Theben AG 1921 to 2011: Discover 90 years of high-tech "Made in Germany".
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Where does the name Theben come from?

Did you know that our actual calendar with its 365 days in a year harks back to the Egyptian calendar? Three thousand five hundred years ago, day and night were measured with the help of sun dials and water clocks, and obelisks served as the sun dials of Egypt.

Considering the magnitude of that innovation at that point in history and its continuing influence on the life of people to the present day, it becomes clear why company founder Paul Schwenk decided to name his company after an Egyptian city. Thebes was the capital of Old Egypt in the fertile valley of the Nile. During the 11th Dynasty (about 2134 - 1991 BC) and the new empire that followed (about 1550 - 1070 BC), Thebes played an important role in the history of Ancient Egypt.

Theben AG 1921 to 2011: Discover 90 years of high-tech "Made in Germany".

Anniversary at Theben: Theben AG celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2011. In 1921 the master clockmaker Paul Schwenk founded his company Paul Schwenk Engineering in Stuttgart. He was quickly able to apply for the "patent remote control time switch" and the "patent for electromotive winding mechanisms for spring-driven clocks". 90 years later, the Haigerloch-based family company is one of leading manufacturers worldwide of innovative solutions for energy-efficient and sustainable building controls with over 700 employees, five subsidiaries in Europe, a sales office in Singapore and branches in over 50 countries.

A journey through the company history

It all started in 1921 with the first Schwenk time switch for staircases, which the company founder Paul Schwenk developed to stop lights in staircases being on all the time: The first Theben energy-saving product was born and in 1930 this led to the development of the successful ELPA automatic time switch.  A lot of rumours have grown up around this name since then: Are they the initials of his two children Ellen and Paul? Or is it the abbreviation for "Electrical Pendulum Automatic device"? Whatever the answer: ELPA has become synonymous with high-quality staircase time switches and it still plays an important role today.

"Use your time well, it passes so quickly!“ In 1928 Paul Schwenk had this quote from Goethe's Faust displayed in the reception area of the company building at Reinsburgstraße 103 in Stuttgart. 30 employees worked here on five floors producing staircase timers and time switches. The concept of energy-saving staircase lighting occupied Paul Schwenk with his 1917 masterpiece. He developed a "3-minute switch for staircase lighting". He was ready by 1930:  The first ELPA automatic time switch with pendulum and mercury tube contact went into full production. The start of an incredible success story: With over 30 million devices sold, the ELPA has become synonymous with staircase time switches.

Paul Schwenk was a convinced democrat and was opposed to the Third Reich. He purchased a house in the country to escape the attentions of the Gestapo in Stuttgart. He struck gold in Haigerloch. The former Rose restaurant underwent extensive conversion to become the new company headquarters. After the death of Paul Schwenk in 1944 and the currency reform of 1948, his son Paul Eberhard Schwenk took over the rebuilding of the company. The family company quickly picked up again. Orders came in and new faces, such as the future managing director Werner Herl, joined the established workforce. Space was gradually at a premium in the Rose so a start was made on a new building on Hohenbergstraße. The components production (press shop, drilling and turning) transferred first, followed by other production areas after the new building was extended. The whole Theben workforce was finally brought together under one large and modern roof in Hohenbergstraße in 1970.

There were lots of reasons to celebrate in 1971. On the one hand, the company could proudly look back over 50 successful years and, on the other, the figures promised a bright future: 360 employees produced a profit of
18 million Deutsch Marks per annum. Over 300,000 time switches had been sold in over 50 countries. Managing director Paul Eberhard Schwenk, as a generous planner and organiser, was joined on the company board by his brother-in-law Werner Herl and his wife Ellen Herl (nee. Schwenk).

 

 

Innovation from passion

A successful family company combines the best of tradition and innovation. The founding families of Herl and Schwenk have established the tradition in the past 90 years of developing innovative products related to time. In 1977, Theben applied for a patent for the "rotatable switching disc": This still makes it possible to immediately switch between daily and weekly programs in analogue time switches and clock thermostats such as the RAMSES 782. A patent for the "socket timer" was applied for in the same year and it 30 million have now been sold. In 1983 the TERMINA 1000 was the first digital time switch from Theben: 2.2 kg of high technology is behind the 257 x 128 mm white housing. But it was soon drastically reduced in size: 1984 saw the introduction the 35 mm wide TR 611 with six buttons , which was very easy to use. Almost 20 years ago Theben joined in with the development of EIB technology (now KNX) and manufactured the first BUS-capable time switches and twilight switches. Theben has been a member of the KNX Association since 1995 and works with other leading manufacturers in making KNX a worldwide standard. The RAMSES 797 digital clock thermostat was launched in 1984. With its then innovative telephone remote control, it provided the option of using a telephone line to switch on heating, save energy and still come home to a warm house. With its innovations from passion, Theben has again and again been able to make its mark on this sector over the last 90 years.

 

From Haigerloch to the world

What started as a family company in Stuttgart under Paul Schwenk and his wife Lydia in 1921 has become a globally-successful company in the area of time and light control, climate control and KNX building systems technology: The first overseas distribution company was established in France in 1971. The founding of the PEZET GmbH for tool and plastic technology subsidiary on the Madertal industrial park in 1973 led to the further expansion of production at the company headquarters in Haigerloch.The Italian subsidiary Theben S.r.l. was established in Milan in 1992. Theben invested in the British market in 1996 with the takeover of the subsidiary Timeguard Ltd. in London. The company also became more involved in the area of OEM solutions from 2001 with the establishment of the sales and marketing department tts - theben technical systems. The takeover of High Technology Systems AG, Switzerland (HTS) 2007 – the inventers of the presence detector – led to Theben (Switzerland) AG becoming Theben HTS AG.

 

 

Made in "Germany quality"

Swabians are renowned for their pioneering and inventive spirit, so it is no surprise that Theben again and again succeed in launching outstanding products and innovations. Unusually for a company of this size, Theben has an in-house testing laboratory approved by the VDE Institute. This allows Theben products to be thoroughly tested from the initial idea through the development stage right up to readiness for mass production. A 100% final inspection in production ensures there are no unpleasant surprises after distribution. Theben clearly supports the region: Not only are the company HQ and production located on an area of over 25,000 m2 in Haigerloch but the company shareholders also live in Haigerloch.

 

 

Energy-saving solutions in its most attractive form

Most Theben devices work behind the scenes: Digital time switches or KNX actuators are built into control cabinets and provide energy-efficient climate and lighting control from there. Theben products also meet high expectations aesthetically and have been awarded international design awards:

 

 

Looking forward to the next 90 years

Looking back is always looking forward too: Sustainability and energy-efficiency have become more important than ever for technology and product development over recent years. A trend that Theben confirms with its drive for energy-saving, conservation solutions and is supported by an ever-increasing clientele at home and abroad. In this anniversary year of 2011, the Theben Group is aiming to achieve a turnover of approx.100 million euros with its "Made in Germany" products, systems and solutions.