Innovation & Tradtion

  • Timeline

    A Tradition of Innovation

    Founded 165 years ago as a small workshop for optics and precision engineering, the company and name Carl Zeiss, have an international reputation for innovation and cutting edge technology in all fields of optics. The products combine technical precision and functional design in equal measure. They are reliable tools as well as being the key to intense experiences in the hands of discriminating customers.

    Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH acts as a partner for experiencing nature, by passionate hunters, enthusiastic observers of animals and birds as well as all those involved in outdoor activities. Alongside scientific research it is above all the close contact to all those that use „their ZEISS“ as a companion under the harshest of conditions that constantly leads to groundbreaking developments. High precision optics made in Germany. Countless innovations, cutting edge technologies and the constant striving for perfection have brought Carl Zeiss its international reputation: as a brand that captures fascination and enhances the moment. No other manufacturer has demonstrated greater technological and scientific competence over a longer period than Carl Zeiss. A success story that continues to this day. We go to the limits of the imagination, with our passion for cutting edge performance, we inspire the world to see things with new eyes. People all over the world benefit from this approach.

    The excitement of being closer to nature than ever before.
    This is the moment we work for.

    1846 Carl Zeiss opens his workshop in Jena.
    1893 Patent application for a "double telescope with increased objective distance".
    1894 Start of the serial production of the prism field glasses developed by Prof. Dr. Ernst Abbe. These first prism field glasses soon became famous around the world for their high quality and outstanding image quality.
    1896 The first spotting scope is introduced: the ZEISS „tin can telescope“ with revolving eyepiece for various magnifications.
    1904 The first ZEISS riflescope for hunting is built: a prism construction with double magnification.
    1917 Introduction of wide angle eyepieces for binoculars to increase the field of vision.
    1920 The ZEISS Zielacht, the first riflescope with high magnification and increased image brightness at twilight comes on the market.
    1922 The first riflescopes with variable magnification are produced.
    1933 Light metals are now used for the housing instead of brass and zinc.
    1935 The invention of the anti-reflective T* coating (for glass-to-air surfaces) increases the light transmission of the binoculars by 50 % (inventor: Alexander Smakula, ZEISS employee).
    1954 The use of tele-objective systems (two lens elements separated by air) leads to a reduction in the overall length of ZEISS binoculars and to improved image quality at greater magnification.
    1956 The introduction of a movable rubber cuff seal makes even centre focus models waterproof; previously this had only been possible for glasses with individual ocular adjustment.
    1958 ZEISS launches the B-models with a wide field of vision – also suitable for use by glasses wearers (inventors: Horst Köhler and Helmut Knutti, ZEISS employees).
    1964 ZEISS introduces binoculars with Schmidt’s direct-vision erecting prism under the Dialyt® trademark introduced by Hensoldt. The ray path is strongly “condensed”, making the binoculars small and slim. This heralds a global trend towards slim binocular design.
    1969 Disruptive innovation in the market for binoculars with the introduction of the ZEISS pocket binoculars (8x20). A biaxial, double joint allows the binoculars to be folded down to pocket size; the use of glass fibre-reinforced plastic for the housing makes the binoculars weight only 135 g. This marks the beginning of the worldwide trend towards the miniaturisation of binoculars. (Inventor: Roland Leinhos, ZEISS employee).
    1974 Pocket binoculars receive central focussing and high-eyepoint eyepieces for glasses wearers.
    1975 ZEISS riflescopes receive central focussing with height and lateral adjustment on a click ratchet (1 click = 1 cm change of the point of aim at 100 m).
    1979 The ZEISS T* multi-layer coating effectively reduces reflection and achieves optimum contrast and colour neutrality. The result is a clear improvement of image sharpness and brilliance. The light transmission of the binoculars and riflescopes is increased to over 90 %.
    1983 ZEISS introduces aspheric mirror objectives for higher magnifications, shortening the overall length of binoculars and guaranteeing brilliant image quality.
    1987 The first riflescopes are fitted with the innovative bullet drop compensator (ASV). The ASV is still undergoing further development today and is a valuable tool for all those who regularly shoot over long distances. Before taking the shot the precise target distance is set using a graduated ring, with no need for awkward "holding over".  The ASV therefore guarantees maximum accuracy.
    1988 The P-Coating by Carl Zeiss – a phase-correcting coating for the roof surfaces of roof prisms – eliminates interference effects caused by phase shifts in the image erection process. This results in a further increase in contrast and resolution. (Inventor: Adolf Weyrauch, ZEISS employee).
    1990 Carl Zeiss is the first manufacturer in the world to introduce the 20x60 T* S binoculars with mechanical image stabilisation. The image stabilisation eliminates any hand tremor and allows successful freehand observation at 20 x magnification (Inventor: Adolf Weyrauch, ZEISS employee).
      ZEISS fills riflescopes, spotting scopes and many binoculars with dry nitrogen. Air and the ensuing humidity can – particularly in winter – lead to internal fogging. The nitrogen filling prevents this from happening in the long term.
      The patented ZEISS rail mount represents an outstanding solution: a hollow rail runs along the bottom of a tube milled from a solid piece. The assembly elements are firmly held in this rail, invisible and recoil-resistant. The riflescope can be mounted and removed without leaving any marks. The position of the riflescope on the rifle (eye relief) can be adjusted in minutes to suit any marksman without any mechanical intervention.
    1994 The illuminated reticle makes twilight hunting easier.
      The Victory riflescope represents significant progress: a shorter construction, far lighter in weight, more eye relief and increased optical performance. This sets new standards in the construction of riflescopes.
    1998 The innovative Victory Varipoint riflescope combine the reticle of the 1st image plane with an illuminated dot in the 2nd image plane. A new illumination control system automatically matches the desired light intensity of the red dot in daylight to the actual light conditions. This makes the Victory Varipoint the first choice for use by day and by night.
    2001 The FL concept has entered ZEISS observation optics: thanks to the use of fluoride glass – known as FL – even the finest details appear free of chromatic abberation. The result is an impressive image sharpness, natural colour reproduction and unparalleled brilliance.
    2004 Significant improvements are made to the optical performance of Schmidt-Pechan prism systems, which always require the reflection of a surface. The previous silver reflectors led to a loss of light  whereas the new dielectric mirror coating from ZEISS, made up of over 70 individual layers, keeps light loss to a minimum, leading to brighter images and allowing even binoculars with small-diameter lenses to work in low light conditions.
    2006 LotuTec® represents the introduction of a hydrophobic coating for the external lenses: water rolls off as it does on a lotus leaf, and dirt or fingerprints can be removed with ease.
      The Victory Diarange now combines in a single product a high precision riflescope with a lightning-fast laser rangefinder.
    2008 The Victory RF binoculars are the first binoculars that have not only a fully integrated rangefinder but also a BIS® (ballistics information system).
    2009 The Victory PhotoScope 85 T* FL is the world’s first spotting scope with zoom lens and fully integrated 7 megapixel digital camera, which allows you to watch and photograph at the same time.
      The flexible Varipoint reticle V69 combines two reticles in one: it is possible to switch between an illuminated dot and an illuminated cross.
    2010 With Illumination Control (iC) Carl Zeiss achieves yet another world first: the control of the reticle illumination is linked to the operation of the rifle for the first time.
      A milestone in nature observation: thanks to the new Vario eyepiece the Victory DiaScope 85 T* FL offers magnification of up to 75 x.
  • Innovation


    Research and development is the key to the enduring success of Carl Zeiss. Some 10 % of the company revenue is invested in this field and leads to a multitude of new patents each year. Another key factor is the interdisciplinary technology transfer, which constantly heads in new directions. Medical technology, sports optics, semi-conductor technology, spectacle optics, microscopes etc.: all these different divisions take part, exchange their expertise and benefit from each other.

    The invention by Prof. A. Smakula in the Carl Zeiss workshops is just one (historical) example, but also the beginning of a whole new era in all areas of optics. Image brightness, at twilight and brilliance were newly defined through the T* Multi-Layer-Coating and still stand as outstanding features of the Carl Zeiss Sports Optics products. The Abbe-König prism systems are consistently used in all binoculars for use in critical light conditions as their internal light distribution (pure total reflections, no light-absorbing mirror surfaces) are the brightest erecting system in the field of binocular construction. Alongside this high level of light transmission, the current Victory FL product range also scores points for its unparalleled crisp sharpness. This is due to the use of complex fluoride glass (FL) and the perfect coordination of all image-relevant materials and parameters. This „FL concept“ acts as a reference point and industry standard for what is possible today. A further ZEISS technology of recent times is the LotuTec® coating for external lenses. This allows water to simply roll off and prevents the accumulation of dirt and fingerprints. The process – already used a million times over for ZEISS spectacles – is the perfect example of hydrophobic layers and is used in Wetzlar for a great many different products.

    Special requirements for which Carl Zeiss has developed impressive product solutions include image stabilisation, imaging, i.e. integration of a digital camera in a spotting scope, and rangefinders with ballistic analysis.

  • Tradition


    Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH is a young company that can also look back on a long history and a wealth of experience, in which the knowledge of two outstanding optical businesses come together: Carl Zeiss and Moritz Hensoldt.


    Moritz Hensoldt had an optical workshop in Wetzlar from the year 1865, though he initially set up his business in Sonneberg /Thüringen in 1852. Carl Zeiss had been based in Jena since 1846. Both operations competed with each other on similar developments: initially with binoculars in the last decade of the 19th century. Jena produced the “double telescope with increased objective distance”, as the Porro glasses were described in the ZEISS patent of 1893. The Wetzlar-based company, on the other hand, was a pioneer of the more compact roof prism systems, which are still a benchmark today in a similar form. A few years later, in the first decade of the 20th century, both companies started to manufacture riflescopes for hunting – again virtually at the same time.

    Two strong brands – and therefore worthy rivals. Carl Zeiss in Jena was larger and more multifaceted than Hensoldt, and highly successful in many areas. Gradually circumstances led to what would nowadays be termed a “hostile takeover”. A few years after the Moritz Hensoldt family business became a public limited company due to the economic crisis and the resulting financial situation of 1922, the Carl Zeiss foundation enterprise became a majority shareholder in 1928.


    The tried and tested “Hensoldt” name was initially kept on as a company and brand name. Later, civilian binoculars and riflescopes were also sold under the ZEISS name, while military products continued to carry the Hensoldt logo. Zeiss or Hensoldt? For outsiders this was highly confusing! Clarity was finally achieved on 1st October 2006 when “Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH” was officially formed.


    Today, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH is a high-tech company and part of a leading global optics corporation, which is currently maintaining its illustrious position with record figures for the last financial year 2010/2011.

  • Production


    Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH has around 700 employees worldwide, of which 400 are based in Germany. Alongside modern machinery, dust-free rooms for final assembly, optimised process flows and elaborate quality control methods, it is primarily the motivation and knowledge of these employees that are the hallmark of the high standards of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics products. One important factor in all this is the issue of training for young people, either through apprenticeships or further education. The Wetzlar plant, where premium products such as the Victory observation optics and all riflescopes for the European market (Victory, Classic and Duralyt) are made, has for many years been complemented by the plant in Hungary. Sales and marketing is managed by subsidiary companies (e.g. in the USA, UK and Switzerland) and partners in many other countries, which in turn provide support for a global network of qualified ZEISS dealers.

    • Manufacturing excellence in optics

      The optics of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH are famous around the world for their quality and precision.

      Such close tolerances require skilled staff and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques.  Alongside classic processes modern CNC machinery is being used more and more.

      Plane optics, for example, are used in multiple frame processes, where a roughness of less than 0.12µm is achieved, even with the finest of milling.

      In flow production, for example, pellets are turned into fully finished double-sided round optics. The machines used here are fitted with automatic feed and turning station, and can carry out the grinding, centring, faceting and polishing operations. The roughness here after polishing is less than 0.7 nm.

      Despite precision engineering, it would be impossible to produce modern high performance optics without modern thin film processes.

      For Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH it is therefore essential to develop and produce “thin films” using state-of-the-art manufacturing concepts in order to satisfy the demand for optical high-tech devices and components.

    • Manufacturing excellence in mechanics

      The mechanical manufacturing of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH is characterised by state-of-the-art machinery and optimum precision.

      The manufacturing plant has 5-axle milling machines and 4-axle turning lathes as well as wire eroding machines for the superfinish machining of components. For our manufacture of mechanical parts made of steel, aluminium alloys and titanium tolerances of between 4 µm and 20 µm are considered to be just as "normal” as angular accuracies of 8" and less.

      For example, we manufacture all our riflescope housings with the unique ZEISS rail mount on high frequency milling machines. These housings are made from a single piece and offer both high resilience against mechanical stress and optimum precision for consistently high quality.

      The gimbal-mounted spring joint of the 20x60 T* S binoculars, for example, can only be manufactured with the necessary precision using wire eroding.  Four elliptical flat springs of 80 µm thickness on the edge of a hollow titanium cylinder stabilise the image of this premium class of binoculars against hand tremor. Tolerances in the µm area become indispensable.

    • Core skills: Graduation and engraving

      Precision graduation for measuring devices, target marks (reticles) for riflescopes, measuring reticles for geodesic devices and binoculars are manufactured with extreme skill and accuracy in reticle manufacture.

      The manufacturing process for the illuminated reticle for riflescopes, for example, is similar to the production of microchips. The actual target mark is vacuum-metallised. Clean room conditions and a high degree of care are required in order to achieve accuracies of 0.001 mm.

      In the case of mechanical reticles for riflescopes – where the reticles are not marked on the glass but instead are freestanding, metallic structures – the high-precision reticles (e.g. crosshairs) is produced using a special technique developed by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH. So far not a single manufacturer in the world has been able to produce a reticle to this accuracy and finish.

      In the engraving process laser machines make divisions, inscriptions and labels on devices or individual parts. This, too, requires optimum precision.

      The laser machines “burn” structures with a line width that can be less than 0.05 mm. These structures are also used for transmission measurements of high value optic parts for semi-conductor technology.

    • Manufacturing excellent in assembly

      Modern working conditions and techniques as well as highly qualified employees offer a guarantee of consistently high quality.

      For example, all assembly areas of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH operate under dust-free room conditions. Cleanliness is accorded as much value here as precision. The assembly areas can only be accessed through high pressure air locks. In these air locks employees put on dust-free clothing, including head coverings and overshoes. Air conditioning and filtration systems ensure the purity of the air as well as providing optimum working conditions.

      The assembly for binoculars and riflescopes, for example, is divided into various assembly lines, which include preassembly and final assembly as well as quality control inspections.  The flexible nature of the work stations within the assembly lines requires a high level of skill from the employees.

      A Kanban system is used for all material control.

  • Location Wetzlar

    Location Wetzlar

    The city of Wetzlar is the business and cultural centre of the Mittelhessen region. Optics and precision mechanics brought it international recognition and as the “City of Optics” Wetzlar is home to numerous well-known companies.

    Perhaps the best known personality in the history of Wetzlar is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His debut work “Die Leiden des jungen Werther” (“The Sorrows of Young Werther”) goes back to the experiences he had during his internship at the supreme court.
    The cathedral is one of the landmarks of the city of Wetzlar. Despite the fact that construction took centuries and the tower is still incomplete, it projects a unique image.

    Wetzlar is also the location of the Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen: the University of Applied Sciences. In cooperation with local companies it offers the highly practical dual college course “StudiumPlus”.
    Transport links to Wetzlar are very good. Alongside numerous train connections and direct motorway access, the city is just 70 km from Frankfurt airport.
    The Lahntalradweg, a cycle path that passes through Wetzlar, is one of the Top 10 German long distance cycle paths, while the Lahn River is ideally suited for the use of canoes or rowing boats.
    There is a wide range of theatre and concert offerings in Wetzlar. The cultural and music events of the largest multifunctional hall in the area, the Rittal Arena Wetzlar, are popular at a national level. Equally important is the annual summer festival, the Wetzlarer Festspiele, showing operas, musicals, plays and concerts.

    Alongside Carl Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH Wetzlar is also home to abother part of the company:

    Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH
    Production of lighting systems for the semi-conductor industry