The success story of the Eisfeld site
History before 1945
Binoculars and telescopic sights have been manufactured in Eisfeld since 1968. In that year, the decision was made that the state-owned company (or VEB for short) Carl Zeiss Jena would relocate this production from Jena. After reunification, first Docter-Optic-Eisfeld GmbH, then Analytik Jena GmbH and today NOBLEX GmbH continued to operate this location.
The history of binoculars is inextricably linked to Carl Zeiss Jena. On July 9, 1893, the cornerstone for binoculars of the type known today was laid with the German Reich Patent No. 77086 "Double telescope with increased objective distance". Production of these "double telescopes" began in 1894. Two years earlier, in 1892, the first telescopic sight was made.
Carl Zeiss Jena played a decisive role in the subsequent rapid development of this product branch. By 1900, 10,000 prism binoculars had already been produced here. In 1903 the first viewing telescope was presented. In 1919 there were the first binoculars with wide-angle eyepieces (70 degrees apparent field of view). In 1920 new telescopic sights were offered for the first time with an inverted lens system for hunting shooting. As early as 1922, Zeiss introduced the first telescopic sights with variable magnification. In 1926 straight vision binoculars with roof prisms were added. In 1936, Zeiss introduced reflection-reducing optical coatings for these products for the first time to increase light transmission. In the 1930s and 1940s, the development of visual observation and targeting equipment reached a peak due to the accelerated development of armaments during World War II. A very wide range of devices was offered, which was expanded by numerous military models during the war years. Aspheres were already being used at this time and magnesium was used for cases.
History after 1945
In 1952, a branch of VEB Carl Zeiss JENA was established in Eisfeld. Starting from tasks as a supplier of individual parts and preliminary products, the company continuously developed into a producer of fine mechanical and optical consumer goods and industrial products in the following years.
The scientific status was documented with the still recognized basic work by Albert König and Horst Köhler "The telescopes and rangefinders", published by Springer-Verlag in 1959 in the 3rd, completely revised edition. The physical laws that are applied have already been extensively examined at this point in time and are systematically applied to new and further developed products. In addition to the improvement in details, the technical development is characterized by the ever better adaptation to the wishes of the users and their different requirements.
In the 1950s and 1960s, more than 1 million of the "Werra" viewfinder cameras were mass-produced in Eisfeld. In the mid-1960s, the production of binoculars and telescopic sights was outsourced from the former F-works in Jena to Eisfeld and the production of optical analysis measuring devices began.
When the new start was made after the war, the range had been significantly streamlined and the focus was on the tried-and-tested 7x50, 10x50 and 8x30 binocular models, of which up to 200,000 were produced annually.
From the mid-1970s, more work was done on new developments. The line of straight-vision binoculars with the 8x32 and 10x40 models also dates from this period. However, the excellent high-performance NOBILEM 8x50 and 12x50 telescopes were only built for a short time due to the great expense and technical requirements. They were replaced in the mid-1980s by models of the same name, which were created on the basis of extensive concept studies. This model series was gradually supplemented by further models and variants and the design was revised in recent years.
Expansion of the Eisfeld production site in the 1980s
In the 1980s, the expansion of production capacities for binoculars and analytical measuring devices led to the development of new generations of optoelectronic measuring devices and to the expansion of the range of binoculars and telescopic sights through new and further developments. The position as the largest manufacturer of binoculars in Europe was consolidated and expanded. Around 1,100 people were employed in the Eisfeld factory and around 300,000 binoculars and telescopic sights were produced every year.
Current affairs after 1990
The factory in Eisfeld was continued on August 1, 1991 with 550 employees by Mr. Bernhard Docter, who gave his name to the factory and the products.The company now appeared on the market as Docter-Optic-Eisfeld GmbH and continued the traditional production of binoculars, telescopic sights, spotting scopes, magnifying glasses and optoelectronic measuring technology.
As a recognized producer of blank pressed aspheres, it was an important goal in the company's strategy to advance the use of aspheres in imaging optics. The first realization took place in the eyepieces of the rifle scope 8x56 and in the eyepiece of the NOTAREM straight vision binoculars. After initial difficulties, the blank pressing process was optimized to such an extent that the quality required for series production was achieved. Larger quantities of the aspheres were also installed in the newly created "Emitters" product category. Here it is the battery-operated compact spotlights in particular that received special attention.
Overall, there was a strong expansion of the range, especially in the case of telescopic sights, which have recently been supplemented by devices with illuminated reticles. The finish has been significantly improved in many places. It should not be concealed that a great deal of effort has been put into design and technology to ensure product quality and continuously improve it.
The progress made in the field of visual observation and targeting devices in recent years can be seen in:
- the introduction of the centered reticle on telescopic sights
- The establishment of variable magnification scopes as standard models
- the consistent use of eyepieces for people who wear glasses with all new binoculars
- improvements in the modeling of optical systems through complex, highly optimizing computer programs with sophisticated algorithms, which can also be used in direct dialog mode on a PC basis for about 15 years
- the use of CAD in device construction and mathematical calculation models in development
- the advances in coating technology with the introduction of broadband anti-reflective coatings and phase correction coatings on roof prisms
- the use of (brightly pressed) aspheres on a broader scale in high-performance devices
- the improved environmental resistance (rubber coating, water resistance, nitrogen filling, lead-free lenses)
- the creation of new device features such as an integrated compass for binoculars, illuminated reticle and parallax compensation for telescopic sights
- or completely new product groups, such as compact reflex sights.
On November 15, 1995, the company Docter-Optic in Wetzlar filed for bankruptcy for the entire company. Under the direction of Dr. The bankruptcy administration took place at Wellensieck, as a result of which a large part of the company was sold to a consortium of companies consisting of Bosch and Hella led by Rodenstock. The Eisfeld company continued to work with around 230 employees under bankruptcy conditions, while prospective buyers were being sought. The focus was always on the "big solution", in which the company was to be sold as a whole. In total, talks were held with over 30 interested parties. A purchase contract was concluded with the American company MMTI, but this never became legally binding due to the non-payment of the purchase price. On April 15, 1997, after further unsuccessful efforts by the bankruptcy administration, the closure of the business operations in Eisfeld was announced.
Takeover of Docter-Optic-Eisfeld GmbH by Analytik Jena
On May 1, 1997, part of the company with a workforce of 40 employees was continued by Analytik Jena GmbH, with which there had traditionally been good relations. Already the first year after the takeover ended with good sales and results. Thanks to the committed work in the marketing and sales area, the order books were well filled, and the majority of specialist trade and industrial partners who were unsettled by the turmoil surrounding DOCTER-Werke could be won back. In the meantime, the number of employees at the Eisfeld site has grown again to over 100.
With the DOCTER product range, special attention will continue to be paid to a high level of quality, good value for money, perfect customer benefits and a balanced design. Of course, the need for innovation in Eisfelder products is being pushed further by the synergy effects that have now become possible. The aim is to make the variety of DOCTER binocular models more application-oriented. The DOCTER riflescopes for hunters that are in demand on the market are equipped with modern, high-performance optics that guarantee safe handling and high accuracy.
A location for the future
With the conversion of Analytik Jena into a stock corporation on June 2, 1999 and the IPO on July 3, 2000, the course was set for rapid economic growth against this background.
With the laying of the foundation stone on May 27, 2005 for a new company building, in which all production areas have been brought together, important prerequisites for the future, successful work of the Eisfeld company have been created.
A new Analytik Jena production center was inaugurated on May 12, 2006 in Eisfeld in the presence of the Thuringian Prime Minister Dieter Althaus (Member of the Landtag/CDU). The investment in Germany, which is well over three million euros, is a clear sign of job security for the more than 100 employees, emphasized Klaus Berka.
On May 1, 2016, NOBLEX GmbH acquired the Eisfeld site. NOBLEX GmbH was a subsidiary of the Frankfurt investment company VF Capital GmbH.
NOBLEX GmbH has two business areas, the consumer goods area and the manufacturing services area. In the first business area, the company has specialized in the development and manufacture of optoelectronic consumer products in the high-performance optics sector. These include binoculars, reflex sights, telescopic sights, lighting technology and thermal imaging technology for the premium segment. The second business area is the manufacturing service for various customers in the field of laboratory analysis technology. In addition to the assembly of complex, high-quality devices and components, turned and milled parts are also produced and the surfaces are decoratively finished with anodizing or painting work.
Corona led to major sales losses.
The product range in the consumer goods area has been systematically renewed and expanded over the past two years. Due to the beginning COVID-19 pandemic, the launch of further new products has been postponed. In addition, the Lock Down led to significant sales losses in the most important sales markets.
In order to sustainably restructure the company, the shareholders decided in June 2020 to use the protective shield procedure within the framework of German insolvency law in order to separate the production/manufacturing services and consumer areas .
The production area was successfully transferred to Buchert + Feil on November 1, 2020. The production and service portfolio will be continued in the future and there is still the possibility of manufacturing products for the consumer goods sector.
In November 2020, NOBLEX E-Optics GmbH took over essential assets of the former NOBLEX GmbH. With an efficient and highly motivated team, the new company faces the challenges of the optics market.
In addition to the previous range, such as the classic NOBLEX NV sight II plus or the binoculars and rifle scope products, NOBLEX will in future focus more on "E-" electronic products in the areas of night vision, laser distance measurement and thermal imaging technology.
Service is the top priority for NOBLEX E-Optics and is ensured in the long term by taking over all spare parts, also for DOCTER brand products.
Pictures: Zeiss archive
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