Thorens History

This article was available within a free download in 2008 here:


When is a man or woman in their prime?

Most people believe it comes when you leave

the confusion of youth behind, when you‘ve endured

some major challenges and it‘s time to

reap the rewards. In Thorens‘ case, the analogy

fits the bill. There isn‘t an older company out there

in the field of entertainment electronics. Thorens

holds every record; yet even today it‘s constantly

introducing new innovations. You‘re as young as

your LPs – and LPs are younger than ever. Thanks

to perfected craftsmanship, they‘ve even managed

to survive the ultimate enemy, the CD.


The story begins in a small town in the Swiss

canton of Jura. Sainte Croix is situated on a barren

mountainside where people live from farming

and, during the long winter months, building fine

mechanical gadgets. It is the home of Swiss watchmaking

tradition, and it is where Hermann Thorens

made the courageous decision to set up a company

in 1883 – a company making music boxes. It

was a small step for an entrepreneur but a giant

leap for technological innovation: through the years,

over 50 million music boxes left Sainte Croix to

find homes in every corner of the world. Toys store

were the main customers, and when Thorens decided

to include phonographs in its 1902 catalogue,

it caused quite a stir. This unusual construct was

originally designed by the American inventor Thomas

Alva Edison, based on the same technical idea

as the famous music boxes coming out of Switzerland:

a rotating tinfoil sheet cylinder mechanism

that picked up and emitted sound. Next, Thorens

was quick to recognise the benefits of a certain innovation

by Emil Berliner from Hanover, who invented

the modern lateral-cut disc, which played

on its sides. It was more robust than Edison‘s format

and also much simpler to replicate, following

the same principles as book printing.


Thorens became the most authoritative gramophone

manufacturer and court purveyor far and

wide. The initial models were called “Helvetica”,

“Primaphono”, “Popular” and “Splendid”. What

started out as a toy thus transformed into a mechanical

marvel reaching customers in every income

bracket. And Thorens was not the only one

to benefit. As the driving force behind technological

progress the company introduced, in 1928, the

first turntable with an electric motor drive, followed

by the first tangential tone arm. Thorens also

engineered a cutter for record production and

equipped cinemas with professional record players.

What is far less known, however, is that between

1913 and 1964 Thorens also manufactured more

than 5 million pocket lighters to help establish the

Thorens identity worldwide. How did Thorens become

“the phono company” – the authority that caters

to millions of vinyl aficionados? It was thanks

to the legendary stereo turntables which Thorens

began placing in people‘s homes as of the mid 60s.

Thorens quickly gained a reputation as the company

that puts the spice in the groove, while assuring

a robust and dependable product. In 1965, the TD

150 was the first HiFi turntable based on a Thorens

oscillating chassis. The unique decoupling mechanism

of the 3.4-kilo turntable and the double synchronic

motor set the standards for the entire sector.

The engineers working at Thorens had built a

winner, and what made the company so popular

during the years that followed was its unshakable

loyalty to its high quality philosophy – throughout

all price categories.


The press never ceased to be impressed and share

their enthusiasm with the world. The TD 126 MkII

became known as the very best of its kind. When

Thorens built the “Reference” – a 90 kilo, hand-crafted

record player – the company fulfilled a limited

edition dream for 100 special customers. The “Prestige”

was released soon thereafter. Weighing ‚only‘

55 kilos, it was markedly successful for the luxury

record player that it was; by 1995, over 700 units

had been shipped around the world, and the price

tag back then was a stout 15,000 Deutsche Mark.

In the same tradition, the “Jubilee” is scheduled to

hit the market in 2008 and celebrate the company‘s

125th anniversary.