At some point in 1921, the light went out automatically for the first time in the stairwell of an apartment building in Stuttgart. The trigger was the swivel switch, the time switch with which Paul Schwenk had just started his own apparatus manufacture. Nobody yet knows the name, but building automation is born. It is the hour of birth of Theben.
Paul Schwenk is born and grows up in humble circumstances. After completing his precision engineering apprenticeship with a church clock maker, he moves to Stuttgart. There, he marries his wife Lydia and earns his title of master craftsman.
... that company founder Paul Schwenk had already developed and built his masterpiece – a “3-minute switch for staircase lighting” – in 1918 upon completing his precision engineering apprenticeship and 3 years before founding his company? This was the forefather of all the Theben time switches that would follow.
After serving as a soldier on the front line in the First World War, he begins developing time switches himself, setting up his own company – Mezger und Schwenk Apparatebau – in 1921. The company quickly makes a name for itself with its innovative time switches. As these combine energy savings, comfort and safety and are of high quality, the company grows quickly.
... that the predecessor to Theben AG – Spezialfabrikation elektr. Schaltapparate – was registered on the Stuttgart commercial register on 22 February 1921?
... that even time switches produced as early as 1927 came with a one-year warranty? This wasn’t necessarily a given back in those days! What’s more, “test walls” were used to check that every single device was working flawlessly. This commitment to quality remains part of our DNA to this day.
The company moves into its own premises at no. 103 Reinsburgstraße in Stuttgart and begins selling internationally.
... that the first Theben time switches weighed a hefty 4.5 kg, while today’s models weigh just 200 to 300 g? They are also visibly different in size. And a number of useful additional functions have also been incorporated – without adding to the size and weight.
The “ELPA” automated staircase switch is patented in 1934 and represents a groundbreaking innovation for the company. With its sophisticated electro-mechanical components, ELPA is able to think for itself, making it the forerunner of today’s building automation solutions.
... that the first ELPA staircase light timer switch was patented back in 1934 and is still available in various versions to this day? What does ELPA stand for? It might be an abbreviation of the German term “Elektrischer Pendelautomat” (electrical pendulum device). Or perhaps founder Paul Schwenk based it on the names of his children Ellen and Paul. We don’t know ourselves. What do you think?
... that company founder Paul Schwenk also developed unusual gadgets for ladies and gentlemen? For example, the globe-shaped QUO VADIS world synchronous clock, the pyramid-shaped, battery-powered AIDA table clock or the legendary ELPA fan – a lightweight, fold-up, hand-held fan. It was available silver-plated, gold-plated or even in solid silver, and came – of course – with a high-quality case.
The company moves from Stuttgart to Haigerloch and into the former “Zur Rose” tavern. At the same time, Paul Eberhard Schwenk starts a training placement at his father’s company to learn precision engineering. Although his father refuses to produce munitions, the company survives by making components for naval sirens and stopwatches.
... that the company name Theben and many of its product names (including ones used today) are based on company founder Paul Schwenk’s fondness for Egyptian history? Thebes, the former capital of the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, was where the precursor to the current calendar, the first sundials and, in around 1500 B.C., outflow water clocks were developed. We continue this distinctive Theben trademark and tradition to this day with product names such as RAMSES, LUXORliving, SPHINX and OBELISK.
Company founder Paul Schwenk dies. After 1945, his son Paul Eberhard embarks on a modest new venture. When Germany’s “economic miracle” arrives, the company begins hiring new employees and production reaches new heights.
... that 1949 saw the first ever company outing of the new “Paul Schwenk KG Spezialfabrik elektrisch-automatischer Zeitschalter” to a motorcycle race at the Hockenheim racetrack? Five men made the journey in a single car. That all changed in 1952 when bus journeys were introduced to ensure the entire workforce (including the female members of staff!) could join in.
The new company name “Theben-Werk Paul Schwenk KG” starts appearing in creative and sophisticated promotional literature produced by the company. This contains detailed information about the ever wider range of products along with some very solid sales arguments. This strategy proves a success: the 1960s sees a sevenfold increase in turnover, with the workforce growing to more than 300 employees.
... that Theben purchased nine VW buses in 1969 to make it easier for employees living in the surrounding areas to get to work? Although this shuttle service no longer exists, we are happy to report that there are plenty of other reasons why Theben is recognised as a “Great Place to Work”.
... that Theben’s environmental work in the 1960s was way ahead of its time? In 1964, a state-of-the-art detoxification system was installed that removed harmful substances from the waste water. What’s more, the large car park was surrounded by lovingly planted green spaces, tended to by a company gardener. Today, our environmental management system, which is certified to DIN ISO 14001, ensures that we operate in an environmentally conscious manner and use resources sparingly.
In the 1970s, the company begins developing products in cooperation with well-known designers such as the Gugelot Design Team. Take, for example, the “tun 22”, a universal switching timer with a classic and timeless design that was described in the marketing brochure as a “thinking machine” or “wonderful nanny”. Product design continues to play a crucial role for Theben to this very day.
... that employee welfare has always been a top priority at Theben? For example, as early as 1958, instead of a Christmas bonus, a share in sales was paid out. In 1962, a retirement allowance was introduced as a company pension. And in 1970, asset-building allowances were added. In addition, company-owned residential buildings were built and rented out to employees. Even then, we were what we are officially today: an award-winning "Great Place to Work".
The first international subsidiary opens in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France. The French market develops well. And in the course of the 1970s the company’s export ratio grows to 40%.
... that Theben employees have been paid for their monthly output rather than the hours they have worked since 1971? Something that was practically a revolutionary working time model back then is now common practice in the industry. In some things, we always were ahead of our time ;o)
The founding of PEZET GmbH (a subsidiary company for die and plastics technology) leads to further expansion of production in Haigerloch.
... that Schloss Haigerloch castle, which was first mentioned in 1296, has belonged to the founding Schwenk family since 1974? Today, it is a meeting place for conferences, culture and exceptional cuisine. And with an integrated registry office, it is the perfect location for a wedding. The Theben innovation lab has also been installed here. Jazz legend Dave Brubeck showed his appreciation in the guestbook: “We had the best time here out of all the places that we have played at in our 40 years of touring.” We warmly welcome you to join us too!
Paul Eberhard Schwenk moves across from operational management to the Theben Supervisory Board. When Theben launches its “theben-timer” – an easy-to-operate, plug-in time switch – what an innovation it turns out to be! More than 33 million units have been sold to date.
... that 3 March 1980 – 41 years ago to be precise – marks the date that the millionth “theben-timer” was sold? Launched only in 1976, the world’s first plug-in time switch meant that absolutely anyone could control their coffee machine, aquarium lights or Christmas lights, for example. To date, over 33 million units have been sold.
The restructured PEZET GmbH commences production at a new factory on the Madertal industrial estate. The inclusion of electronics at the start of the 1980s also required new production processes and an ever increasing number of plastic parts.
... that Theben once made it into Playboy magazine? Not with a time switch, but instead with the quirky “Adhoc” stool that company boss Paul Eberhard Schwenk had developed and which was produced by Theben subsidiary PEZET. It appeared in the 1982 anniversary issue of Playboy. Theben was clearly always sexy ;o).
The Italian sales subsidiary Theben S.r.l. is founded in Milan.
... that it was possible to control a heating system via a phone line way back in 1994 thanks to the RAMSES 797? And so the first incarnation of the app-controlled smart home was born – a technology that we now offer as our LUXORliving KNX-based smart home system.
Theben begins collaborating on the development of EIB technology (now KNX) and starts manufacturing 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 takeover and founding of the Timeguard Ltd subsidiary in London sees Theben invest in sales and distribution in Great Britain.
The company also becomes more involved in the area of OEM solutions with the establishment of the sales and marketing department tts – theben technical systems.
... that the LUXOR comfort living control which was launched back in 2003 was a forerunner of today’s smart home systems? For example, LUXOR was capable of controlling functions like presence simulation or conjuring up different scenes (ambiences) in the house. This was long before the concept of the smart home was invented. Today, our KNX-based smart home system LUXORliving takes care of these tasks (and many more besides).
Paul Eberhard Schwenk dies. Multi-talented, Paul Eberhard Schwenk’s life achievements were truly remarkable. As a 20-year-old, he took responsibility for the company in 1945 after the death of his father. Theben’s longstanding success story is down to him, with his strategic thinking, his energy and his determination. In 1976, he gave himself the freedom to find another way to leave his mark – his efforts as a castle owner and promoter of the arts have endured beyond his death in 2005.
The takeover of High Technology Systems AG, Switzerland (HTS) – the inventors of the presence detector – leads to Theben (Switzerland) AG becoming Theben HTS AG.
Theben enters the smart metering sector and soon becomes the first and only company to offer a smart meter gateway certified to PTB-A 50.7.
The company’s commitment to the Asian market develops significantly and a branch opens in Singapore.
The founding of a branch in Holland in 2010 significantly boosts the company’s presence there.
Paul Sebastian Schwenk, the great-grandson of the company’s founder takes up his position on the board. Together with Nikolas Herl (Head of Finance) and board member Thomas Sell, he heads up various f3 projects to get Theben “fit for the future”.
Four at one go! Theben sets up branches and subsidiaries in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Australia.
The LUXORliving KNX-based smart home system is launched on the market.
In Austria, a new branch for the presence and motion detectors product segment opens.
... that our current claim “energy saving comfort” and the topic of energy efficiency have been on Theben’s agenda since the start of the 1960s? You can read all about this in a brochure for a clock thermostat. It reads: “Combine convenience and economy! No, you haven’t read that wrong. It’s true, as strange as it may seem.” The brochure also highlighted the “significant fuel savings” due to the temperature reduction at night. As you can see, energy efficiency has always come first for us!
The CONEXA 3.0 Performance smart meter gateway is certified by the German Federal Office for Information Security. Paul Sebastian Schwenk takes up office as Chairman of the Board of Management at Theben AG and leads the company jointly with the two board members Thomas Sell and Michael Matthesius.
The joint venture GIC Theben Automation Private Ltd. with focus on "building automation" is founded in India.
Theben celebrates its centenary.
... that our legendary theben-timer is also available as an anniversary edition in three special and attractive colors (yellow, blue and pink) to mark the occasion? And even better: We grant a 100-year warranty on the anniversary timers, in keeping with the occasion! And by the way, this is no joke! We know the quality(s) of the original base timer.
Paul Schwenk was born in 1889 and grew up in humble circumstances. After completing his precision engineering apprenticeship with a church clock maker, he moved to Stuttgart, where he married his wife Lydia and earned his title of master craftsman. After serving as a soldier on the front line in the First World War, he began developing time switches himself, setting up his own company in 1921. Paul Schwenk died in 1945 at the age of just 56.
Lydia Mezger was born in Stuttgart in 1889 and married Paul Schwenk in 1918. Armed with training in business administration and experience from working in England, she played an active role in developing the company – even after the birth of her four children. Her warm demeanour led employees to praise her as the “good soul” of the company. It was a role that she continued to adopt in Haigerloch, where she was involved in the church community for decades. Seen as the senior partner in the company, she died in 1984 at the ripe old age of 95.
Ellen, the youngest daughter of Paul and Lydia Schwenk, was born in 1927. Her warmth and humanity made her an unforgettable character in Theben’s history. The founder’s youngest daughter, she grew up in the company and even worked there during her school years. In 1948, she joined the company in a “girl Friday” role. Employees viewed her as a caring partner in the business and a confidante in all kinds of situations. She married Werner Herl in 1952. Her son Nikolas Herl has been managing the finance department at Theben for over 30 years. Even after her retirement and as Vice Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board, she retained close ties with Theben for many years. She died in 2016, but many of those who were there during her lifetime still have strong memories of her.
Multi-talented, Paul Eberhard Schwenk’s life achievements were truly remarkable. He completed a training placement at his father’s company before we was conscripted in 1943. Having sustained multiple injuries, the 20-year-old returned at the end of 1945 and took responsibility for the company after the death of his father. Theben’s longstanding success story is down to him, with his strategic thinking, his energy and his determination. In 1976, he gave himself the freedom to find another way to leave his mark – his efforts as a castle owner and promoter of the arts have endured beyond his death in 2005.
When Paul Sebastian Schwenk was born in 1981, he was given the same first name as his great-grandfather and grandfather in line with the family tradition. This was particularly fitting given that his grandfather had assumed such an important role in the life of the young Paul Sebastian following the premature death of his mother when he was just 20 years old. Together with his colleagues on the board, Thomas Sell and Michael Matthesius, he is guiding Theben through a period of major change with both sensitivity and courage. While still staying true to the “company’s DNA”, he is determined that the products and systems, as well as the processes and people’s mindsets, should constantly evolve.