Even the most inconspicuous factory product is our image in its kind
Max Braun's Shaver
Memories of Artur Braun
The older you get, the more important are memories of times long gone. How often do I then remember Max Braun's shaver, that little device that played such a big role in the life of our family. Many millions of people around the world know and appreciate it today, but the story of how it was created many years ago more and more falls into oblivion. It is time that I try to document its history.
Easier said than done. I am not a writer and spend far too long brooding over a blank piece of paper. The good thing is that it is not going to be a publication, but only a story for our family and friends, and that it is merely about an object of utility that is hard to offend or even hurt. Or is there more to it in the end than you would actually think?
My story begins with Max Braun, our father. He was born on October 25, 1890 in Schillgallen, later named Hochdünen, in the Memel delta, in that part of East Prussia that fell to the Soviets after the war and was therefore no longer accessible for us. It was not before September 1992 that Elfi and I were able to visit father's homeland for the first time. We came to a beautiful country, but one marked by war and occupation. Even the cemeteries had been destroyed by the Russians. There was no more reference to the grandparents Friedrich and Karoline. However, based on the descriptions in uncle Richard's story, we discovered their lands, a dilapidated building, which was probably the house where father was born, and the small lake in which he used to go swimming with his brothers. For a long time we stood in front of the run-down building of his small elementary school in the nearby village of Schakuhnen and the ruins of the agricultural machinery factory in Neukirch, where he did his apprenticeship as a machine fitter. How much we had wanted to see all this one day!
From the sheer endless vastness of this rural country, which had little to offer to its young people, he went out into the world after he had successfully completed his apprenticeship – 20 years old and without any means to speak of, but with the irresistible urge to take his fate into his own hands and perhaps one day become his own master.
Cosmopolitan cities with their strong contrast to his rural home must have attracted him. He found his first job in Hamburg, at Wilhelm Fette in mechanical engineering. After his military service in Spandau, he stayed in Berlin and worked there for Siemens, Stock & Co and for a long time at AEG in turbine construction. His evening studies at the private Polytechnikum Barth in Chausseestrasse he financed out of pocket, and his certificates in mechanical and electrical engineering prove that he was rather hard on himself. He learned English in his free time. So he lived in Berlin for many years and used this hard time of dependent work to further his education. In May 1918 he met our mother Mathilde at the wedding of his brother Richard in Wiesbaden and married her in November 1920 in Armsheim, Rhine-Hesse. They moved to Robert-Mayer-Strasse in Frankfurt. With a loan from his father-in-law, Peter Göttelmann, he was able to set up his own workshop in a rear building at Jordanstrasse 20. That was in May 1921. At last his long-cherished wish to become independent, to become his own master, had come true.
At that time, machines for power transmission still had leather drive belts whose ends were laboriously glued together. Even as a machine fitter at AEG, he must have already thought about joining these belts without adhesives. Later he constructed a small apparatus for this purpose. It became the first product of his own workshop, and because it was so new and useful, it sold very well, even abroad. Max Braun had found his way.
It was not an easy way, but from the very beginning a grueling struggle against all conceivable resistance. The times could hardly have been worse for a business start-up, back then after the lost war and with beginning inflation. Soon one loaf of bread cost billions of Reichsmark. The few pound notes from his exports to England helped him to survive with his small workshop. Our mother sometimes told us about those hard times, how father stood at his machines until late at night, and how she often worked with him at that time.
After the inflation the era of radio broadcasting began. In October 1923 the first radio concert was broadcast from Berlin. Max Braun must have been so impressed that he devoted himself to this new technology. First, he manufactured crystal detectors. Then tube bases and individual parts followed, which he produced on self-made injection molding machines, and finally complete receivers. Everything he produced carried his very personal signature. Slowly his business grew, but then it was all about survival again:
With the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929, the world economic crisis began. Max Braun would tirelessly visit his customers, worry when they were unable to pay, and then stand at the drawing board again and design the new record players and radios with which he luckily survived this difficult time. It was not until the mid-1930s that his company steered into calmer waters. But even that was only the calm before World War II.
As a paperweight on father's desk was a small turbine blade. Max Braun actually had a mechanical engineering background. Basically, he was more interested in precision mechanical products than in high-frequency technology. Once he gave me a newly developed table fan for my birthday. I liked it a lot, but it was hard to sell. Only much later did I realize that this fan was my father's first attempt with small electrical appliances to become more independent from his radios, the sale of which suffered from recurring sales crises.
Father was of a restless temperament, impatient and often very exhausting for his environment. He was constantly on the move, looking for new impressions and inspiration. In April 1936 he went to America. A study trip of the electrical industry was a welcome occasion to look around in the land of unlimited opportunity. The series and mass production facilities there were to his taste. They must have made such a deep impression on him that on his return and even much later he raved about mass products again and again: "shiploads full."
One day in fall 1938 – I was 13 and Erwin had just become a soldier – father brought home from France a small hand dynamo lamp of the brand Pygmy. I watched as he took it apart at his desk and looked at the individual parts with his 6x magnifying glass. He called this "determine the state of the art". Sometimes he just played with the parts and carried them around with him until we would find them again on his bedside table. I can still remember the little French lamp quite well with its white italicized name on the black plastic casing, and how father documented it in one of his tiny notebooks. We could not have guessed at that time that these were the first steps towards a worldwide success.
One year later, World War II broke out and changed our whole life. Father had to stop the manufacturing of record players and radios and, on the instructions of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, had to produce transmitters, receivers, remote controls and mine detectors. Uniformed men were now sitting in the final inspection. Father, who loved his freedom and did not think much of the military and rallying cries, was so displeased by all of it that often all he did was delve into the development of his own dynamo flashlight. Because other things had priority, it could not be produced before 1940. I cannot recall who came up with the name "Manulux". For many it was simply the "Quietsche" (squeaker) and for father his "Seh- und Hörlampe" (eye and ear lamp).
At night it was pitch dark because of the ordered blackout, and batteries for flashlights were running low. This increased the demand for the Manulux, which did not need batteries, to such an extent that almost 1000 pieces had to be produced daily. Finally, father owned the precision mechanical mass product that he had always wanted, though not under the given circumstances.
I was still a student at that time and lived sheltered with my parents. Sometimes I was allowed to use father's Philips dry shaver in the common bathroom, with which he often experimented. I liked that thing. Shaving was actually slow with its small round head, but the black plastic case was comfortable to hold and everything was more convenient, without soap and blades. We also tried a Sunbeam back then, with a radially reciprocating blade. That was when my love for dry shaving began.
Although there was a war, father sometimes found a way to travel to Switzerland. Dry shavers were already more popular there, and he could also buy some there. After such a journey in late fall 1942 he decided to develop his own shaver. The final impulse for this must have come from his longtime Swiss business friend, Hans Eggenberger.
It was a lucky decision, typical for father's intuition. There was a product that was used daily, was excellently suited for his business and was very similar in size, weight and manufacture to his Manulux, with which he already had experience in mass production. Like the Manulux, his shaver was to be driven by hand. For months, many table discussions revolved around his new project, and already at Easter 1943, when I had to go to work for the labor service after my wartime graduation, a first prototype with a radially moving blade was in the making. Ernst Pauli, one of his most capable men in the tool shop, had already started with the punching tools for the complicated shearing parts.
But there must have been problems with this system, because already in May 1943 his designer Albert Tränkner drew a shaver with straight moving blades. Still existing blueprints show the head of a HARAB shaver that father had brought back from Switzerland.
Father had managed to get me temporarily released from the military. So I was able to stay at home after the labor service in October 1943 and start my electromechanical apprenticeship in his company. I felt comfortable in the workshops with their people and machines and was often in the laboratory with Friedel Dorfschäfer, father's scientific assistant, or as a guest student at Frankfurt University. Shavers were not vital to the war effort, officially it was not allowed to work on them. But for father they became more and more the focus of attention. At the same time he was working on a new construction of the Manulux, which could not be realized due to the war, however.
The first destroyed house near Frankfurt University was still a sensation, many went to see it. But soon the war left ever deeper traces. Entire streets were reduced to rubble and ashes, and almost every night we had to go to the air-raid shelter. Then we witnessed the devastating air raid of March 22, 1944, to which half of Frankfurt and most of the works fell victim. Still during the night we desperately tried to save some things, but there was not much we could do. The following days showed the full extent of the devastation. Distraught, father and I wandered through the smoking debris of the factory buildings. His face was gray and he tried not to let his deep depression show. What must have been going on in his mind these days!
The following weeks were filled with clean-up work and with makeshift preparations for some rooms and workshops. Little later I had to leave for the army. No wonder that I had many other things on my mind.
Pertinacious and determined, as befitted his whole being, Max Braun meanwhile continued to work on his dry shaver, despite all the destruction and these terrible times. He had already experienced an end of war and knew that life would continue afterward. The concern for the existence of his works after the war must have driven him, and so, during these last months of the war, his outstanding invention was born. His idea of stretching a flexible, perforated foil over reciprocating lower blades in a dry shaver was to become the core of the later reconstruction!
My company was on the Oder River, north of Berlin, when US troops occupied Frankfurt a. M. in the spring of 1945. This broke off our correspondence. It was not until the summer that I was able to give a released buddy a sign of life from a prison camp in Holstein. Father is said to have received it in prison and to have slapped the messenger on the back out of joy. He had been remanded in custody for two weeks for illegal possession of red US gasoline.
I returned to Frankfurt completely starved in a cattle car at the beginning of September. From Südbahnhof I walked the last few kilometers across the destroyed city back home, worried about what I would find there. The building was still standing, and when I saw a sign at the garden gate saying that Allied soldiers could drop their radios for repair, it took a load off my mind. Everyone was healthy, and we were all delirious with joy to see each other again. I was happy that I was back home and that father had not lost his sense of humor, which was often ribald and cryptic, but never spiteful. He must have guessed what was in store for us when he said in his inimitable way that we had lost the war and were to drink Coca Cola now.
There was so much to tell, and I could hardly wait to see what father had made out of his shaver in the meantime. I thought his flexible shaving foil was just great, and how pleased he was with my unreserved, honest appreciation! Today I know how desperately he needed it, despite all the robustness shown to the outside world.
Father's idea to drive his shaver by hand, like the Manulux, could not be realized. The fingers went numb too quickly and the device could not be guided evenly. Without a mains connection it was impossible; and now in late summer 1945 there was a primitive prototype on a table in father's bedroom. We still had to press it against a standard small motor to make it work at all. The heart of the model, a shearing blade made of 0.05 mm thin sheet steel, had been punched by Karl Pfeuffer – later called father's "personal mechanic" – in many individual steps row by row with a single-row punching tool. On one side of the enclosure it was held by two buttons, on the other a spring carriage pulled it over the cutter head. The fact that we could hardly shave with this thing and that the blade always jumped out when it got stuck in the stubble did not derogate our enthusiasm.
Erwin had already made his way home earlier, by bicycle from Halle an der Saale, where he had last been a teacher at the army news school. Sometimes I still think of October 1, 1945, when we both started working in my father's company at Idsteiner Strasse 91. Erwin as a businessman and I as a technician. While he was studying business administration in parallel to his job in the factory, I continued my apprenticeship and started to help father with the further development of his shaver. A few rooms in the burnt-out works building had already been repaired, and little by little the former employees came back. Thank God almost all of them had luckily survived the war.
There was a lot to clean up and little to produce. In the beginning, we made transformers from old Wehrmacht material, with which the US soldiers could connect their 110-volt radios to our 220-volt network. Without a transformer, many an American device got charred then. Good that we got some work to do due to this drastic effect.
On the first floor, above the entrance on Kelkheimer Strasse, father had set up a temporary office. I was quite startled when he told me that I should wind up armatures for a new shaver motor in a corner next to the door – with him always behind my back! He had already thought up a winding machine for it. The whole company helped me to build it, and after a few weeks my armature winding job could start. Because the shaver was to be operated on the mains, the wire was only 0.07 mm thin. Whenever it tore, admonitions came from behind, sometimes even a projectile. Father's shaver motor was modeled on a direct current motor from war production. Friedel Dorfschäfer showed me how to calculate armature and field coils and how to arrange the connections. Everything had to be well insulated, the collector had to be soldered in cleanly and turned so that it rotated smoothly. After many troubles and breakdowns, the first little thing finally buzzed. I was very proud of it. The collector caused us a lot of grief. In this post-war period you could not simply buy it – copper only against old copper. At that time, our entire vehicle fleet consisted of an old, shot-up Fiat-Topolino, with which my father had driven to meet the American troops. Misjudging his peaceful intent, they had taken him under fire. Thank God he remained unharmed! With this Topolino we drove to Gustavsburg to the VDM, which he persuaded to draw us small copper profiles. These were then pressed with phenolic resin. Then I milled the slots between the lamellae with a small machine that Lorch-Schmidt, a lathe factory in Frankfurt, had built for us after much coaxing. It was actually a tragedy when sometimes such an elaborately manufactured little thing broke when pressed onto the armature shaft. Soon we got the revenge for taking a direct current motor as the base for the construction. Eddy current losses occurred in the massive iron parts, and the efficiency of the motor was poor. To put it more simply: it became hot and was too weak.
Because our coexistence in his cramped office was not always harmonious, father finally allowed me to set up my own workshop in a tiny room on the mezzanine floor, with a drawing board and also a small lathe, which father had got hold of for me from Lorch-Schmidt. I drew and built my version of the motor there. With modified field coils and layered core it was better adapted to alternating current, had a higher efficiency and was a bit shorter. It took a while before I had convinced father of my version. In the meantime he worked intensively with his tool designers Ernst Kunz, Karl Pfeuffer and Ernst Pauli on the shear blades.
After the first single-row punching tool, a multi-row one was already in the making, but who could drill so many small holes, not more than 0.45 mm in diameter, in a die plate made of tool steel? If a drill broke, everything was spoiled. Erwin and I also tried our hand on a machine built by Karl Pfeuffer. How nice that we were the first to be able to drill a whole plate without a drill bit getting stuck in it. That took time, of course, and at night I sometimes dreamed about the little twist drills, how they danced when starting to drill before they broke off.
Karl Pfeuffer's tools initially only had round holes, which were of little use for shaving longer stubble. An expert had warned of broken punches if a hole was cut into another. But we found out that it was possible to punch into each other without any problems, and that we could produce longer slits or mixed patterns of holes and slits in that manner. Later we were granted German Patent 940 095 for this process. Only the small, crescent-shaped punching waste had to be constantly blown away with compressed air so that it did not clog the die plate. Such extremely thin steel strip was difficult to obtain. Father once took me to the Sauerland region, to the Kuhbier rolling mills. When we arrived there, there was a mood of catastrophe. A 12-axle heavy rolling stand had just broken on our shear blade material. What a loss at that time. The perforated blades were still soft, but were supposed to get the hardness of razor blades. But how, and who could help?
In such cases, father sought advice everywhere. We also carried out experiments with the Degussa hardening department; however, from the salt baths the blades came out hard, but warped and unusable. Perhaps they could be hardened like razor blades, which are pulled through cooled steel jaws as glowing strips and smoothed in the process. This gave father the idea of building a hardening machine for intermittent operation. In a shaft the glowing blades, one after the other, were to fall between steel jaws, which then would collide immediately. After a short cooling down period, they should fall out at the bottom and be flat and hard. All this was to happen automatically and under protective gas so that the blades remained bright.
Design and construction of such a machine say more about Max Braun than some words. Just to get ahead with his shaver, he developed a completely new technology.
And all this in these hard times. How difficult it was back then to obtain the heat-resistant chrome-nickel material for the highly stressed components. As a coveted object of exchange, the Manulux had to help again. As the first post-war product, we had already taken up production of it in small batches. I took it upon myself to fit the muffles of the hardening machine with heating coils. Then I had to build the lifting magnets and their electrical timing system, largely from old Wehrmacht material still found in the house. Again, Friedel Dorfschäfer helped me, from whom I could learn a lot that I had missed out on during the war. Finally, after long months, the time had come. The small hardening machine was ready in the laboratory and ran and worked well from the beginning. Father was not a man of exuberance, but you could see the satisfaction on his face. Whole rows of these machines were later built and millions of shear blades were hardened with them. Their monotonous rattling noise, the blue protective gas flames and the peculiar smell of gas and burnt oil are an almost wistful memory.
There was also no model for the cutter heads. Again, new ways had to be found. After initial experiments with slotted tubes and heads made of solid material, father had the idea of casting punched, hardened steel cutters into a die-cast part. First experiments in this direction had been made shortly before the end of the war. Father had always attached great importance to his tool design department and had a field of experimentation there that few designers had. Ernst Kunz and the others knew what he wanted. With how much dedication they worked on the experimental tools. And they were quite a challenge. To cast 40 steel cutters of only 0.2 mm thickness into aluminum under high pressure was downright audacious. Complicated mold plates had to be taken from red-hot tools and filled with cutters. They carefully approached the task by means of preliminary tests with a few cutters and zinc that melted more easily. Because of the high temperatures, they finally chose intermediate magazines that could be filled with cutters beforehand without burning their fingers. Ernst Pauli later built an elaborate block-cutting tool for these cutters. After punching, they were hardened as bulk material. This resulted in irregular quality and was to cause us a lot of grief later in further processing. The first cast cuter heads were still clumsy and much too heavy for the small motor, which had to move them quickly back and forth. Our prototypes vibrated strongly and became hot. Weight had to be saved, and complicated tool changes were necessary. After casting, the cutter heads were face milled, smoothed on the faces and then ground between points. The aluminum cheeks had to be set back a little so that they did not rub on the shearing blade, otherwise there were black streaks on the face when shaving. Because the light metal clogged the discs, many grinding attempts were necessary, but the sharpness of the blades remained insufficient for a long time. Father ruled in an authoritarian manner and was always so far ahead with his ideas that Erwin Herborn, our designer, and the others had trouble keeping up. Tool design became a shere experimental workshop. I was always right in the middle of it, to get parts for my prototypes. It is admirable how everyone was committed, back then in this extraordinarily hard post-war period, in which we all suffered from constant hunger. For the wages in Reichsmark we could only buy what was available on food stamps, and that was little. At home, too, things were very tight. Max Braun did not think much of black market deals. After a few months I had built a whole series of motors and took several of them to a test bench. In a disused air-raid shelter they buzzed day and night. With selected bearings and special carbon brushes we reached more than one hundred operating hours. In the meantime father had had compression molds built for a smooth, round enclosure, so that I – it must have been fall 1946 – could assemble the first finished shaver under his supervision. It was an uplifting feeling when it ran, and its shortcomings could not diminish our joy. The thing was loud, became hot, shaved badly, vibrated strongly, and the blade kept jumping off, but somehow we liked it. Many improvements were necessary. Father thought up a clamp so that the blade would not jump off and serious shaving attempts could begin. He searched for his victims among the staff, and some came out of his room with burning faces or sore necks. Some then gave him a wide berth. The smooth enclosure looked poor and naked. Father wanted to make it more attractive and had it ribbed so that it did not feel so hot. The result was a kind of bicycle handle that none of us liked. Erwin and I then tried to improve the shape, but it was a merely little successful decoration that was eventually transferred to the tools. The series resistor, which had been finished as a prototype in the meantime, was not a beauty with its round arch either. Nobody was really satisfied, but it almost looked as if this device should go into production, although its shaving performance was out of proportion to the effort involved.
Erwin and I could not stop thinking about it. We soon agreed that an alternating current drive had to be simpler and cheaper. In our father's opinion, it was too slow with 3000 strokes per minute anyway. But as former Wehrmacht radio operators we knew that this only applies to polarized systems. Sometimes during radio service we had taken the permanent magnets out of our headphones and found it quite funny as this doubled the frequency and made the voices of battle-hardened sergeants sound squeaky. Unfortunately, father remained averse to an alternating current drive. He had put so much effort into the level he had reached that he could not simply get away from it. That was the time when Erwin and I experimented with alternating current drives in the evenings after work and on weekends in an almost conspiratorial manner, without father knowing it. Once during working hours I ground a permanent magnet on a cup wheel without considering that it could get stuck. When that actually happened, the chunks shot through the workshop with a loud bang. At first everything was very quiet, and it took a while until the good toolmakers came out from behind their workbenches again. Fortunately, the boss had not noticed anything. For an E-l-Kern I finally built a whole punching tool, but our results remained unsatisfactory. They could not measure up to father's motors. By then it was 1947. Foreman Schäfer and a small construction team renovated further rooms in the ruins of our works, and under Julius Calzaferri's management – he was father's first apprentice – in addition to the Manulux, the first radio receivers and record players were built again, some of them pre-war models. At that time we did not have to worry about sales. The demand was huge. Nobody thought about advertising, and when our businessmen, headed by Wilhelm Wiegand, Waldemar Hallerbach and Wilhelm Mross, were away on business, it was not to sell, but to acquire material.
Many US soldiers were already dry shaving at that time. They provided us with the usual US shavers, and one day father showed me a Sunbeam he had just received: a shaver with an alternating current drive! This Sunbeam was vibration compensated by two armatures, a very elegant solution. That made father think about his expensive motor again; and maybe we had already given him such a hard time with our constant AC talk that he soon was back at the drawing board and working on a similar model with Eugen Engert and Erwin Herborn. Soon everything looked quite promising. The construction was simpler, the ugly, hot series resistor could be omitted, it was possible to switch the voltage from 110 to 220 volts and even radio shielding was no longer needed. Now all the advantages of the inexpensive, robust alternating current drive, which Erwin and I had advocated for so long, became apparent.
To save time, the test enclosures were milled this time. I took care of the field coils. They were much easier to wind than the complicated armatures. Slowly the new shaver matured. It was not worse than its predecessor, but much easier to manufacture. Its appearance was created without a model on the drawing board. Blueprints still preserved show the signatures of Eugen Engert and Erwin Herborn and the date of April 1948. After months of experiments, we were back at making tools. The economic situation had noticeably improved, and June was to bring us the D-Mark with the currency reform. One day in early summer, in the middle of the production preparations for our new shaver, father called me into his office. He felt so bad that I quickly took him home in his car. Dr. Sprado and Dr. Schöndube diagnosed a mild heart attack and prescribed several weeks of bed rest for father.
While rummaging through our old sample collection I had found an inconspicuous shaver called STABA shortly before and had paid little attention to it because its shaving head was too primitive. Now I had some time to have a closer look at it. Without thinking much about it, I unscrewed it and was speechless at first. There in front of me was an amazingly simple solution of an oscillating alternating current drive. Although everything was raw and handcrafted, the screws turned from solid material and the coil body cut by hand, the idea was convincing. This was the drive system for our shaver that we had been looking for for so long! Unfortunately, I failed to find out where this STABA came from. It was never launched on the market. One of a few samples had ended up in our archives.
I started to combine this drive with our shaving parts. The fact that father needed to stay in bed gave me some more freedom. I had the ball bearings of our cutter heads, which happened to fit, milled into the STABA enclosure and produced the shear blade holder by hand. I could hardly wait to connect my prototype to an adjustable transformer; and then I had a really great moment of success, just how technicians always dream of in their struggle with the perfidy of an object: the thing ran exceptionally well and was much more powerful than our considerably more complicated oscillator! I would have liked to cheer out loud. I drove off quickly to show father everything. He was allowed to get up again and sat in his bedroom in his dressing gown. At first he was amazed, then he was excited, and finally he unscrewed my prototype and made sketches on scale paper with his fountain pen, as he often did when something kept his mind occupied. When we had put it back together again, my prototype ran much worse, and we could not bring it back to its previous performance despite all effort. Perhaps Friedel Dorfschäfer would know what to do. Our measurements showed that we were dealing with a resonance effect, and it was only much later that I found out that my first primitive prototype had been very close to the optimum operating point on the resonance curve!
Exciting months followed. Father had all the pieces carefully constructed. For the swing arm he chose die-cast aluminum with a bearing made of sintered metal, which was new at that time. I wound the first springs from piano string wire on a lathe. The new drive fitted into the enclosure of its predecessor, only the inner contour had to be changed. First long-term tests could begin. The bearing arrangement caused us some grief, because the oscillating movement prevented a continuous oil film to form. At first we achieved a mere 25 hours of operation, then everything got stuck, springs were broken and the air gap between armature and stator was closed for good. Bearings and springs were not able to withstand the extreme load, and the high temperature caused the plastic enclosures to distort.
Only specialists could help with the oscillating springs. Friedel Dorfschäfer and Philip Grommet, his assistant, had built me a frequency generator to measure the resonance of the devices. I put the box into our old Topolino and went to Leonhard Hüttlinger in Schwabach near Nuremberg. They had all the possibilities there to draw suitable spring wires. With dozens of springs I tried to tune my devices. It was really exasperating; all results were different and none could be reproduced. Discouraged, I went back home. But it only took a few days until I reappeared in the small attic room that Leonhard Hüttlinger had made available to me for my experiments. In long experiments I finally found out that the position of the springs was decisive. If I turned them around their longitudinal axis, I could change the resonance of the whole system by several hertz. Thus, we had found an elegant way to tune the system. This is how the simple oscillating Staba turned into an adjustable resonance drive!
Our new shaver looked quite poor next to the American devices. Especially a bright Schick, which I had received from a US soldier, I liked better; and why did we have a joiner's workshop in the basement. I had joiner Schiebelhuth give me some lime wood and built two wooden models there in the style of the Schick. After they had been sprayed in the paint shop in a nice light color, I attached all the metal parts to them. Somehow father must have liked them. He adopted them, probably not without hesitation – but I do not remember exactly today. So we were very close to the later S50, and everything looked so useable that production preparations could start again. It then took many months to get from the experimental stage to running production, especially with the complicated shaving parts.
In fall 1949, father told me to set up the shaver assembly in a room in the northeast corner of the top floor and then later head it. It was a good feeling that he thought I could do that so soon after my apprenticeship. Tables, chairs, drills, rivet presses and winding machines were set up, and soon cases and boxes with individual parts piled up. And then a great moment came: Hans Lenz from the payroll office introduced to me my first worker. Her name was Mina Most and she was nice and skillful. Me in a gray coat and her with a flowered apron, we worked in the small workshop. Every single work step should be perfect! Father had furnished a private room for him next door on the upper floor. Any other moment he came in, looked at everything and gave instructions. Still missing were the power cord and packaging. As a case he had thought up a plastic box with a transparent polystyrene lid. Tools for it were already in the making. With a single detail, such as the hinge of this box, he could occupy himself for weeks, with incredible care. The power cord was much more complicated than we thought. According to the VDE, there were no plugs this small at all. For reasons of flexibility, father chose a rubber cord, but the rubber factories that were available were not used to working so meticulously. Shoe soles and heels were squeezed there in primitive flat molds, where accuracy was not important. Eventually father saw himself forced to have his own molds built so that we could vulcanize the plugs ourselves. That sounds so easy, but what did we know about rubber. In Darmstadt we found the company Tewa, which produced the raw material mixture for us. I was there countless times, with more and more questions and complaints. In a room in front of my workshop, father had two toggle presses set up to scorch the power and connector plugs. We put the finished cords into a "napkin ring" made of polystyrene, which we also produced ourselves. Later, we received many inquiries from companies that wanted to use our power cord for their products but could not buy it anywhere. Meanwhile, long-term tests were carried out in the old air-raid shelter. Worn out bearings, broken springs, stuck air gaps and even broken cables showed that there was still a lot to do. Father designed a support bridge made of brass to absorb the strong tension between armature and stator and thus to keep the air gap open. Meanwhile I tested various bearings. With a VOM sintered iron, we achieved over 100 hours of operation, corresponding to a service life of about 4 years. For the time being, we could not stop the spring fractures. Fortunately, they did not occur frequently.
We put the finished shavers together with the power cord in the plastic box, added the user manual designed by our established graphic designer Will Münch, and then tucked the whole thing, wrapped in tissue paper, into a cardboard box. Also a design of Will Münch. Finally, the mains voltage was stamped on. Slowly the finished devices piled up. Betty Werner, Luise Richter and Ms. Moch together with many others had come to support. One day father came to meet me in front of my workshop with Hans Kleespies. He was a precision engineer and had worked for Zeiss in Jena and for Plaubel. Father had not mentioned at all that he was going to help me in the shaver assembly. I was glad to have an expert in addition to the workers, and we got along well. He was used to working precisely from camera production – certainly no disadvantage in a radio company. He had brought a stereomicroscope from Zeiss, under which we often studied our components. Burred cutter heads and shear blades, unclean threads, cold soldering joints, everything was clearly visible. Each cutter head had 40 blades and was therefore quite heavy. At the reversal points of the movement, where the knives virtually stopped, no hair could enter either. So I had the idea to try it with fewer blades. Hans Kleespies helped me to remove every second blade from some cutter heads. Then they were sharpened again. We increased the stroke to 2 blade widths and the success was amazing: much better shaving, less vibration and cheaper production. Father was very pleased. We decided to rearrange everything. As soon as the tools had been changed, we unpacked all the devices again, put on the new heads and retuned them with softer springs. I think there were more than 10,000 pieces. I had the ambition to tune and carefully check all the shavers myself. Of the first 25,000, I touched every single one. I wanted them to be as good as possible. Unfortunately, some of them shaved moderately and irritated the skin. We put their shearing parts under our microscope again and again. Many of the blades were burred, as it only occurs with soft material. This was due to primitive bulk hardening. We removed the burr and re-sharpened the heads, but the actual defect was not eliminated in this way. Of course, I was often in the machine departments and tried to remedy the defects already there. Also the shear blades were quite different. If the tools became blunt, a burr also occurred which had an adverse effect on shaving. We therefore built fine grinding equipment with a new type of grinding ceramic for the shearing blades and with trenches and grinding powder for the cutter heads. From then on they would clatter, not exactly quietly, in a corner, and there was a smell of grinding paste and metal abrasion, but the quality became more consistent, and that was what it was actually all about. "Material costs money," father said, when he put finished devices on the scales. He was quite astonished that we had saved almost half the weight of his first motor model with series resistor. Our assembly got better and better. After a few months we were already producing 200 units a day. Pre-production and purchasing often could not keep up, and therefore our main concern was that units were left merely semi-finished. The confusing central warehouse, in which our shaver parts played only a minor role, often let us down. If only one part was missing, we had to stop again. On a large shelf directly in our workshop we then set up a temporary storage; our parts actually were not really bulky. Ms. Hainschwang looked after it and was on her feet when something was missing. From then on assembly went smoothly. Finally, for the Frankfurt Spring Fair in 1950, over 25,000 units were ready and we could start to sell them. The fair was a big event, the whole family was at the booth and everyone was very excited. Erwin had found one of the first magnetophones; in the background the pop song of that time was constantly playing: "Du bist heut schlecht rasiert" (You are not well shaved today). The fair was well attended. Hour after hour a stream of people passed by our booth. Dry shaving was so little known at that time that our booth was always surrounded by people. Many visitors explained bluntly that it was not possible to shave dry or to achieve the smoothness of a wet shave. Father sat a little bit in the back of the booth and smiled when Erwin and I argued and tried to convince the end user with the S 50 on his cheek. In the evening we were hoarse and our legs hurt, but it was worth hearing the many opinions and trying the S 50 on such different beards. It sold brilliantly. We had to increase production. Soon it was 400 units a day.
The white Schick had a simple voltage switch. Two coils were either connected in parallel or in series. I suggested to integrate a similar functionality in the S 50. Father let me do it. In the meantime he had constructed the Multimix, the assembly of which was to start in 1950. My switching mechanism was finished after a few months and worked well. The coil body was now divided so that two coils could be wound at the same time. That almost halved the winding time. Around this time, in October 1950, Bodo Fütterer and Philip Jäger joined us. Erwin, always interested in expanding our team, had asked Rudi Kurz, a wartime comrade and at that time teacher at the Frankfurt school of engineering, to recommend talented graduates to us. Bodo Fütterer was to become acquainted with shaver development and Philip Jäger, together with Josef Bradatsch, was to manage the Multimix assembly, which had meanwhile started up in addition to shaver production. Father was already working on a juice centrifuge as an additional device. This did not stop him from thinking up a successor for the S 50, with a wider shaving head and a stronger drive, and I was to contribute the experience I had gained in the meantime. It was clear that we would have to abandon the unstable plastic enclosure as a mounting base. We chose an aluminum chassis because it was anti-magnetic. Then came the stator, which I could improve considerably: The S 50 stator had to be wound together with the package. If the winding was damaged, the whole thing was spoiled, and it was dangerous if a package flew out of the winding machine. On scale paper I had examined the winding space of a U-shaped stator, where the finished coils could simply be inserted, and it worked. Father took over this stator, which can still be found in most Braun shavers today. The only detail about the new device – it was to be called S52 – I did not like was its shape. Meanwhile father had a new box constructed, where the razor was no longer on its side but on its back so that you could see it better. I had no idea that this was to be one of his last projects, in fall 1951. Back then there was the first labor dispute after the war in Hesse, and a disastrous strike broke out that lasted for weeks. External pickets stood at the gates, denied our workers access and even attacked them physically. Many of my employees spent the night in the factory on makeshift beds or stacks of packing materials, only to be able to go back to work the next day. Father suffered greatly from the fact that strangers booed him in front of his factory and that a hostile atmosphere was spreading. How sad that he had to experience something like this in the last days of his life. With a poor compromise this strike finally came to an end.
Because the cutter heads were often not sharp enough and our fine grinding was too complicated in the long run, I had thought up a very unusual grinding process that did not work along the knife edges as with normal cylindrical grinding, but at an angle to them: a cylindrical grinding machine with a cup wheel. I had never seen anything like it before, but somehow it had to work. A spindle was available from an old tool grinding machine, and I had already glued a cup wheel onto an aluminum support with resin powder. Then came the sad day of November 6, 1951. In the morning I had gone to Mainzer Landstrasse to get a V-belt for my new grinding machine, and when I returned to Idsteiner Strasse everything was in great confusion: Something had happened to father. I ran up the stairs to his room on the top floor and found him slumped in his armchair, surrounded by employees. I opened the collar of his shirt, wanted to give him some relief. Minutes later Dr. Sprado, our family doctor, arrived, who had been informed immediately after father could still tell the switchboard that he was feeling bad. Dr. Sprado gave father an injection into his heart, but it was too late. Slowly helplessness overwhelmed us. My first thought was that father no longer had to worry and suffer. And then came the feeling of an infinite emptiness and sadness. Erwin had come and we bedded our dear father on his daybed in the next room, which he had used far too little. I still remember that Wilhelm Mross spontaneously expressed his feelings in a few simple words of thanks. Sad and numb we experienced the days to come and the funeral. Among the mourners was Hans Eggenberger, who had advised father to focus on the shaver. Just to do something, I showed him my new grinding machine, as if he could have helped me. He found some hearty words of praise, and that gave me some of the boost I so desperately needed.
I became more and more aware of the vacuum that father had left in his company, especially in the engineering department for which I, at the age of 26, was now responsible. How good it was that I had time to familiarize myself and that father had not exactly made it easy for me. There was nothing tempting about the fact that I now had a valuable share in the business, that I had gained a lot of power despite my youth, I only saw the responsibility. Erwin and I continued to work in our father's spirit as a matter of course. The commercial areas were in good hands with Erwin, so I could concentrate fully on the engineering. I had no doubt that I would take special care of father's most important legacy, his shaver. Erwin's concern was not only for sales and administration, but for our entire company. How often had he thought about its importance, both internally and externally, and shortly after father's death he suggested publishing a corporate magazine, our "Betriebsspiegel".
The first front page was dedicated to Max Braun. Many issues have been published to this day. As a living chronicle of Braun, they help me to write these lines.
Above all, we could rely on father's old employees. Anyone who had made it under Max Braun had to be really talented and from years of working together we knew their strengths and weaknesses. Wilhelm Wiegand, father's closest confidant, Waldemar Hallerbach and Rudolf Peter stood their ground. For shaver development I could completely rely on Bodo Fütterer.
He had settled in in a short time. We got along well, spoke the same language and often had very similar ideas. Wilhelm Mross had always been a born buying agent; he helped me a lot with external contacts, whether it was material procurement or engineering. Also Ernst Kunz with his tool designers and men like Heinrich Veith and the others in the machine departments were men of resources. Hans Kleespies took over the shaver assembly, Hermann Lindemann the work preparation department.
Father had been a soldier in Spandau and then spent many years in Berlin. In his short, often rough command style, a Berlin dialect was unmistakable. It was sometimes quite amusing when it met with old-established Frankfurters. In my case, his style produced rather defiant reactions, which sometimes also had an effect. I knew that there was an understanding when I asked for advice and let others have their say.
Perhaps still in memory of the bright Schick from the USA, we first decided to change the S50 from black to light ivory, a color I don't like any more, but which was very fashionable at that time. We had to leave the cheap phenolic resin and use carbamide molding material. After checking that the strength of the light-colored enclosures was sufficient, we started pressing. In a pressing plant that only knew dark material, this was a courageous step. No wonder that we had a lot of rejects due to impurities. Only after the presses were shielded and constantly cleaned and dusted could we work smoothly. We were not yet able to pre-pelletize since we lacked experience with the new material, which we initially bought from Cyanamid in America. Ernst Kunz suggested caking the powder in small polyethylene shells under high-frequency heat, which made processing much easier.
Giving the S50 a bright color was only a small step. Whether it promoted sales or whether the S50 became more and more popular because of its novelty and good shaving performance, we could not judge at that time.
In any case, it was important to take care of its successor, and there was no hiding how little I liked the S52, which actually was just an enlarged S50. It had the new stator, but the shape was clumsy, and something else bothered me so much that we had to turn it off: As with the S50, its shaving performance depended entirely on whether the blade was mounted correctly; and unfortunately, especially at trade fairs, we had to observe time and again that many people were unable to handle the blade properly. Often it was even damaged. Bodo Fütterer and I decided to remedy this serious defect. We had to become independent of the users' skillfulness, foolproof, so to speak. Thus began a development that left the S52, whose tools were then partially scrapped. I don't know if it was with intent that I abandoned father's design. In any case, it was my first important own development.
I thought about the shape constantly. It was the tapered feeder at the lower end that looked so unpleasantly organic.
I made handling studies and was finally convinced that it would be better to continue with the full width of the cutter head all the way through to the lower end. As uncomplicated as it was still possible at that time, I went into the joiner's workshop and built another model out of lime wood. Despite its somewhat clumsy and at first unfamiliar appearance, it became a trend-setter for the shape not only of Braun shavers, until today. The "roll form" was born. How nice that at that time there were not yet those committees in which sensitive seedlings of thought are stamped down before they even sprout.
My wooden model still had the old shear blade attachment of the S50, with buttons to hang it up and a clamping plate, but the outer shape, the stator and the aluminum chassis were now fixed. Now I went to work with Bodo Fütterer to adapt the much more difficult shear blade mounting. A spring element had to compensate for the clearance between cutter head and blade, basically in the same way as Max Braun had planned for his first motor model, only we had to fix the blade after clearance compensation. We brooded a lot over this tricky problem until we finally had the idea not to clamp the blade over a fixed head, but to press the resilient head into a fixed blade.
Was that an important step? To press moving inner blades against fixed outer blades was actually the rule. Yes, it was an important step. How easily the flexibility of the blade could have ruined everything. We ran many tests, and indeed, it worked without having to make both springs much stronger; otherwise the head would have become too hot.
Then we took to the mounting of the shear blade. For a long time we worked on a solution where it hung on two cams on each side of the enclosure and two metal flaps prevented it from jumping off. But what we didn't like in the end was that the bare blade was in great danger when inserting it. It hurt me almost physically when a layman made mistakes and it broke with an unpleasant noise. The blade had to be put in a holder so that it was better protected and safer to handle. I don't remember how long Bodo Fütterer and I puzzled until we came across the Remington patent specification 813.667 which required a frame around the shaving heads, solely to catch the stubble. This specification placed particular emphasis on the fact that the frame had no connection whatsoever with the shearing parts. So what if we did just that and fixed our blade in the frame? Bodo Fütterer built a model in which the blade held itself by its tension and it worked. Our user-friendly shear blade holder was born! We received the German Patent 1005406 for it, which the competition couldn't get around for many years and which gave us a huge advantage. Basically, Max Braun's shaver was only now really marketable. From then, the rest of the development went rather quickly. For the outer shape there was again a wooden model, this time much more precise, made on the copy milling machine. And we built in a switch so that one did not always have to pull out the plug. For the frame we chose acrylic that is pleasant to the touch. Finally Bodo Fütterer had a model made of Plexiglas, on which we could study the interior in detail. Without the four ball tracks of the S50, the enclosure tool was much simpler, and finally, we pressed upside down, with the die from below. We simply tipped the powder, caked according to the Kunz method, onto the die. The metal inserts were now at the bottom and could no longer fall into the mold and damage it. On the S52 cutter head we only changed the inner contour. Karl Pfeuffer had in the meantime built the larger tools for the new blades and also new hardening machines and everything else that came with them, when we changed the mounting of the shaving head again. Instead of the two pressure springs there was only one. Again the tools were changed and now we had a new part that connected the swing arm and the cutter head: the driving plate. This little devil looked so harmless, but later it caused us a lot of trouble. We also had to think about the packaging. From Offenbach designs we chose a leather case with zipper and padded lid. Sometimes I had talked with father about an assembly line production, but he didn't like it, he had too much other things on his mind. Now I went to this project with Hans Kleespies, and soon there was an assembly line from Rosenkaimer on the 3rd floor. Its rubber band was 30 cm wide and its speed could be regulated. We set up assembly areas at the side, which was where the women sat. We had not yet coordinated the work cycles. Then we let the system run and waited. At some point a coffee cup would come along on the belt or some other nonsense. So we slowly and almost playfully got acquainted with the work on an assembly line. Meanwhile I had to take care of many other things; my field of responsibility had actually become much bigger. I developed record players, portable radios, a new mixer with all kinds of accessories and much more. Also pre-production in the machine departments demanded attention and of course father's and my favorite child, the tool design department. The tool designers were happy about better machines and new workplaces with good lighting, personal contact and for holidays also sometimes a bottle of schnapps. Of course, they were all organized in the union, but that did not harm our mutual affection. Erwin's work in the commercial areas also showed visible success. He was constantly concerned with the image of our company. He had hired Wolfgang Schmittel as graphic designer and G.P. Joest as advertising assistant. Wolfgang Schmittel was to rework our company logo, the Braun letters with the raised A, which still came from Will Münch, and determine its final form. In May 1953 it appeared for the first time in the Betriebsspiegel. This was Erwin's first step in giving our company an unmistakable face. At that time, we could not think of a better name for our new shaver than the florid "300 de Luxe". By the Frankfurt spring fair in 1953, so many had left our assembly line that sales could begin. And the 300 de Luxe was a small sensation! From then on, our main concern was to produce enough of it to somehow satisfy the lively demand even though the price of DM 69.- was well above the S 50 with its DM 39.50. Then I was attracted to America. In April 1953 Wilhelm Mross and I flew to the USA with the German Study Travel Association. Our group was only small – apart from the director, Dr. Stienecke, there were only four of us – and visitors from Germany were still very rare at that time, but the doors of many companies were open to us. We had not expected the willingness with which they showed us everything. I fondly remember Allan Bradley in Chicago or Webster in Milwaukee. The employees there with German roots were delighted to see Germans once again and to exchange memories of their old home country. We were astonished that even large companies with a degree of automation that was unimaginable for us at the time were not able to eliminate even small businesses, which often managed to defend their position quite cleverly despite their limited financial resources. The high productivity of the companies, their purposeful work was impressive. We liked very much the extensive use of compressed air for automation purposes, we didn't have anything like that. In Lower Manhattan on Canal Street, we found a used compressed air cylinder at a second-hand shop, which Wilhelm Mross had traded down to a few dollars, and which we proudly brought home as a sample. But that wasn't really that important. It was much more about that American productivity mentality, which was so different, so more liberal than ours, and which at that time, after the great war, gave the whole world economy the urgently needed impetus. Back home again, I tried to pass on to our technical managers the inspiration from our trip over many evenings of discussion. From then on, we met weekly, sometimes watching RKW movies and often discussing long after the scheduled time. At some point, much later, we got to the point where everyone smiled when someone said something was not possible. Our 300 de Luxe aroused great interest, even in America, where I had shown samples. In Germany it sold very well from the beginning, without us doing much advertising for it. As we had learned in America, we tried to leave strenuous, tiring work to machines or devices, screwed electrically, riveted on hydro presses and tried to get the flow of material going, because despite the small size of the devices, cubic meters and tons of material were moved. Our old, burnt-out factory building at Idsteiner Strasse groaned in all its joints. Especially its multi-floor construction was impractical. This had nothing to do with the spacious, ground-level American production halls. Too many parts were dragged up the stairs in boxes and crates, and the small material elevator was jammed with the loaded lifting frames that we had been forced to introduce in the meantime. Even loud knocking on the elevator doors didn't help. It is no wonder that the desire for rational production at ground level became more and more burning in this packed space. The next year, in 1954, it was to be fulfilled. Richard Rohlf, a former officer comrade of Erwin's, engineer and architect, did not need much persuasion to join us. In January, while skiing on the Alpe di Siusi, we sat in the Hotel Mezdi in the evening and sketched out modern production buildings as I had seen them in the USA. This is how our lifelong cooperation and friendship began. We wanted to get out of the confinement of Frankfurt, out of the old Gallus quarter with its soot-blackened streets, somewhere to an area where there was still plenty of space, in the open countryside. Richard was to take over this task. He had been studying Frankfurt production for months, and a preliminary selection had already been made with the responsible offices for economic development. In February 1954 we drove to Tauberbischofsheim and Walldürn, which were shortlisted at the time. We were taken with the old pilgrimage town of Walldürn, despite the dung heaps in front of some farmhouses. A more or less flat area of forest and meadow was intended to develop into an industrial park and a small concrete block manufacturer had already settled down. Next to it there was the "Fuchsbau", a restaurant in a raw new building. When we drank a glass of beer there and asked about job opportunities in the community, we got into conversation with another guest who thought we were job seekers and bought a meal for each of us. We accepted with thanks and later on we often laughed about it with the donor, the owner of a Walldürn car dealership. A few weeks after my trip to America, we placed an advertisement in the newspaper, reading something like that they build better equipment in America than they do here, and that we were looking for someone who, as an equipment engineer, could remedy this lack. One of the applicants wrote to us that this could not only be done in the USA, and that we should not hide our light under a bushel. It was August Siedler. He had worked at VDO as an equipment engineer and then went into career counseling because he could no longer stand the constant stress – but it had turned out too boring for him. We soon agreed, he had similar ideas to mine and a lot of practical experience. Often, we sat together until late in the evening and talked about new equipment and possible automation. Already in 1953, a connection to Ronson in America, a large manufacturer of lighters, had been established through Wilhelm Wiegand and our Brussels representative Nico Blomhof. Ronson was interested in the distribution of our shaver and a licensed production in the USA. One day we were visited by Beverly Bond, a former chief engineer of Remington, whom Louis Aronson had recruited to set up this business. He spoke no German and my English was poor, but we understood each other right away. His main concern was that he could not get many shavers to work properly once he had dismantled them. I showed him quite openly how to tune them on a frequency generator, and with this sign of confidence our long, good cooperation began, and a friendship that connected us until his death. In February 1954, we signed the Ronson contract, at $10 million, the largest consumer goods deal after the war. Technically, a lot of impetus came from Beverly Bond. His quality standards were high. At Remington, he had headed large factories and also the shaver production. He knew what he was talking about. The USA deliveries differed not only in the mains voltage from the European ones, but also in the finish. The enclosure was black, the shaving head frame was ivory. For the black enclosure, a satin finish was required, i.e. a matt silky shine.
However, there was no point in matting press molds, because the aggressive molding material would polish everything. So we tried to get a more or less matt surface with fiber brushes and grinding paste. Today it is the rule for black objects of daily use, the new plastics allow to matt the molds. The additional deliveries to America increased the daily number of units, and soon this was no longer manageable in the old building on Idsteiner Strasse. On April 20, 1954 the foundation stone for our new plant in Walldürn was laid, and in a record time of only 8 weeks the shell of the building was completed. Richard took to it like a duck to water. He and his wife Anne had moved into a primitive old building in Walldürn. Elfi and I visited them almost every weekend. In the evening we often sat at an old round iron stove and made plans for the future. Already in late fall, the hall and administration wing were ready to move in. Richard and I mounted the first tool to an injection molding machine, filled in granulate, got everything running and soon proudly held the first pieces of the new Walldürn production in our hands. They were rings for the power cable, crystal clear and a little bit sunken in because the holding pressure was not right, and we had set the ejectors too high. It was not easy to find skilled workers in the rural area, but everyone made the greatest effort. Some specialists from Frankfurt moved with us to Walldürn, among them Ernst Pauli, who suffered from asthma and was visibly recovering in the good air there. In the summer of 1954 Fritz Eichler joined us. Erwin had met him during the war in the military. Fritz had his favorite pictures of modern painters in his luggage, which were considered "degenerate art" at that time. He told Erwin about Paul Klee and the others, and so they had become friends. An art historian in a medium-sized electrical company! Fortunately, Erwin had the imagination to envision such combination and Fritz would later exert an invaluable influence on the philosophy and design of our then much larger company. He was a real friend and the ideal conversation partner for us. For countless hours and days he and Erwin sat together, went for walks in the Vordertaunus and discussed in every suitable and sometimes unsuitable moment. They tried to find a common denominator, a common statement for our still so heterogeneous product range.
"For a modern lifestyle" was finally the term that was to unite everything. Here, for the first time, the word modern appears, although it had little to do with what we later understood by it. Despite impressive successes that we could show in a short time, Erwin, Fritz and I were dissatisfied with what we presented. We liked least our over-decorated radios in polished wooden enclosures. For us they were only the "gold chests". An opinion poll about our company, which Erwin had made, was also depressing. We needed other qualities, we needed progress and modernity. Already in December 1953 an article about Raimond Loewy and his bestseller "Never leave well enough alone" had been published in the Spiegel magazine. Erwin had distributed a few copies in the company at that time, and we had discussed it extensively. Constantly looking for opinions from outside, he now asked our former art teacher Emil Betzler who could help us in our search for modern radio enclosures, and Emil Betzler referred him to Wilhelm Wagenfeld, who was scheduled to give a lecture in Darmstadt. Erwin went there and was so enthusiastic about what he said that he asked this outstanding designer and former Bauhaus man to help us. I often visited him in Stuttgart. While we were working on a phono case and a record player, this wonderful man talked about good objects and good forms, about many things, from his world, which was still rather unfamiliar to me at that time.
At Erwin's invitation Hans Gugelot visited us in the fall of 1954. Mr. Untied, managing director of our wooden enclosure supplier Thun in Jettingen, had advised Erwin to turn to the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, where Hans Gugelot was a lecturer at that time, for modern radio enclosures. Erwin commissioned him to design a modern wooden enclosure, which he presented to us a little later in Rüsselsheimer Strasse. Fritz Eichler later wrote to him about this meeting: "I still remember how we first met in Frankfurt. You brought along – mystically packed – the first model of a future radio set. It was a festive moment full of suspense – like uncovering a monument: There was it – a simple square wooden box – a black circle and a rectangle on the front – that was all. And there were we – five men from the industry – and stared at it: Wearing a sporty leather jacket, a thick woolen scarf around your neck (although it was very warm inside Rooms) you were skeptically – with almost a slightly arrogant expression – looking at these five men. An angel walked across the room – you must surely have thought that it was a devil in disguise who would blow up this marvelous thing from Ulm with a bang. But it remained silent – it seems as if it really was an angel – the angel who brought us together. Later, you admitted that you had staged this presentation as kind of a test. You wanted to provoke us – you wanted to know whether we were this sort of industrialists who wanted to give so-called modernity a try. When you realized that we were serious about it that we were even ready to turn this rough draft of a radio set originating from a matrix into reality – at that point the five men of the industry turned into human beings for you. Together with the thick woolen scarf you put down your skepticism and became a co-conspirator." Hans Gugelot and his team designed and built further models. They became a sensation at the Düsseldorf radio exhibition in the summer of 1955. Otl Aicher, co-founder of the Hochschule für Gestaltung, was head of the "Visual Communication" department there at the time. He had designed a novel system for exhibition booths and provided it to us to present our new radio sets in Düsseldorf. It was a typical Ulm system, slim, transparent, easy to set up and take down, and consisting of only a few parts that could be easily combined and used again and again. Small and large booths could be built in a basic grid and adapted to the respective space conditions. In contrast to the usual expensive custom-made booths that lay around after every trade fair because nobody dared to throw them away, these booths needed almost no space when they were dismantled. I go into the new exhibition booths in such detail because they tell a lot about Otl Aicher. Otl thought in contexts, in systems. For him, an exhibition booth, a font, a color, a radio enclosure was only part of a whole. He was not only interested in our booth, he was interested in the whole company. Together with Hans Gugelot he influenced it in the most positive way for many years. He also brought us new typefaces, which from then on would be used in all printed matter. And his main concern was that these typefaces were easy to read! That is how simple and at the same time complex it was for him. Headed by Fritz Eichler, a small design department was set up with Dieter Rams, who had actually joined as an interior designer, and Gerd Müller; and from then on we cleaned up our program. With ivory and gold it was still easy. But when it came to form, it got complicated. Should a designer put a cover on a technical device, or was an engineer forced to build his technology into a pot? Neither case seemed ideal to Fritz and me. Even back then we suspected that the secret of good design was to be found in the cooperation between engineers and designers. Of course, engineers are by nature very conservative and suspicious of any capers that only cause a lot of work in the long run; and in our case it was no different. It took much, much persuasion to break down this resistance and to get to the point where everyone expected not only difficulties but inspiration from each other. Both disciplines had to acknowledge each other, work together from the very first idea; that was the secret. And that's where we spoke the same language: Fritz, who was a designer in the broadest sense, and I, the engineer. Our 300 de Luxe got a white enclosure with a shear blade frame in fresh colors and the power cord new plugs, which I designed based on suggestions of Prof. Wagenfeld. After many experiments we had decided to use a plastic cord instead of the rubber cord. The whole thing looked fresh and clean in a bright metal case and was now called "Special". But it was not only about the appearance. The Special had a much better shaving performance, without even showing it. We had come across the edges of the holes when we investigated why the performance of the appliances was so different. Especially shear blades from worn tools shaved very well in some cases. This was due to burr formation at the edges of the holes. In extreme cases, these blades only rested on the polished burr around the holes and this resulted in a good cut. Karlheinz Halbig, who headed the laboratory at the time, suggested that this effect could be achieved by deliberately countersinking the holes in the die plate, and that worked excellently. Unfortunately, however, the stability of the complicated tools was reduced to such an extent that we could not keep up with maintenance. August Siedler had to help, and after much tinkering he found a particularly elegant solution. He embossed the raised edges into the shear blades before they were perforated, and then punched into this embossing. Reporting on how he did this in detail would lead too far here. In any case, we mastered this technique from then on in series production, and the buyers noticed it clearly!
Another very decisive improvement was about the cutter head, with which Bodo Fütterer experimented a lot. He investigated this crackling noise produced by some shavers that shaved particularly well and that was perceived as particularly sharp by the users. He found that depending on the clamping length, the blades sprung back before they cut the hair and then swung back. He succeeded in optimizing this effect by reducing the thickness of the blades from 0.2 mm to 0.12 mm. Meanwhile, August Siedler was tireless in his efforts of improving the manufacturing technology. Wilhelm Mross and I had found two old Prox automatic punching machines at a small sheet metal fabricator, where their great performance was in no way exploited. We persuaded him to sell us these machines. Then we trimmed them to the performance they were capable of with new PlV gears and new central lubrication. August Siedler designed stacking magazines, and soon we were able to process stators and armatures off the rack, had much better quality and had taken an important step towards automation. It was similar with the highly complicated shearing parts. August Siedler and I were thinking about all kinds of possibilities. Bulk hardening the blades was an anachronism; they had to go from the belt directly into the magazines, but we could not punch glass-hard material. We decided on soft material and left the blades hanging at points on the belt. So it was hardened and tempered over the process. Finally, the blades were broken out and filled into the magazines. In the meantime, Bev Bond had set up a Ronson shaver production facility on Commerce Road in Stamford, Connecticut, and invited us to visit it all. An old travel report says that I left in mid-April 1956 with Elfi and Richard. At that time there was no Lufthansa yet and no direct flights. So we first went to Amsterdam and continued from there with a KLM Super Constellation. With stopovers in Ireland and Newfoundland, it took us 16 hours to New York, International Airport, which was still called ldlewild at that time. Today it seems exaggerated that the passengers had to remain seated after landing until a medical officer had inspected them all. Afterwards the cabin and passengers were sprayed with DDT. Passport and visa formalities were similarly strict; and finally, there was the customs. The import of any kind of food was strictly prohibited. A traveler, apparently of Mediterranean origin, had some onions taken from him and dumped in a container with all the signs of disgust. Then it was our turn. I had brought some bags with metric screws and other small parts for Bev Bond, which were difficult to get hold of there. The customs officer found them with a targeted grip. When I explained that these samples were of no value, his eyes got bigger and bigger and then I had to listen to the typical American lecture: "Everything has any value!" That made sense to me and I paid my duty. We met Mr. Duff, who had helped to make the connection with Ronson, and his wife the next morning at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which was then almost a compulsory stay for Europeans. They showed us the city. Everything was incredibly impressive. Visitors, especially Europeans, could be recognized by the fact that they kept looking up, which a New Yorker certainly did not do.
Central Park, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, a coffee shop or a self-service every once and again, in the evening a visit to Radio City Music Hall; it was a wonderful city then, even with a certain tranquility, and not the boiling pot of today. Then we went to Stamford, Connecticut. Bev Bond had chosen this place for his new production, although, or perhaps even because the Schick Shaver Corp. once was located there with its shaving factory, which Max Braun, as I remember, was so impressed by. How different it was here than in New York, of which Americans say that it is not America. We stayed at the Roger Smith Hotel, an old, incredibly lovely brick box, which unfortunately no longer exists today. It smelled as typical as only New England can smell. We enjoyed the breakfasts with freshly made pancakes, maple syrup and pink grapefruits. An old, petite lady, who devoured a huge piece of rib sticking over the edge of her plate every morning for breakfast at the neighboring table, impressed us enormously. Bev Bond and his wife Edna had their home in Wilson Point, a few minutes from Long Island Sound. We soon felt at home there. Bev had even supplied Munich beer in our honor. In the next few days, we were to see how our shaver was made in the USA. You can't imagine anything more interesting for an engineer as the States were far ahead of us in know-how and production methods. Bev's team welcomed us at Commerce Road. There were Arthur Riley for administration and procurement, Heinz Werner, the designer, Jim Schnapp, the tool designer, and others. A rented, ground-level flat-roof building housed offices, assembly and storage. Hardly any machines were visible. As was customary in the USA, much was sourced from highly specialized suppliers. The assembly lines were similar to ours, but the workstations were arranged like school desks. But first Bev Bond had a special surprise for us. He proudly showed us his latest version of our shaver, which Jim Schnapp and Heinz Werner had significantly improved under his direction. In the shaving head frame, now made of chromed metal, they had accommodated an additional long hair trimmer, which was switched on or off depending on how the frame was attached. Bodo Fütterer and I had already thought about different options for cutting long hair for many months, even about a second attachable head, but had not found such an elegant solution. Bev and his men received unlimited praise. Their solution was later adopted in our new "Combi", this time improved by us. Bev Bond had introduced further improvements: The coils were manufactured using the "paper section" process, in which up to 12 coils are wound simultaneously with thin paper inserted between each layer. This actually creates a bar which is then cut between the windings on a circular saw. At first it was painful to saw into these delicate structures, but it was a common and proven process in the USA, and was stipulated by testing authorities such as Underwriters Laboratories. For the first time, the enclosure shells were made of thermoplastic by injection molding. It took years before we introduced such thermoplastic enclosures. This was due to conservatism, but also to the inadequate quality of German plastics. Bev had also come up with a polyethylene case that held the shaver and cord. A cap was put over the whole thing and fastened with a snap fastener that was riveted into a flexible flap of the bottom part. An inexpensive, very elegant solution. The assembly of the shavers had just started; there was not much to see yet. Nevertheless, Richard Rohlf and I were impressed by the many small things that made work easier, the typical American tricks. For example, a holder for lock washers, which were not, as in our works, lying around in a mess. Using a special tool, they could be easily removed from a magazine on which they were delivered. All the things that save a lot of time in mass production. For the next few days, Arthur Riley had put together visiting tours to the supplier companies. That's when things got really interesting. First, we visited a company that specialized in the "paper section" winding of coils. Such a company looked quite different from the one here in Germany. Different machines, completely different furnishings and colors, people dressed differently, the frequent use of gloves, goggles and other protective equipment, little daylight in the rooms, but a lot of bright artificial light. The working speed not higher than ours, but much more effective and better thought out; no wonder with the dollar wages. One dollar actually cost DM 4.20 back then. Jim Schnapp had previously worked at Elektrolux in Ridgemont and arranged for us to visit a state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner factory. Its level of automation impressed us deeply and made it clear how much we still had to catch up on. Then we visited "Victor Cable", the company that made the power cords for the shavers. From cable sheathing with extrusion presses to assembly on state-of-the-art Leesona machines to the injection molding of 20 plugs at a time, everything was rationalized. Where our cable supplier was happy to get the stranded wire on a 1 kg reel, at Victor's, endless strands of wire ran on large drums of umpteen kg, which enabled long, uninterrupted work. More was demanded of the American suppliers, and they also had more to offer than ours; the whole infrastructure was better. A visit to "Magnetic Metals" was particularly impressive. They punched the stator and armature sheets on high-performance machines with carbide tools that we did not even dare to dream of. The toolmakers who could produce such works of art were very old, and somehow we got the impression that there was a shortage of young people. In the USA there is no apprenticeship system for experts as in Germany. One day was planned for the visit of a new Ronson factory, which was currently under construction. With a Cessna we flew from White Plaines right across New York to Straudsburg at the Delaware Water Gap. The pilot, a man like a bear, apologized every time we plunged down in an air pocket. Even the shell of the factory building was impressive. That was what industrial architecture was about! Thomas and I enjoy working together in this field today. Our journey continued to Detroit, where we visited Greenfield Village and the world-famous River Rouge factory of Ford, a whole industrial city full of incredible impressions, and then on to Chicago. There we met Erwin, Fritz and Hans Gugelot, who had arrived via California in the meantime. They had visited the famous designer Charles Eames and looked around for products with a modern design. Richard and I also took the opportunity to visit "Major Appliances Park" of General Electric in Louisville, Kentucky, where words failed us once and for all. There wasn't anything like it in good old Europe; it was just totally amazing. At the end of the visit we, the Europeans, were appointed honorary sheriffs, singing the song "My old Kentucky Home". By plane we returned to Chicago shortly before a hurricane still at 24°C. At our departure in the morning it was 10°C below zero. We dragged ourselves into a small pub for a cool beer. These were wonderfully eventful days in America. The "Independence", a medium-sized passenger ship, which at that time still provided Atlantic service, took us from New York to Naples, from where we continued to Turin and Ivrea. There we were able to visit the ultra-modern facilities of Necchi and Olivetti. Everything was exciting and interesting. But the worst was yet to come: Our group of travelers contracted food poisoning in Italy, from the consequences of which we had to suffer for many years. At home I reported about the many impressions and inspirations of the trip. Bodo Fütterer went to work to improve the Bond long hair trimmer. Leesona winders for paper section winding were ordered, and Richard Rohlf set up a complete cable factory in Walldürn according to the American model. Design, work preparation, purchasing and construction of the tools took us one year. It was not until May 1957 that our new DL5 with long hair trimmer was launched on the market under the name "Combi". New models take time. For example, we had ordered the chrome-plated metal frames from a major German company specializing in galvanized die-cast parts, and the result was devastating, the parts were completely unusable! Our tool shop then produced its own tools in extra shifts, a hot-chamber machine had to be procured and installed, and finally our electroplating shop chrome-plated the parts. It was all hectic. In weeks we had to make up for what a negligent supplier had missed in months. The good cooperation between Bodo Fütterer, Ernst Kunz, August Siedler and the many others made it possible to introduce a new technology within weeks. In any case, our new Combi was very well received. Again, a milestone was reached. Also the design department, at that time still headed by Fritz Eichler himself, had done an extraordinary job. Everything was fresh and modern. Even the Bond case had been redesigned and was out of all recognition. These were magic moments of cooperation between design and engineering, not the slightest suggestion was dismissed, everyone willingly responded to the other. Fritz Eichler, always with an eye for harmony, directed in an exemplary manner, and the personal affection between the two of us bridged the usual gap between the so different disciplines. From Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Herbert Hirche, Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher came such strong impetus that the whole company was vibrating with energy. It was an exciting time back then. At the lnterbau in Berlin our modern radios attracted a lot of attention; the XI Triennale in Milan earned us the first Grand Prix, and we were also excellently represented at the world exhibition in Brussels in 1958. Our Combi sold so well that our main concern was once again how to supply sufficient quantities. Richard Rohlf and August Siedler were in their element. Every possible step underwent rationalization and automation. In Walldürn, entire production lines were set up for the finishing of the enclosures. Multi-spindle machines were used to produce all the holes in the metal frames or aluminum chassis in a single operation. August Siedler and I took care of the shearing blades. They were still punched in many individual steps, with manual control. We transferred the complicated sequence of movements to a precisely cut cam which was rotated one step further with each stroke of the press. It worked and was incredibly fast. The women only had to put in the blades. Heinrich Graichen, our mold designer, developed an injection press mold for the swing arms which made regrinding unnecessary; they were soon made of molding compound because of the double insulation required by VDE. All these questions concentrated at Bodo Fütterer. His development department pulled the strings. The entire production was instructed not to change anything that was not covered by drawings and tested thoroughly. So further development stepped back, especially since we revised the entire kitchen machine, radio-phono and the newly added photo program parallel to the shavers. Wilhelm Biegler with his newly established planning department was of decisive help in this process.
Only in October 1958 our Combi was also available in a nice leather case and from January 1959 its little brother, the Standard, a very simple device without a long hair trimmer, actually more meant as a successor for the S50, whose production had been stopped long ago. Interestingly, it still had quite a number of followers who got along well with its shear blade attachment and greatly appreciated the possibility of determining the blades tension themselves. At this time our total turnover was approaching the DM 100 million mark and we employed over 3000 people. There was a lack of space everywhere, and that was a good thing, because otherwise the workforce would have expanded even faster. In September 1958 we had already acquired a large site in the Taunus town of Kronberg for our further expansion. Erika Andreae, a nice, experienced real estate agent who had brokered a private property for me, drew my attention to it. My negotiations with mayor Jacobi were pleasant and successful. Kronberg later became the company headquarters. On July 1, 1959, Werner Dube, businessman and Liebig student, and Dr. Ing. Kurt Georg – he came from Kienzle – were appointed as directors. This indicated a certain withdrawal of Erwin and myself from the exhausting daily business. Our hectic expansion met with a beginning market saturation, and not only in Germany. The huge demand of the post-war period was more or less covered, first of all for radio sets, for which even Max Braun had had great respect because of their cyclical sales crises. We tried to find a market niche with new, more technical hi-fi equipment.
Too many manufacturers had thrown themselves into the mass business, and our modern wooden enclosures had only given us a breather. Hans Gugelot was enthusiastic about this turn of events, which he had helped to initiate. At last our radios were no longer furniture, but technical devices! Entire systems of amplifiers, loudspeakers, and players, partly in separate enclosures, were developed. That cost a lot of time. In order not to neglect our – it is justified to say – profitable shaver, Bodo Fütterer took to the development of a new model, which he reengineered thoroughly and very skillfully. It was then to be called SM3. Based on the ideas of the design department, now headed by Dieter Rams, Gerd Müller subjected the big-bellied enclosure of the Combi to a slimming cure. The new device was very dear to Fritz's and my heart and as the design department did not dispose of sufficient machinery at that time, Gerd Müller's models did not have the precision required for reasonable assessment. So we often met him at a profiling machine in tool design and construction where we transferred the complicated radiuses Bodo Fütterer had constructed in the meantime to a plastic block. This is how the shape of the SM3 was created, which was later to become the basis for our famous Sixtant. Bodo Fütterer made sure that the drive, different to the Combi, was now symmetrically arranged. Then he took to the driving plate, which gave reason for many repairs. Following the principle that one part should not fulfill too many functions, he divided it into two plastic parts, which elegantly snapped into place, and onto which the cutter head was attached like a push button. This has not changed until today. Then the cutter head was improved. It was now open at the bottom so that the hair stubble could fall out easier and the gaps between the blades were less clogged. The cutter head also became lighter, a very delicate die-cast part. The switch no longer consisted of loosely inserted parts, but became a complete component that better met the test specifications. In late 1959, the SM3 was introduced to the market. It won a lot of product tests. One of the first models I had shown to Bev Bond on a trip to America. He was as impressed as we were then by his new device with the long hair trimmer. The performance of our shavers was now so good that it was increasingly difficult to judge whether changes still meant an improvement. Someone came up with the idea of an artificial beard that could be tested under constant conditions. So we used a special sewing machine to sew nylon threads into bands of soft plastic. This worked quite well; the cut hairs were counted after the shaver had been passed over the band. In the end, however, test groups were formed in which employees of different hair and skin types used the devices according to certain criteria and then filled out test sheets. Our company doctor, my dear old friend Dr. Fritz Bode, had shaving dust collected, which he then examined microscopically, sometimes in polarized light, to determine material tensions as they arise when the hairs are squashed. So we constantly worked on improving the quality. One day, the purchasing department put nickel shear blades on my table, which originated from a galvanoplastic process. A micro-screen producer had offered them to us. They had poor cutting edges and were of insufficient hardness, but they were still an unpleasant surprise: A completely different technology was competing with our highly developed die cutting technology, into which we had put so much effort. Not a nice thought, but we had to deal with this new technology, which possibly made our steel blades superfluous. Hagen Gross took on the issue. He formed a working group that included Bodo Fütterer, head of electroplating Blume, physicist Claus Cobarg, physicochemist Dr. Karl Schölzel as well as repro engineers and screen printers. They met once a week and assigned the tasks that each of them had to complete by next time. Long series of experiments were carried out to produce suitable matrices and, above all, to give the electroplated material sufficient hardness. The nickel blades looked good and were completely corrosion-resistant, but they did not shave as well as our old steel blades. Sometimes I did not know whether I should be happy about it. After months had passed, Bodo Fütterer pointed out to me that he and others from the group had suggested a more promising way, but could not succeed with their idea. This path was then taken and led, even though not immediately but after some time, to very useful results. Our poor beautiful steel blade. Now holes were possible that were completely out of the question with die cutting. Bodo Fütterer had thought up a honeycomb pattern with a wavy fine structure that shaved excellently while providing good mechanical strength. It was even possible to raise the cutting edge. Meanwhile Erwin and Fritz had thought about how our shaver could get into a higher quality class. Erwin, who liked matte black cutlery from Scandinavia so much, often spoke about this topic with Hans Gugelot. Gütsch took up the idea and one day – it must have been in mid-1961 – passed a prototype to Erwin, with a black dash-dot matted plastic enclosure. We all liked it so much and it looked so exclusive that we gratefully accepted Gütsch's suggestion. The matte surfaces no longer caused the difficulties of years ago; there were now new types of abrasive brushes and sponges that worked well. Under fortunate circumstances, everything met with our just finished nickel shear blades in a new model, which was given the catchy and very well-known name "Sixtant", in reference to the many small hexagonal holes of the new blade. 1961 should bring about important changes. We were active in too many fields, and the rapid expansion of the past few years was starting to overstrain our family business. Erwin and I reacted to the constant stress with health problems. In spite of the additional work this meant, we decided to convert our OHG, in which we both still held all our private assets, into a stock corporation. Erwin took care of the time-consuming, complicated founding formalities, and at the end of 1961, under the leadership of the famous corporate lawyer Boesebeck, our family business became a stock corporation in which Erwin and I still held all the voting rights. At the beginning of 1962, Erwin joined the supervisory board because he could no longer bear the grueling hectic of everyday business, and I had no choice but to take over as chairman of the board, despite my fragile health. None of this suited me; how much more I would have preferred to work on technical problems. Fortunately, Dr. Rudolf Gros and Albrecht Schultz were at my side, and above all my faithful friend Ferdinand Simon, as my personal advisor, lawyer and auditor. I was all the more pleased that our Sixtant was launched on the market just then. Preparations for its production had run parallel to the founding of our AG. Not least thanks to massive advertising campaigns, which Albrecht Schultz had finally pushed through, it really caused a sensation. All advertising material was designed strictly according to the Ulm pattern, breathing precision and reliability. And our Sixtant was an excellent shaver that always scored top marks in many tests. With it we had made a decisive breakthrough. In March 1961, the Italian ambassador in the presence of Vice Chancellor Ludwig Erhard presented us with the "Compasso d'Oro", that very famous award for modern design.
In Marktheidenfeld, a spacious production facility for household appliances had been built, in Kronberg a modern shed for customer service, many foreign branches had been established, and in March 1962 the long-established film camera company Nizoldi und Krämer in Munich and the Spanish household appliance manufacturer Pimer were acquired. Thus, our growth had developed its own dynamics and the product range had become much too wide for our old organization, consisting merely of engineering and sales management. It was unthinkable to manage everything with just these two divisions. Erwin had thought a lot about these problems, and we set about creating four article divisions under the management board: Shavers under Albrecht Schultz and Bodo Fütterer, household appliances under Hagen Gross, Karl Buresch for radio and Ernst Krull for photography. This gave our AG a leaner form, as one would say today, with faster decisions in the divisions and a better cost structure. It was also not easy to keep the growth of the workforce within a certain limit, so one thing led to another. You always think you are pushing, but actually you are being pushed. In order to prevent our shaver from falling behind again in this hectic rush, and because there was a beginning demand for "cordless" devices at that time, Bodo Fütterer started to develop a network-independent shaver. Full of expectation we named this device "Commander", but it was not a great success. It was not only due to the nickel-cadmium batteries from Varta, whose valves were constantly leaking. Too many people had had their say in it, and our otherwise so clean design had also overshot the mark: Additional holding plates made the device much clumsier than necessary. I do not mean to say that I would have done better if I had had more time back then. It may also have to do with the fact that there are not as many design options in a small shaver than in a big hi-fi system, it's all about tiny radii and proportions that don't make much of a difference. At the beginning of 1963, for the sake of my health, I left the board of directors, of which Dr. Gros now became chairman, and changed to the supervisory board. Unfortunately, this put me at an even greater distance to my favorite child, the shaver, especially since Bodo Fütterer went to Switzerland to set up a production of galvanic shear foils there. The Sixtant therefore had to continue to bear the brunt; it proved to be an excellent performer and set one sales record after another. Because our own development of new devices could not keep up with the sales opportunities opened up by our new design, we began to dress third-party devices in a kind of Braun design and then include them in our sales program. This helped the turnover, which soon exceeded the 100 million mark, but the effect on the profit was not so easy to determine. It was only natural that our internal cost accounting did not keep pace with our expansion drive, and when Hagen Gross even wanted to include lighters and dishwashers in the range, I had to be overruled. I disliked how we got bogged down while far too little attention was paid to the shaver. And there were no more great successes to report, except for a long hair trimmer that could be switched on and off in the new Sixtant S, the shape of which Richard Fischer improved, and which became a very useful device. But its cordless version was already a disaster again. Hot resistors damaged the batteries, and the devices had to be taken off the market. It took a long time then until we were able to offer a reasonably useful mains-independent device with the BN. Its series transformer again featured a round arc, like the hot series resistor of Max Braun's first motor shaver. Fortunately, these mishaps were lost in the stormy developments of the coming years: By the end of 1963 we had 4600 employees, with a turnover of 145 million, the household appliance factory in Marktheidenfeld and the shaver factory in Walldürn were considerably expanded, in the GDR the VEB Bergmann-Borsig imitated our SM3, and on October 27, 1964 we went public with 6 million preference shares, with a turnover of 173 million. At that time our small shaver Standard 2, with long hair trimmer, was the best device in a Japanese test. To report on the countless devices in the rest of the product range would go too far here. In mid-1966 the shell of our headquarters in Kronberg was completed. It was to be the last Braun building in which I was actively involved. Erwin and I had been thinking for a long time about how we could streamline our company, perhaps by outsourcing entire article divisions. We wanted to keep the shaver by all means. I still remember the discussions we had in this regard with large companies, not only in Germany, but without any definite results. Only in January 1967, when I drove back from the Alpe di Siusi and met Erwin in Baden, Switzerland, did these considerations take shape. The American Gillette Corporation had again expressed interest, as it had done about a year and a half ago, but this time in a much more concrete way. The temptation was great, especially since Erwin and I did not get along as well as we used to, but our relations were still such that we agreed on such a fateful decision. We then went to the USA, talked to Vinzenz Ziegler, Colman Mockler, Paul Cuenin, Bob Perry and many other men at Gillette and got the impression that we had found the best possible partner. The negotiations and contract preparations then dragged on throughout the year. In July there was an official takeover bid. On December 19, 1967 Erwin and I signed the contract with Gillette in Baden, Switzerland. Afterwards we went into an adjoining quiet room and spontaneously hugged each other. He also had tears in his eyes. Our family gave the company its name, and basically we had remained family entrepreneurs, who, unlike managers, are liable with their assets but can nonetheless hardly get it right: If they are shipwrecked, they did not recognize the signs of the times and did not look for a strong partner; if they make profits, they exploited someone; and if they are no longer able to cope with an expansion on their own and sell shares, they cashed in and "sold off their menial staff", as you could read in the Spiegel later in another case. Everyone knows better – afterwards.
Today I know that I would not be able to write these lines if we had not sold at that time. Until his death, Erwin would grieve and ask himself over and over again why we did what we did back then while there is only one answer: Because we wanted to survive and the company should survive! Today, our Braun AG is shining under Gillette, has developed steadily despite all the storms and has a turnover that is almost 10 times higher than when it was taken over. Fortunately, we made the right decision, do father's and our efforts and the loyal cooperation of many enthusiastic people from back then still shape the image of the company, after more than 25 years. I have reached the end of my report. On the table in front of me lies a Betriebsspiegel, the front page of which reads that Max Braun's shaver, our shaver, is now the best-selling shaver in the world! May happiness and blessings be bestowed upon him, our work and his people for a long time to come.
Braun, A.: Max Braun's Shaver, Memories of Artur Braun, Hamburg 1996. Preserved in the archive of Artur Braun, Königstein / Ts.