Carl Zeiss was founded in Jena in 1846. Shortly thereafter, a large number of the company's products were sold abroad. Distribution was originally the responsibility of business associates and representatives. In 1893, the first representative outside Germany opened in London. The first production site outside Jena opened in Vienna in 1906.
The two World Wars resulted in massive set backs to the company's internationalization endeavors: The representatives had to be refounded in practically all countries. Beginning around 1950, there were even two competing subsidiaries in many countries: The branches of Carl Zeiss Oberkochen and VEB Carl Zeiss Jena competed head-to-head.
It was not until the reunification that this situation was resolved. Since the 1990s, rapidly growing subsidiaries have been opening up their own sales subsidiaries in other countries. Manufacturing subsidiaries outside Germany have become more and more important in the new millennium. Today, some product ranges are produced entirely outside Germany.