The modern zipper: In 1923 the industrialist Martin Othmar Winterhalter from eastern Switzerland bought the patent for the precursor to the modern zipper from the Swedish-American Gideon Sundbäck. Winterhalter replaced the system of beads and clamping jaws with ribs and grooves, and developed machines for serial production. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Station clock: The numeral-less Swiss station clock was designed in 1944 by designer and engineer Hans Hilfiker. The clear, minimalist design with a second hand reminiscent of a railway signalling disc was used by Apple in its early operating systems. swissinfo.ch
Freitag bags: The Freitag brothers, both graphic designers, were looking for robust, water-repellent material for a bag. They were inspired by the heavy traffic that rattled past their apartment every day. In 1993 they created the first shoulder bag from used truck tarpaulins, bicycle tubes and car seatbelts. Keystone
Corbusier chair: The LC4 chaise longue, was designed by Franco-Swiss Le Corbusier in 1928 together with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Helvetica font: The graphic artist and typographer Max Miedinger became famous in the fifties for the design of the font Helvetica. This typeface without embellishments is considered by experts to be one of the most popular. It is used for operating systems, public signage and book typesetting worldwide. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Fixpencil: It was designed in 1929 by stationery maker Caran d'Ache. It is the world's first mechanical pencil with a patented clip mechanism. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Sugar cubes: Swiss-born Jacob Christoph Rad was the head of a sugar factory in the Czech Republic and has gone down in history as the inventor of cube sugar. Around 1840 he began experimenting with sugar in order to give it a practical form. He succeeded in forming raw sugar into cubes by machine. In 1945 he was granted a patent for the cube sugar press. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Ricola throat soothers: Confectioner Emil Richterich was keen on experimenting with the healing properties of herbs. His breakthrough came in 1940 with the invention of the 13-herb mixture. It was the birth of the Ricola original, the Swiss herbal drop with its trademark angular shape. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Aluminium foil: The product was the brainchild of Heinrich Alfred Gautschi from Aargau, who patented it in 1905. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Bircher grater: Dr. Bircher Benner, inventor of breakfast müesli, also designed a grater in 1926. It is meant to break down muesli ingredients such as apples into small chunks. Keystone
Cheese scraper: It was developed in 1982 by Nicolas Crevoisier, a precision mechanic from Lajoux in the canton of Jura. He was looking for a faster and more elegant way to scrape the Tête de Moine cheese than was traditionally possible with a knife. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Edelweiss shirt: The fabric with the characteristic floral pattern was first produced by the Gugelmann & Co. weaving mill in Roggwil, Bern, in the 1960s or 1970s. The designer behind the fabric is not known and contrary to popular opinion, the shirt does not have a centuries-long tradition. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Landi chair: Designed by Hans Coray in 1938 for the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition the garden chair has become a Swiss design icon. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Rex vegetable peeler: It was invented and patented in 1947 by Alfred Neweczerzal, who was born in Davos. The original Rex, made from a single piece of aluminium, was easy to produce, affordable and yet high-quality. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
USM modular furniture: The modular furnishing system was developed in the 1960s by the Schärer brothers (USM) and the architect Fritz Haller. They are popular in doctors' surgeries, law firms, reception halls and private homes. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
TMP paper rack: Launched in 1989 it was Willi Glaeser's most famous invention. The elegant metal basket made the collection of waste paper socially acceptable. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Rako plastic container: Georg Utz was the man behind the practical storage container first manufactured in 1965. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The Swiss are often perceived as cautious and meticulous, but they also have a creative spirit that has produced many inventions used all over the world. Some have become design icons.
This content was published on September 14, 2019 - 11:00
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The former rural society has become innovative. According to the Global Innovation Index, Switzerland was the world innovation champion in 2012. Nowhere else in Europe are there as many patents registered by individuals and per inhabitant as in Switzerland. By way of comparison, 955 patents were filed per million inhabitants in Switzerland in 2018, 332 in Germany and 132 in the United States. The list of Swiss inventions is long and the stories behind them are fascinating.
Switzerland has a strong pharmaceutical industry, so it is not surprising that important achievements have been made in that sector. These include the artificial production of vitamin C, the anti-inflammatory cortisone, sedatives such as valium and the controversial drug LSD.
Popular Swiss innovations that make life easier include velcro, cellophane, the pen knife, wristwatch, folding clothes horse, garlic press and many others.
Albert Einstein's theory of relativity or Charles E. L. Brown's first transmission of electrical energy by three-phase high-voltage current really changed the world, giving rise to high-voltage lines.
(Sources: European Patent Office, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland)
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