|Headquarters||High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK|
Wilkinson Sword is a brand name for companies that make gardening tools and razors. Wilkinson Sword's origins are in the manufacture of swords, made in Shotley Bridge, County Durham in England. The company was founded in London in 1772 by Henry Nock and is currently owned by Energizer Holdings. Past product lines have included guns, bayonets, and implements such as typewriters, garden shears, scissors, and motorcycles. Wilkinson Sword has manufactured its products in three UK locations over the years: in London, (Chelsea and Acton), Cramlington in Northumberland and Bridgend in Wales, where it made gardening tools. In 2000, the company closed its razor plant in the UK and consolidated production in Germany.
Wilkinson Sword produced some of the earliest motorcycles in 1903. These were two-cylinder machines with Belgian engines made by Antoine, which were marketed by a garage in Chelsea in London – one of the first motorcycle dealerships in the UK. The venture was not a success however. In 1911 Wilkinson developed and manufactured the Wilkinson TMC, a luxury touring motorcycle between 1911 and 1916, when production was stopped by WWI. The first 'Wilkinsons' were originally designed for military reconnaissance by P G Tacchi, who was granted a patent for the design in 1908. Demonstrated to the British military in the summer of 1908, the Wilkinson motorcycle failed to impress the authorities, despite optional accessories including a sidecar complete with Maxim machine gun – and a steering wheel instead of handlebars. Undaunted, the company continued development and exhibited a new version a year later at the Stanley Clyde Motorcycle Show at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London in 1909. Only about 250 Wilkinsons were produced before WWI restrictions brought the line to its end in spring 1916, and Wilkinson had to produce thousands of bayonets for the war effort. After the war they decided to continue to develop the in-line four engine – but in a new car called the Deemster, and they never resumed motorcycle production.
Stainless steel razor blades
In 1965, Wilkinson Sword introduced stainless steel razor blades and soon the company's blades made rapid gains in shares of the market, because one blade, though somewhat more expensive, could be used for a week. The earlier carbon steel razor blades rusted quickly enough that many people used a new blade each day. So, although Wilkinson gained a larger percentage of the market, the demand for razor blades declined to approximately fourteen percent of its previous level. This introduction gave Wilkinson a substantive market share and previous market leaders quickly responded by introducing their own stainless blades. The technology had been available for some time, but the market leaders like Gillette, which held a patent on stainless blades, presumably knew that any gain for them in market share would be overwhelmed by the dramatic reduction in the size of the market.
Merger with British Match
In 1973, Wilkinson Sword merged with The British Match Corporation to form Wilkinson Match. This was intended to create a stronger company, with a larger advertising budget that would enable the company to fight its American rival in the consumer shaving market, The Gillette Company, and its British subsidiary, also called Gillette. In this advertising war, Wilkinson Sword loudly touted its long and proud tradition of bladesmithing in its print and electronic media advertisements.
Allegheny Ludlum Industries of Pittsburgh purchased Wilkinson Match in 1978. After becoming Allegheny International, Inc., the company filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 1987. Allegheny sold Wilkinson Match in 1986 to Swedish Match, which merged with Stora Group two years later. In 1989, Gillette helped finance a buyout of the Swedish Match consumer products division, which included Wilkinson Sword, by the Netherlands-based Eemland Holdings, giving Gillette a 22% stake in Eemland. After Gillette was ordered by the European Community Commission in 1992 to sell its interest in Eemland, Eemland sold Wilkinson Sword to Warner-Lambert, owner of Schick razor brand forming Schick-Wilkinson Sword. The Schick name was used on its products in North America and Japan, and the Wilkinson Sword name in Europe. In 2000, Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert and three-years later, divested the Wilkinson component.
Most of the former Bryant and May operations of Wilkinson Match were closed or sold in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including the Bryant and May factories in Bow and Melbourne. The gardening tools division was sold to Fiskars in the 1990s.
During this time Wilkinson Sword continued to make swords, even crafting the ceremonial sword for the Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee in 2002. The sword factory combined state of the art manufacturing technology with traditional skills and 19th century machinery to produce original fighting quality swords.
- Wilkinson Sword Hydro: Wilkinson's Sword redesigned razor system released on April 6, 2010.
- Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5: A 5 blade razor system with "skin guards advanced hydrating gel and a flip trimmer".
- Wilkinson Sword Hydro 3: A 3 blade razor system similar to the 5 blade system but all for a flip trimmer.
- Wilkinson Sword Hydro Silk: A 5-blade women's razor system. Initially introduced in mid-2012 as a Schick model; added to the Wilkinson Sword line later that year.
- Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 Power Select: A motorized version of the Hydro 5, with three user-selectable vibration levels.
- Wilkinson Sword Intuition: A women's shaving system that lathers and shaves at the same time.
- Wilkinson Sword Quattro: a four-bladed razor for men, introduced in 2003. The Quattro Midnight and Quattro Titanium are models with redesigned handles and different color schemes from the original Quattro.
- Quattro Power: A motorized version of the Quattro; it is supposed to reduce friction. The Quattro Titanium Power is a Quattro Power with a different color scheme and Quattro Titanium cartridges. The Quattro Power is powered by a single AAA battery.
- Quattro Titanium: includes a titanium coating on the blades that is claimed to reduce irritation.
- Quattro for Women: A modified version of the Quattro with a feminine color scheme.
- Wilkinson Sword Protector: A razor that is claimed to protect against nicks.
- Wilkinson Sword Protector 3D: A Disposable Razor
- Wilkinson Sword Xtreme3: A three blade men's shaving razor. Now also sold in the USA as Wilkinson Sword Tech 3.
- Wilkinson Sword XTreme3 Disposable: A disposable version of the Xtreme3, introduced in 1999.
- Wilkinson Sword Tech 3 Sensitive: A US-only three-blade disposable razor marketed for users with sensitive skin.
- Wilkinson Sword Extra 2 Sensitive: A two-bladed disposable razor that comes in four different varieties. A similar model is sold in the USA as Wilkinson Sword Classic Twin.
- Wilkinson Sword Extra 2 Beauty: A two-bladed disposable women's razor. Sold in the USA as Wilkinson Sword Classic Twin.
- Wilkinson Sword Xtreme3 Beauty: A three-blade disposable women's razor. Sold in the USA as Wilkinson Sword Oasis. The "Oasis" name is also used for a USA-only three-blade refillable women's razor system.
- Wilkinson Sword Classic: A budget, entry level double-edged men's safety razor produced exclusively for the European market.
Wilkinson still also makes double edge razor blades for safety razors.
Wilkinson Sword today
The company is owned by Energizer Holdings which bought the Company from Pfizer in 2003. The company produces three-, four-, and five-blade razors that are marketed under the Wilkinson Sword brand in Europe and the Schick brand in North America and Australia. In 2012, the company began selling budget models under the Wilkinson Sword name in the USA. The Wilkinson Sword-branded razors are made in Germany.
Currently Wilkinson Sword Garden Tools are sold by E. P. Barrus Ltd, who also own WOLF-Garten. The trade mark was formerly owned by Fiskars UK, who now operate and sell tools using the name Fiskars. Currently the garden tools only carry the name but are not made by Wilkinson Sword.
Disposal of the sword business
The Acton sword factory closed, and sword production ceased on 15 September 2005. Most of the Wilkinson Sword machinery, tools and equipment was purchased by the oldest producing sword factory in the world, WKC of Solingen, Germany. Amongst these items were most of the current British MOD Pattern Sword and Scabbard tools as well as the original blade roll forge of Wilkinson. These are currently used to produce ceremonial swords and scabbards for military and police forces worldwide.
Robert Pooley purchased sword drawings and forging machinery from Wilkinson Sword and sent them to India. He then set up his own company Pooley Sword which finishes and engraves swords forged in India.
- "Wilkinson Sword Ltd. History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- De Cet, Mirco (2005). Quentin Daniel, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of Classic Motorcycles. Rebo International. ISBN 978-90-366-1497-9.
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- Brooks, John (2000). The National Motorcycle Museum. Jarrold Publishing.
- "Stanley Clyde Show". Progress: Vol V, Issue 5. 1 March 1910. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- Yenkin, Jonathan (11 November 1992). "Gillette ordered to sell stake in Wilkinson parent". APnewsarchive. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- "Business: The Company File Wilkinson Sword cuts jobs". BBC News (BBC.com). 1 October 1998. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- Wilkinson Sword Homepage
- Wilkinson Sword USA Homepage
- Worldwide site
- Wilkinson Sword Garden Range Homepage