GRASSE, France — Victorinox Swiss Army Inc., which was founded in 1884 with what has become its iconic product, the Swiss Army knife, is marking its 125th anniversary with the debut of its first fragrance, a men’s scent called Swiss Unlimited.
With the fragrance, the family-owned brand plans to break new ground in fragrance distribution, packaging and marketing. To map that course, Victorinox enlisted the help of Vera Strubi, a longtime beauty veteran who was one of the most recognized marketers in the industry, a former Clarins unit president and one of the masterminds behind Thierry Mugler’s Angel.
The Swiss Unlimited scent follows expansion by the brand — which is carried in 130 countries — into lifestyle categories, including apparel, watches and luggage.
In a preview of Swiss Unlimited at the recently renovated Fragrance Museum here, Veronika Elsener said her husband, Karl Elsener, the third-generation owner of Victorinox, was initially against creating a fragrance.
“It took some time to convince him, but we felt we had all of the other product categories and we wanted to add fragrance but do it in a different way, to complement our brand and bring out its playful side,” said Elsener.
“We wanted to create something that was different from anything else on the market,” added Strubi.
One step has been to seek alternative distribution strategies.
The launch plan took off in early January, when the scent hit 15 Victorinox sales points in the firm’s home territory of Switzerland. Later that month, Swiss Unlimited also reached 10 European ski resorts, including locations in Saint Moritz, Wengen and Gstaad.
The company is finalizing distribution strategies, and executives said they anticipate introducing Swiss Unlimited in major markets like the U.K. and the rest of Europe in April. They are targeting August for the U.S. market.
Mattias Seyfang, vice president of marketing for Victorinox Swiss Army fragrance, said the firm is looking to build demand in alternative distribution channels.
The combination of new distribution strategies and the scent’s performance to date could help Swiss Unlimited ring up $5 million in retail sales in its first year on the market, according to industry sources.
“We don’t want to open in as many doors as possible,” said Seyfang. “The Internet is one approach that’s relevant for this perfume,” he said, adding Swiss Unlimited will be available on Victorinox’s Web site, where customers can request free scent samples.
Seyfang outlined other distribution possibilities that include kiosks in airports. For every scent purchased there, a 4.5-ml. travel size would be dispensed, while the fragrance would be sent to the purchaser’s home.
“It’s all about discovering new ways to promote the scent,” said Seyfang.
For the U.S., the company is eyeing a major department store retailer, but plans to keep distribution limited to a maximum of 350 stores, noted Seyfang.
Swiss Unlimited’s red, flasklike flacon, which was created by German designer Rolf Hering, aims to capture Victorinox’s explorer roots. The scent’s rectangular glass bottle is encased in red rubber and is hooked with a carabiner.
Swiss Unlimited’s pale green scent is visible through windows at the front and back of the flacon. The fragrance, which was inspired by plants and herbs from Switzerland, has notes of genepy, absinthe, lavender and silver fir. Perfumers Christine Nagel and Jean-Christophe Herault of Fragrance Resources blended the scent.
The eau de toilette will come in three versions, a 2.5-oz. size encased in rubber for $73; another 2.5-oz. size in a glass flacon for $51, and a 1-oz. bottle in the rubber case for $54. Rounding out the line is a hair and body shampoo, 6.8 oz. for $32, and a deodorant stick, 2.5 oz. for $29.50. All prices are for the U.S. The 1-oz. and 2.5-oz. sizes come with a 0.15-oz. miniature flacon containing 40 spray applications that can be filled from the larger sizes.
A print advertising campaign for Swiss Unlimited, photographed by Liz Collins, features model Ned Shatzer pulling up a white cable-knit sweater, with snow-covered alps in the background.
Victorinox, which is planning a second fragrance launch, plans to hold a short filmmaking competition, with the winner to direct the fragrance’s ad campaign.