The Collector’s Collector

Haoran Yang, one of China’s most prolific Swiss Army Knife collectors, on what Victorinox and Swissness mean to him.

The World of Victorinox: the meaning of Swissness and our Heritage in China

For most of our fans, the little red knife is more than just a multi-tool. The many stories we heard during our recent Swiss Army Knife collectors competition showed us as much. It’s a childhood rite of passage, a gift from a mother or a grandfather. It’s the desire to emulate a hero. It’s the powerful feeling of being prepared that makes these little knives so addictive. These are the stories we heard again and again.

Another theme which came up regularly was just how closely our knives are associated with Switzerland, their country of origin. For a Swiss expatriate living overseas, a Victorinox knife can serve as a reminder of home. For other collectors, the functionality, iconic design and high quality of our pocket knives embody the very essence of Switzerland itself.

One of the most inspiring collections we saw was from Haoran Yang in China, who has curated his own part of our heritage, an impressive collection of rare and vintage knives which has led to him becoming one of China’s most prolific collectors since starting to collect in 2013. For Haoran, the sense of history is part of what makes Victorinox so compelling. Find out more about his collection:

What motivated you to start collecting Victorinox knives?

When I was a child, I found out about Swiss Army Knives by chance in a magazine, but you could not buy them in China at that time. Once they became available in China in the late 90s, I finally purchased my first model, a red Classic. The feeling of joy I got from owning this knife lasted for a long time, I kept taking it out of my pocket to look at it and to open the tools again and again.

In 2013, I came across the many forums and social networks dedicated to the Swiss Army Knife. I found that I really enjoyed looking at the pictures shared by the community and reading about all the various knives. It was like falling in love! Ever since, I have spent between four and six hours a day increasing my knowledge of Swiss Army Knives and I now own about 2,000 Swiss Army Knives, including rare and vintage models, as well as new styles.

What appeals to you most about Swiss Army Knives?

I like the feeling of being able to solve a problem anytime and anywhere. The Swiss Army knife meets my needs and I think it's more convenient and easier to carry than any other tool. The Swiss Army Knife has been there for more than 100 years and time has proved its value.

Tell me about some of the most unusual knives in your collection:

Of course, I'd love to share, I think I have a lot of unusual stories. Let’s talk about my favorite Alox. I managed to find an original 1957 Pioneer, new in the box! For me, this knife has so much meaning because it triggered a revolution in the design of the Soldier’s Knife, which lasted from 1961 until 2008. This became a real inspiration for me and I have since managed to collect nine 1957 Pioneers, as well as collecting other Pioneers from all ages.
I also have one of the knives which was made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Soldier’s Knife. There were only one hundred of these knives ever made, so this is now a very rare knife. Pay attention to the “Waffenkontrolle” control stamp, which differs very slightly from the conventional red Alox Soldier’s Knife.
I love to collect Army Knives from around the world, such as the burnished steel Soldier’s Knife from the USA. The picture shows my collection of Dutch Army Knives, including 4 very rare blue Alox knives with smooth scales.

Is the heritage of Victorinox part of what makes it special to you?

Although Victorinox has progressed a lot in the past 100 years, many aspects of the company remain completely unchanged, such as the commitment to quality and functionality. I like things that have a sense of history and this is why Victorinox appeals to me. I hope to pass my own collection on to my son, so that he can share the happiness it gives me.

How does Victorinox represent Swissness for you?

Precise, careful, simple and practical. This is my opinion of the Swiss Army Knife. I can have a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket without feeling that it is here, but as soon as I need to solve a problem, it appears. This epitomizes Swissness for me.

How is Swissness perceived in China?

Products which are refined, practical and design-oriented are highly sought after in China. I believe this is part of the reason why there are so many Swiss Army Knife collectors here. In a country where manufacturing is a large part of our economy, we also study the industries of countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Japan, as we appreciate the quality and sophistication of their products.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about Haoran’s knives. There will be more to come on this impressive collection, as well as from our other winning collectors over the coming months.

Start your own collection

Pioneer Alox

silver

Swiss Soldier's Knife 08

green/black

SwissTool BS

black oxide steel

Spartan PS

black

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