The History of the Eisfeld Location

History before 1945

The history of binoculars is inseparably linked to the company Carl Zeiss, to which also the roots of our product history go back. Binoculars, the most common kind of terrestrial telescopes, meanwhile have got a tradition of more than 100 years, the foundations of binoculars in the form known today having been laid by the company Carl Zeiss on July 9, 1893 with the Deutsche Reichspatent No. 77086 "Double telescope with increased objective distance". Already in this year the first so-called "double field glasses" were made.

Approximately at the same time, 1892, the first sights for rifles originated. The company Carl Zeiss took a decisive part in the rapid development that followed for this line of production. 10,000 prism binoculars were produced here up to 1900. In 1903 the first spotting scope was presented. In 1919 the first binoculars with wide angle eyepieces (70 degree apparent field of view) appeared. In 1920 new sights with lens erection system for hunting were on offer for the first time. Already in 1922 the first sights with variable magnification were introduced by Zeiss. In 1926 binoculars with in-line optics and roof edge prisms were added to the product range.

In 1936 Zeiss introduced reflection-reducing optical layers for increasing the light transmission for these products. In the 30s and 40s the development of visual observation and sight devices reached a climax, due to the forced arms development of World War 2. A very wide spectrum of devices was already on offer, which was expanded by a multitude of military models during the years of the war. At this point aspherics were already used and magnesium was employed for the case.

History after 1945

With the end of World War two many leading employees left the Jena plant, and large parts of it were dismantled. With the new start in the years after the war the range of products was severely "cleansed" and a concentration on the proven binoculars models 7x50, 10x50 and 8x30, the combined production of which totaled up to 200,000 units per annum, followed. In 1952 a part of the company VEB Carl Zeiss Jena was established in Eisfeld.

Starting from tasks as supplier of parts and pre-assembling products for the Zeiss factories in Jena the company continuously developed over the following years to become a producer of precision-engineered optical consumer goods and industrial products. The scientific knowledge was documented by the fundamental work by Albert König and Horst Köhler, "The binoculars and distance meters", published in its 3rd, completely revised edition, which is still acknowledged today, by Springer-Verlag in 1959.

The applying physical laws had already been extensively investigated and were systematically applied to new and further developed products. In addition to the improvement of details the technological development is characterized by the continuously improving adaptation to requests of users and their various demands. In the 50s and 60s the series production of the 35 mm camera "Werra" with over 1 million units took place. In the middle of the 60s the production of binoculars and riflescopes was transferred from Jena to Eisfeld, and the production of optical analytical instruments commenced.

From the middle of the 70s onwards new developments again became a focus. The binoculars models 8x32 and 10x40 with in-line optics also originated at this time. However, the excellent telescopes NOBILEM 8x50 and 12x50 with first-class performance were only produced for a short time due to the huge efforts needed and the technical demands involved. In the middle of the 80s they were replaced by models of the same name, which were the results of extensive concept studies.

This model series has step by step been complemented by further models and variants and has been redesigned over the recent years.

Strenghtening of the production capacity in Eisfeld in the 1980s

The strengthening of the production capacity for binoculars and analytical instruments in the 80s led to the development of new generations of opto-electronic instruments and the extension of the range of binoculars and riflescopes by new developments.

At the same time, the position of being the biggest manufacturer of binoculars in Europe could be consolidated. Approximately 1,100 employees worked at Eisfeld and about 300,000 binoculars and riflescopes were produced per annum.

History after 1990

On August 1, 1991 the Eisfeld plant of the Jenoptik Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH, which employed 550 staff, was taken over by Bernhard Docter, who lent his name to the company and products. The company now traded under the name Docter-Optic-Eisfeld GmbH and continued with the production of binoculars, riflescopes, spotting scopes, magnifying glasses and opto-electronic measurement equipment, which was rich in tradition.

As an acknowledged producer of bright-molded aspheric lenses, it was an important aim of the company's strategy to make progress in the use of aspheric lenses in imaging optics. This was first effected with the eyepieces of the telescopic sight 8x56 and the NOTAREM-binoculars with in-line optics. Having overcome initial difficulties, the process of bright molding was optimized to such an extent that the quality required for series production was achieved. Larger numbers of aspheric lenses were incorporated into the newly created product category "Flash Lights".

Here it was particularly the battery driven compact flash lights which were paid attention. Overall a strong expansion of the product range took place, particularly so for riflescopes, which have been complemented by devices with illuminated reticles in the recent past. In many places the finish has been visibly improved. It is also worth mentioning that considerable construction and technological efforts have been made to ensure and continuously improve the product quality.

The advances made in the field of visual observation and sight devices over the recent years can be seen in: 

  • the introduction of centered reticles for riflescopes
  • the establishing of riflescopes with variable magnification as standard models 
  • the general use of eyepieces for persons wearing glasses for all new binoculars 
  • the improvements in the modeling of optical systems by using complex, highly optimized software with cleverly thought-out algorithms, which for 15 years have also been available for PCs
  • the employment of CAD in the construction of devices and of mathematical modeling in the development process 
  • the advances in the coating technology with the introduction of broad band antireflection coatings and of phase correction layers on roof edge prisms
  • the use of bright-molded aspherics on a large scale in devices with first-class performance 
  • the improved resistance to environmental exposure (rubber coating, water proof, nitrogen filling, lead-free glasses) 
  • creation of new device features, such as integrated compasses in binoculars, illuminated reticles and parallax compensation for riflescopes or 
  • completely new product groups such as compact reflex sights.

On November 15, 1995 the company Docter-Optic in Wetzlar declared bankruptcy for the whole business. Under the chairmanship of Dr. Wellensieck the company went into receivership, with the major part of the company subsequently being sold to a company consortium consisting of Bosch and Hella under the management of Rodenstock.

The Eisfeld plant with its 230 employees remained operative under insolvency conditions, while potential buyers were sought. During all this time the "Big Solution" was the focus of attention, a scenario where the company would be sold as a whole.

In total, talks were held with more than 30 interested parties. A bill of sale was agreed with the American company MMTI, but this never became legally valid, since no payment was made. Following further unsuccessful endeavors by the insolvency managers, the closure of the plant in Eisfeld was announced on April 15, 1997.

 Acquisition of Docter-Optic-Eisfeld GmbH by Analytik Jena

On May 1, 1997 a part of the business with 40 staff was continued by Analytik Jena GmbH, to which traditionally good relations existed. Already the first year after the takeover was completed with very good turnover and results. Due to the committed work of the Marketing and Sales Departments the order books were filled well, and the majority of the specialist and industrial partners, that had been made uncertain by the turmoil surrounding the DOCTER works, could be won back.

Meanwhile the number of employees at Eisfeld had grown again almost to more than 100. As far as the DOCTER-product range is concerned, we continue to pay special attention to a high level of quality, a good price-performance-ratio, perfect customer value and a balanced design. It goes without saying that the innovation requirement for the Eisfeld products is advanced further by synergy effects that have now become feasible.

It is the declared objective to design the variety of DOCTER binocular models in a way that makes them more suitable for every-day application. The DOCTER riflescopes for hunters, which are very sought-after on the market, are equipped with up-to-date, high-performance optical systems guaranteeing safe handling and a high hit accuracy.

It remains to be emphasized that an important optical company in Thuringia was saved by a courageous entrepreneurial decision and the extremely high motivation of its employees, and that jobs have been secured on a long term basis. A competitive and innovative German optics manufacturer have redefined themselves for the market and will continue to surprise their clients with innovative products "Made in Germany".

 A Location with a Future

With the transformation of Analytik Jena to a shareholding company on June 2, 1999 and the entry to the stock market on July 3, 2000, the course was set for rapid economical growth. With the start of construction work for a new builidng on May 27, 2005, therein all production facilities are combined, the company set the stage for a future successful work.

In the presence of the Minister President of Thuringia, Dieter Althaus (Member of the Parliament (MdL)/CDU), a new production centre for Analytik Jena was inaugurated in Eisfeld on the May 12, 2006. This investment at the business location Germany, which exceeded an amount far in excess of three million Euro, constituted a clear sign towards the protection of jobs for the more than 100 employees, emphasised CEO Klaus Berka.

On 1st May 2016, the NOBLEX GmbH acquired the Eisfeld facility. The NOBLEX GmbH is a subsidiary of the Frankfurt holding company VF Capital GmbH. In addition to its business in optical consumer products bearing the brand-name DOCTER, the transaction also includes the production of parts, assembly units and components for analysis technology, which Analytik Jena markets as its core business. “Our group of companies is specially oriented on investments in manufacturing companies. With the Analytik Jena branch in Eisfeld, we have acquired a very experienced manufacturing facility with a long tradition. Our goal is to expand this facility, to invest in it and to continue training skilled workers. We will offer all the employees a long-term perspective and trust that we will be able to cultivate long-term cooperation with Analytik Jena which will be beneficial for both sides”, said the first NOBLEX managing director Peter Vey.

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