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Experiences

Waldis Safes - A Safe Business

unbreakable

Text — Iris Kuhn-Spogat Photos — David Willen Date — 23 October, 2012

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Waldis Safes

Safes are designed to protect the property we care about, such as a valuable watch collection. Waldis is Switzerland’s leading safe manufacturer. Watch International paid them a visit.

Urs Menzi makes a fist of his right hand and systematically taps the safe with his knuckles. “You hear that hollow sound?” he asks. “It means there’s virtually no resistance. It would be no sweat to break it open,” he says, with all the confidence of an expert.

Professional safecracker? King of thieves? Menzi is neither. In fact, he’s precisely the opposite. Urs Menzi is the head of Waldis Tresore, the best-known manufacturers of safes in Switzerland. Using a model safe offering the lowest protection level, he demonstrates how a thief would normally proceed. This, of course, would be unthinkable with a Waldis safe. In fact, it would never happen. Menzi and his company don’t make sub-standard safes.

Waldis are headquartered in an un­assuming industrial complex in Rümlang, a Swiss town that lies directly on the path to Zurich Airport. Their showroom is stark, and contains a row of safes: big ones, small ones, white, red, red-and-white, and even some with a Swiss Cross, or featuring a picture of the Matterhorn. “That…,” begins Urs Menzi, but the rest of his sentence is lost in the noise of a jet thundering overhead. Menzi jumps up and closes the open window. Looking around at the safes, he says again and with pride: “That is how we make a living.”

All Waldis’ safes are certified by the Association of German Property Insurers, which is tantamount to a European seal of quality. The only word to describe the tests involved is: brutal. First, experts set about cracking the safe with an arsenal of tools typically used by safebreakers, including a sledgehammer, a pickaxe, an electric chisel, metal cutters, and an oxyacetylene torch. They do not give up until they have cut a hole at least ten centi­meters in diameter. “Depending on how long it takes and on the tools needed to achieve it, safes are divided up into security classes of I to VII,” explains Menzi.

Waldis produce safes only in the classes II to V. “Safes in category VII are made by only one manufacturer in China for very specific purposes,” explains Menzi. Insurance companies are prepared to accept safes in category V for sums of up to one million Swiss francs. For anything above that, you normally have to secure the building as well. As for category I? Urs Menzi raises his eyebrows. “That’s not good enough for us, and far too easy for the crooks.”

In the showroom, Menzi turns his attention to one of the company’s own safes and bangs down on it with his fist. This time, there is no hollow sound. It has no hinges on the outside, either, that could be bashed off with a hammer, and the gap between the door and the safe’s frame is too small for a crowbar. To cap it all off, the sides of the safe are not just 35 millimeters thick – like some of the competitors’ products – but a full 65 millimeters.This is true Swiss quality, no doubt about it.

Approximately 800 safes are produced annually by the company. A me­talworking company in Graubünden – a nearby Canton of Switzerland – makes the double-walled steel casing. Another firm, in the Swiss Canton of Tessin, fills the hollow space with a mixture of wafer-thin steel fibers and special cement. The exact composition of the filling, which is effectively the armor plating, is a company secret.

Weighing between 250 and 1,000 kilograms, the steel blanks finally arrive for finishing in Rümlang. If required, they are fitted with locks that can be linked to an alarm system. If, for example, the last digit in a security code is altered, a silent alarm is activated, and the police will be on the scene in seconds.

Depending on their size, Waldis’ safes cost between 4’000 and just over 22’000 Swiss Francs – but they can cost more, depending on the level of customization. One customer, for example, wanted his safe covered with Swarovski crystals. Another ordered a model with panels and handles in 24K gold, instead of chrome steel. As such, Waldis’ safes can even become objects of beauty in one’s home.

Business with safes is a business founded on the fear of losing treasured and valuable possessions. This, argue the powers at Waldis, is why trying to save money here is false economy. “There are far too many really bad-quality safes out there,” says Menzi.

Of course, his safes aren’t 100 percent foolproof, either – but they come close. Breaking one open would take up to five hours, and that is simply too long for most burglars. It is for this reason that the purchase price of all safes from protection rating III upwards includes a 20-year guarantee against being broken open. If a safecracker manages to crack one of these safes on the spot, Waldis will supply you with a new one, free of charge. To date, as a result of this particular guarantee the company has only had to replace two safes. “They were both on industrial premises, where the burglars had a whole weekend to work on them in quiet and peace,” explains Menzi, almost apologetically, before adding: “And they were both relatively old models. So far, nobody has managed to crack one of our newer safes.”

Good for the owners of a product “Made in Rümlang,” bad for those guys with bad intentions. 

There are far too many really bad-quality safes out there.

—Urs Menzi

—Safety first: Urs Menzi, head of Waldis Tresore, posing with two of his company’s products.
Explore More Articles
The best helmets for the best drivers

Looking back on a long tradition, the helmet manufacturer Schuberth in Magdeburg has been one of the official FORMULA 1 suppliers since 2000. “The best helmets for the best drivers,” is the company’s motto. Indeed: Schuberth’s helmets have been the headgear of choice for drivers who have taken a total of five world championships.

BRUNELLO CUCINELLI

Brunello Cucinelli first came to Solomeo, not far from the provincial capital, Perugia, in 1985

Experience - Santoni - Promo Full
Santoni

The Santonis – father and son – produce elegant shoes of the highest quality with hand-stitched seams and multiple coats of leather dye from their Italian factory

Kurt Klaus
The Art of Creating Stories and Dreams

Every watch tells a story – about its origin and age, personality and character, tradition and culture, and not least about its owner.

Episode 2: What is a Complication?

Have you ever wondered what the extra dials inside a watch face are?

Top Gun: The best of the best

Lieutenant Commander Guy M. Snodgrass is one of the best pilots in the U.S. Navy

Experience - ESO Panal - Hero Image
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ESO is one of Europe’s leading astronomical research organizations and operates the world’s most scientifically productive observatory

Experience - Strict Head Timer - Hero Experience Landing
A Strict Head Timer and a Precision Watch

As head timer, Jean Häberli was responsible for the accuracy of watches leaving the factory. This was a far more complicated task back then than nowadays