In the heart of the southernmost of the great valleys which crosses Savoie and at the foot of the great Alpine passes, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is the historic capital of the Maurienne. It is here that a small knife was born which became great: the Opinel.
Success story of a small rustic knife that has become a cult
The Opinel knife was invented in 1890 by Joseph Opinel (1872-1960), a knife maker from Albiez-le-Vieux, a small village near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in Savoie. At the beginning of the 1900s, the commercial success was there and orders poured in from all over. The success of the folding knife with a locking ferrule was due to its simple design, unfailing sturdiness and low price.
To produce more quantities, Joseph Opinel built his first factory at the Pont de Gevoudaz. Since its creation, nearly 130 years ago, the family business has been run by four generations. The knives are still manufactured in Savoie, in Chambéry. Considered today as a design icon throughout the world, the famous Savoyard penknife even has the luxury of being noticed by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and classified among the "100 most beautiful objects in the world", on a par with the Rolex watch and the Porsche 911!
The Opinel Museum
Take advantage of your holiday rental near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to visit the Opinel museum. In the old family workshop created in 1932, nearly 700 square metres are dedicated to the history of the famous Savoyard pocket knife and its inventor. Around the old forge, an exhibition trail allows visitors to discover the different machines and tools used to forge steel, assemble, sharpen and process wood. The museum welcomes 50,000 visitors each year.
- Access: 25 rue Jean Jaurès, 73300 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Tel. 04 79 64 04 78, Open all year round from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6.30pm, free admission, www.opinel.com
The n°8, the iconic model
The Opinel has become the best-selling French pocket knife in the world, with more than 350 million sold over more than a century. There are 11 different sizes, numbered from N°02 to N°13. In 2020, the brand celebrated the 130th anniversary of the N°8, the brand's iconic and best-selling model. It is perfect for everyday use: DIY, gardening, cooking. A beautiful souvenir to bring back from your stay in Savoie that can be personalised with a text engraved on the blade or the handle.
Recognising a real Opinel knife
The "Opinel" brand has been registered since 1909. The hand with the three fingers, symbol of the Savoyard brand, is engraved on the blade of each knife. This hallmark features the coat of arms of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, surmounted by a crown in reference to the Duchy of Savoy. In 2018, the Savoyard brand obtained protection for the shape of its knives from the INPI (the National Institute of Intellectual Property), which are particularly prone to counterfeiting from China.
On the Opinel road
In the heart of the Arvan valley, the cradle of the Maurienne knife, discover the Opinel road which leads from the museum to the hamlet of Gevoudaz, in Albiez-Montrond. A heritage walk allows you to visit on foot the historic sites which have forged the family legend, in particular the workshop which is more than a hundred years old and where the first Opinel knives were made. Explanatory panels highlight the production techniques of the past and the life of the hamlet at that time.
- Departure from the Opinel Museum, free access, distance: 1.5 km, visiting time: approximately 1h30.