other navigation and recreational products bearing the Silva brand name in North America. Public offerings occurred in 1987 and 1988, with the Johnson family maintaining a strong ownership position. Johnson Outdoors has operations in 24 locations worldwide, employs 1,400 people and reports sales of more than $315 million. It is composed of individual, specialized companies. Helen Johnson-Leipold, one of Samuel Curtis Johnson, Jr.'s 4 children runs the company.
- Spivak, Cary, Compass Makers Embroiled in Suits, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3 January 1997
- Hodgson, Michael, JWA, Silva Settle Dispute, Outdoor Retailer, 1 October 1998 Article
- Hodgson, Michael, JWA, Silva Settle Dispute
- Hodgson, Michael, JWA, Silva Settle Dispute
- Company Profile: PT Uwatec Batam of Indonesia, 3 January 2008, retrieved 27 March 2012
- "About us – SCUBAPRO-UWATEC". Scubapro. 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
- Holding, Reynolds (24 June 2011). "Corporate coverup exposed divers to grave risk / Company kept computer defect secret for 7 years, according to Oakland lawsuit". SFGate. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- "Scuba diving computer recall". Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems 22.57. The Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- "SUBGEAR". Subgear. 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- JOUT, Form 10-K SEC Filing, Item 1: Business (Outdoor Equipment), filed by Johnson Outdoors, Inc. on 15 December 2004 Filing: "Silva field compasses, which are manufactured by third parties, are marketed exclusively in North America."
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