for staircases to stop lightsbeing 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.
Laying the foundations: Paul Schwenk's drawings for the first “3-minute switch for staircase lighting” from back in 1921.
Historic time switches: Housed in cast iron, huge clock mechanisms with anchor escapement set on stone – the height of technology in the year 1930.
A riot of colour: Historical brochures from the early years.
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.
A successful family company combines the best of tradition and innovation. Over the past almost 100 years, the founding families of Herl and Schwenk have established a tradition of developing innovative products addressing all aspects of energy efficiency and comfort. Here's a look at the innovations and patents that have been achieved so far:
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.
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.
Launched in 2005, LUXOR was the first ever living comfort control to appear on the market. LUXOR was “programmed” using a screwdriver to turn the actuator. One of its greatest benefits was and still is its easy installation. And it's precisely this that was also given top priority when LUXOR's smart successor LUXORliving was launched in 2017.
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.