Meet the Brand: Caran d'Ache's 100th Anniversary

Learn more about Caran d’Ache, their history, and their anniversary celebrations; then enter our competition to win some special anniversary goodies!

Caran d’Ache

To many of us, a good set of coloured pencils means a nice set in a tin, with a picture of Swiss Alpine scenery on the front. To get personal, I treasured my set when I was at school. They were great - nice quality pencils that can be transformed with a bit of water. Dampen the tip for a more solid line. Dampen the paper, and they behave differently again. Scribble a little, then use a wet brush, and they become a set of paints.

They were Caran d’Ache Prismalo pencils, and the mountain on the front was Mont Cervin, or as we commonly know it here, the Matterhorn. They were the first watercolour pencils in the world, and are still hugely popular with students and artists everywhere.

Artists everywhere also know Caran d’Ache for their Fixpencil clutch pencil, the Neocolor watercolour wax pencils, Technograph graphite pencils, and many others. The simple 849 metal ballpoint pen is a classic piece of Swiss design, and their fine writing range include some iconic designs in platinum, gold and jewels.

History

Caran d’Ache have been around for a long time - that’s part of the reason for this post - it’s their 100th anniversary this year. They are celebrating with a range of special anniversary edition products, which we’ll tell you all about soon, but first, a bit of history…

The company was founded in 1915, and was originally called “Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons”. The name ‘Caran d’Ache’ arrived in 1924. The Turkish name for a pencil comes from their term for graphite - black stone, or ‘kara tash’. This led to the Russian word for a pencil - ‘karandash’. In turn, that was taken by a French political cartoonist, who decided to use the name ‘Caran d’Ache’. The name was adopted by the Geneva-based pencil maker, and the brand was born.

While the logo has changed over the years, a common theme has been the long descenders on some of the letters - the diagonal of the ‘R’ in ‘Caran’ tends to extend down a long way, as does the right-side of the ‘A’ in ‘d’Ache’. Both of these little design features are from the original cartoonist of the same name - his signature included these same long strokes.

Another common feature of Caran d’Ache design has been a character called ‘Bonne-Mine’, a little pencil character with a top hat and arms. Bonne-Mine has featured in their packaging and advertising designs since 1920, and is proudly central to the 100th anniversary logos too.

Still going strong, Caran d’Ache is now led by Carole Hubscher, the current chairperson, who became the 4th generation of her family to run the company when she took the position in 2012.

Products

In their innovative history, Caran d’Ache have developed many new products, and some have been significant world-firsts.

  • The Technograph is the classic Caran d’Ache pencil - yellow, with gold lettering, and like most Caran d’Ache products, it’s hexagonal. Their most longstanding product, the Technograph was introduced in the 1920s.
  • In 1929, The Fixpencil was the first clutch pencil to use the mechanism Caran d’Ache patented at the time, with a simple push-button to open the jaws to reposition the lead.
  • The Prismalo Aquarelle was the world’s first watercolour pencil - a completely new idea when it appeared in 1931. When dry, it was like any other coloured pencil, though better quality than most. Add water, though, and it became a set of watercolour paints. Add a picture of Mount Cervin to the box, and you had the set we knew and loved from our school days!
  • Neocolor wax oil pencils appeared in 1952, and in 1972 were changed to make them water-soluble.
  • The Ecridor was originally intended to be a luxurious alternative to the Fixpencil, but the addition of a ballpoint pen to the range in 1953 created a new elegant classic. The Ecridor range is still popular today, and while it has been refined a little over the years, still follows much the same design.
  • In 1969 the 849 followed the luxury Ecridor, but its simpler painted finish made it more of a pen for the people. Still made to Caran d’Ache’s high standards, with a sturdy metal barrel, the 849 could take on any colour, or any pattern, and be as bright or as plain as it needed to be. It became such an iconic Swiss product that it featured on a Swiss postage stamp, as part of a series celebrating classic Swiss design.
  • In 1970, the Madison gave Caran d’Ache their first fountain pen.
  • 2010 saw the introduction of a new range of coloured pencils. The Luminance 6901 has the highest certification of lightfastness of any pencil - an important factor for artists whose work will hang on a wall, and not hide away in the darkness.

The Anniversary Collection - 100 Ans

To celebrate 100 years of existence, Caran d’Ache have issued a set of special edition products, in beautiful white card presentation boxes.

Technograph

A nicely sturdy white card presentation case containing four Technograph pencils and a sharpener. The pencils themselves are the standard ones, but the packaging makes the set into something rather more unusual.

Prismalo

A very nice set - 25 Prismalo Aquarelle pencils, in a clever card box that doubles up as a stand. If you’re going to use the pencils, it’s perfect to keep them ready for use, while you’re sketching and colouring. If you want the set as an ornamental display, it will stand neatly on its own, showing off the rainbow of Prismalo pencils.

Fixpencil

A special new design for this set, the anniversary edition of the Fixpencil has a shot-peened aluminium finish, for a different look and feel to the standard models. It has the addition of ruled scales in centimetres and inches.

It’s supplied in a sturdy card box, along with a tube of leads - one graphite B-grade lead, and coloured leads in red, blue, green and yellow.

We think this works really well as both a special edition for collectors, and a real day-to-day working clutch pencil - just a little more special than the standard Fixpencil models.

849

Like the Fixpencil, Caran d’Ache have gone to a bit of trouble to make this one special. The 849 has always been a ballpoint, but with its look clearly inspired by pencils. They’ve gone a bit further with this special edition. The body is a mix of different colours, with one colour on each side of the hexagon. Between each, and near the tip, is a creamy pale brown, to resemble cedar wood.

Next to the clip, the little pencil character, Bonne-Mine, is drawn on in white.

Again, like the Fixpencil, this can be a beautiful collectors’ edition to have on display; but it could also be a ballpoint pen you use every day - just what the 849 was always made to be.

Ecridor

The special edition Ecridor is patterned with a variation of the classic ‘chevron’ finish. Groups of chevrons alternate between running up and down the pen, on different faces of the hexagonal body.

The inside of the presentation card box is beautifully designed, too - the pen itself sits on a softly cushioned base, while the design on the inside of the lid is a large ‘HAPPY 100’ message, made up of chevrons, to echo the design on the pen; along with the Bonne-Mine character.

Competition

  • The competition is now closed.
  • The Prize: A special anniversary bag containing special anniversary goodies, including the set of Prismalo watercolour pencils detailed above, a couple of other anniversary pencils, and a special embossed notebook.
  • To Enter: Post a comment below, telling us what you think the most important event of 1915 was - apart from the beginning of Caran d’Ache, obviously!

10 March 2015

Comments

  • Jan B 15 April 2015
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    Typhoid Mary was arrested after getting into a number of health establishments and spreading the awful illness which was known to kill many of its victims.

  • Marty G 3 April 2015
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    October 21, 1915 - 1st transatlantic radiotelephone message from Arlington, VA (where I live) to Paris (where I would love to live). Now if we could just develop beaming technology (beam me up Scotty) so I could be beamed to Paris.

  • Karen j 31 March 2015
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    The Tour de France was cancelled due to WWI.

  • Gini C 27 March 2015
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    I think the theory of relativity was relatively important.

  • Simon C 21 March 2015
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    12 October 1915 the execution of Edith Cavell a British Nurse who helped both sides of the Great War. Before she was executed Edith Cavell spoke the words "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." These words are inscribed on her statue near Trafalgar Square.

  • Am A 20 March 2015
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    Alfred Wegener comes of up with the theory of Pangaea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangaea)

  • Francina H 20 March 2015
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    Photographs made mandatory in British passports for the first time on February 1st, 1915. We take it so much for granted that it may sound almost mundane, but imagine the chaos (and even less desirable) the improprieties that would have otherwise ensued!

  • Martin E 17 March 2015
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    William Boeing takes his first flight lesson. Ford builds its 1,000,000th car. Both have progressed since then.

  • Nina F 16 March 2015
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    I think the invention of the mechanical pencil and Einstein's General Theory of Relativity have been a big part of my life.

  • Peter G 16 March 2015
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    The invention of the mechanical pencil by Sharp

  • Cathi P 13 March 2015
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    Alfred Wegener publishes his theory of Pangaea - this tied in with his theory of continetnal drift and plate tectonics which was debated until the 1950s, he was so much ahead of his time. Its also a positive event amidst the various war horrors that year :(

  • Matthew L 12 March 2015
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    In March of 1915, Pluto was photographed for the first time and the debate about whether it was a planet or not started.

  • Louise M 11 March 2015
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    October 25 – Lyda Conley, the first American Indian woman to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States as a lawyer, is admitted to practice there. (Wikipedia)

  • Melissa P 11 March 2015
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    Frank Sinatra was born!

  • james w 11 March 2015
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    The sinking of the Lusitania. Two years later, the United States officially entered the war.

  • Miriam W 11 March 2015
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    For me it's got to be: December 25 – WWI: British and German forces declare an unofficial Christmas truce, get out of the trenches and have a free-for-all kick-around football game in no man's land... it may not be historically important, but what a lovely reminder of what's truly important!

  • E C 11 March 2015
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    in 1915 georges claude patented the neon light which, a century later, is habitually used to tell us when a shop is open when in fact it is not.

  • Bethany A 11 March 2015
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    The start, and most vicious year of the Armenian Genocide.

  • Suze N 11 March 2015
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    I think it's got to be 21 September - Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge (at an auction for £6600). It's a national monument and, of course, a beautiful subject to sketch and paint!

  • Alexander H 11 March 2015
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    The genocide of around a million Armenians by the Ottoman government.

  • Luke M 11 March 2015
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    Mary Mallon is arrested and returned to quarantine on North Brother Island, New York after spending five years evading health authorities and causing several further outbreaks of typhoid

  • John C 11 March 2015
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    "In Flanders Fields" is written in May of 1915, and published in December of the same year.

  • Maria P 11 March 2015
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    June 5 – Women's suffrage is introduced in Denmark and Iceland

  • P J M 11 March 2015
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    June 16 – The British Women's Institute is founded, becoming a stalwart of Britishness for decades to come. Summer fetes, baking, jam-making and the pursuit all things craft are the watchword of the WI then remain so a century later.

  • E C 11 March 2015
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    in 1915 georges claude patents the neon light which a century later is used to tell us a shop is open when it clearly is not.

  • Nick B 10 March 2015
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    Einstein's theory of general relativity

  • Martin R 10 March 2015
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    In November 1915 Albert Einstein completed his Theory of General Relativity, explaining how gravity arises from the curvature of space and time. This explained the expansion of the Universe, planetary motion and the physics of black holes as well as how light bends when travelling from distant stars and galaxies.

  • Nick B 10 March 2015
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    Einstein develops his theory of general relativity.

  • Erica T 10 March 2015
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    John McCrae writes the poem "In Flanders Fields"

  • Anthony C 10 March 2015
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    The controversial film, The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith, premieres in Los Angeles.

  • Indranath N 10 March 2015
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    Whimsical by comparison to others perhaps but - Charlie Chaplin's film The Tramp was released in 1915.

  • steve j 10 March 2015
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    In 1915 the Endurance- Ernest Shackleton,s ship, sank in the Antarctic pal ice and started one of the greatest stories of adventure in which everyone survived.

  • Paula P 10 March 2015
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    Albert Einstein's completed his theory of gravitation - the general theory of relativity on Nov 25 1915.

  • mark s 10 March 2015
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    May 7th - SS Lusitania sunk by German submarine; 1198 lives losT

  • Catharine B 10 March 2015
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    Kafka's Metamorphosis is published in Germany

  • mark s 10 March 2015
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    1915-01-25 - Alexander Graham Bell in New York calls Thomas Watson in San Francisco

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