The Opinel Story
The Opinel Story
IT ALL BEGAN IN 1890.
In 1890, Joseph Opinel turned 18 and worked in the family workshop. With a passion for new machines and innovative technologies, he built his own camera and soon became the photographer for weddings and special events in his area. Led by his passion for machinery and the manufacturing process, he decided to invent an object which he could manufacture using modern technology. Against his father's wishes, he spent most of his free time refining the shape and manufacturing of a small pocket knife: the Opinel No.08 was born!
In 1565, King Charles IX of France ordered that every master cutler affix an emblem on their manufactured items to attest for the origin and quality. To follow in this tradition, Joseph Opinel chose the Crowned Hand as his emblem in 1909. The blessing hand is that of Saint John the Baptist, taken from the coat of arms of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, the nearest town in Albiez-le-Vieux, the birthplace of the Opinel family. Joseph Opinel added a crown as a reminder that Savoie was a duchy. All the blades on Opinel knives and tools have been stamped with The Crowned Hand ever since..
Originally, the Opinel knife had four components: the blade, the fixed ferrule, the rivet and the haft. The fixed ferrule was needed to firmly rivet the blade to the haft. In 1955, Marcel Opinel, who had been working on improving the safety of the knife, invented the Virobloc® system. He added a rotating ferrule which slid onto the fixed ferrule, closing the groove and thus locking the blade in the open position. The idea was simple enough but hard to achieve. In the 90’s, the Virobloc® system was modified to lock the blade in the closed position. This feature was added to all models in the early 2000's.
The Opinel knife is a popular everyday item whose aesthetics and functionality have won over generations of users. It has remained unchanged for over a century, with a design that is one of the most successful of all time. For this reason, Opinel was recognized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1985 for the best-designed items in the world alongside the Porsche 911 and the Rolex watch.
Opinel is part of French cultural heritage and is cited by name in many publications. In 1989, it received an entry in the Larousse dictionary, alongside the brands Bic, Frigidaire and Solex as a registered trade name with the following current definition: folding knife featuring a wooden haft with a groove in which the blade is inserted when the knife is closed.
To facilitate production flow and the growth of the company, the decision was made to gradually coalesce all business activities into one site. In 2003, the head office was moved from Cognin to Revériaz. A new building was constructed alongside the existing workshops.
The Opinel buildings at 508 boulevard Henry Bordeaux in Chambéry now covered a 5,000-m² area.
In 1989, with the permission of the Opinel Company, Jacques Opinel turned the workshop of his grandfather Jean (Joseph's brother), who was also a blacksmith/edge-tool maker, into a museum. The Opinel museum is located in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and rapidly became one of the top visitor destinations in Savoie. This free, private museum exploring Opinel's history was successfully renovated and enlarged in 2013 and then again in 2018 by the Opinel company, Jacques Opinel and his son Maxime. There, you will discover the Opinel family's origins and Savoie roots, as well as the changes to the manufacturing processes and the technical and commercial development of the brand.
The visit concludes with a film that was shot inside the workshops, demonstrating the current manufacturing processes.
July 2017, the first Opinel store opened in Annecy, France.
Millions of locals and international travelers stop by this beautiful Apline town on their way to the famous ski resorts!
22 Rue Filaterie, 74000 Annecy, France.