On the occasion of VILLIGER SÖHNE AG’s 135th anniversary, we look back at our milestones. As a tobacco lover, did you know that the VILLIGER KIEL was the first cigar with a goose quill mouthpiece?
The founding of VILLIGER in 1888
Two people laid the foundation for VILLIGER’s success story in Pfeffikon, Lucerne, in 1888: Jean Villiger and his wife Louise. The two began making “VILLIGER Stumpen” in the tranquil living room of their house, located in the countryside. Back then, they would never have dreamed of an international breakthrough in the tobacco world.
After Jean Villiger died in 1902, the capable businesswoman Louise took over management and successfully ran the company until 1918. In 1907, Louise achieved something sensational: She launched the VILLIGER KIEL brand, the first cigar with the famous goose quill mouthpiece. Later on, even Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was among the connoisseurs of this innovative product.
Why VILLIGER is officially named VILLIGER SÖHNE
In the early years of the 20th century, the company extends its product range with additional cigar shapes, including the VILLIGER RIO 6 and the VILLIGER EXPORT. VILLIGER marked a milestone in 1910 by founding a subsidiary in Waldshut-Tiengen and established Swiss quality internationally.
In 1918, Jean and Louise’s sons, Max and Hans Villiger, assumed management of the cigar company their parents had founded and ran it for over 30 years. That is why it was called VILLIGER SÖHNE from then on. In the 1920s, the brothers set up subsidiary factories in Munich and Schönaich.
1930s – the first machine-made cigars are launched
VILLIGER can proudly claim that it was one of the first companies to launch machine-made cigars at the time. The move made the company a significant player in the cigar industry and helped drive VILLIGER’s growth and success.
VILLIGER is not left unscathed by the Second World War
In 1943, an American air raid destroyed the factories in Munich and Schönaich. The factory in Waldshut-Tiengen remained closed following the arrival of the French occupation forces in 1945. As a result, the company’s development was put on hold for some time.
Heinrich Villiger, the company’s current owner, joins the company in 1950
Reconstruction of the factories began in 1950. The company consistently and enthusiastically pursued its expansion goals. In addition, the company had family support: Heinrich Villiger, Max Villiger’s eldest son, joined the company. After graduating from high school, his father, Heinrich Villiger, sent him to the USA for a year of training in the raw tobacco sector. “That year probably had more of an impact on me than several years of study, and I was appointed to the management as soon as I returned in 1951.”
The young entrepreneur was particularly fascinated by marketing and raw tobacco purchasing. It enabled him to tour the globe and visit almost every cigar-tobacco-growing region. When Hans retired, Heinrich succeeded him just four years after joining the company.
In 1954, Heinrich Villiger was designated managing director of VILLIGER SÖHNE GmbH Germany, and his brother Kaspar Villiger was appointed head of the Swiss company.
VILLIGER’s new central production facility in Bünde
In 1983, a new plant was opened in Bünde to complement the production facilities in Pfeffikon and Waldshut-Tiengen. The new central production facility made it possible to meet the increasing demand for machine-made cigars and cigarillos.
VILLIGER handmade cigars, the kickoff in 1998
How did we get here? More or less by accident. Heinrich Villiger was in Brazil to purchase tobacco in Cruz das Almas and casually inquired whether hand rollers would be available there. He was met with a positive answer, and thus VILLIGER started a small production of hand-rolled cigars with the best tobaccos from this growing region. What started with a casual question became the impetus for a promising future for handmade cigars.
Expansion and innovations in the new millennium
In the 2000s, VILLIGER continued to expand and innovate, establishing itself in various parts of the world.
In 1999, the subsidiary PT.VILLIGER Tobacco Indonesia was founded. This company pre-processes tobacco leaves for production. At the same time, the success story of the favored CONSTELLATION cigarillo brand began.
The founding of international distribution companies in the USA in 2002 and France in 2006 strengthened VILLIGER’s explicit goal of establishing the brand worldwide.
VILLIGER 1888, a cigar designed by the boss to celebrate the 120th anniversary
In 2008, VILLIGER SÖHNE AG in Switzerland marked a noteworthy milestone in celebrating its 120th anniversary. In honor of this exceptional achievement, the VILLIGER 1888 was launched – a handmade premium cigar that offers connoisseurs a complex and well-balanced smoke. The composition of the VILLIGER 1888 was chosen by Heinrich Villiger himself.
In 2010, VILLIGER SÖHNE GmbH in Waldshut-Tiengen celebrated its 100th anniversary at Europa Park Rust, hosting guests from more than 30 countries.
In 2013, Villiger finally opened a factory in Brazil to produce handmade cigars. The company celebrated its 125th anniversary with a new cigar, the VILLIGER CELEBRATION.
Today, VILLIGER goes to Nicaragua
In 2023, VILLIGER opened a factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, the Mecca of the cigar industry in this country, to produce its own VILLIGER Handmade Cigars. On around 3,000 square meters, the country’s most modern cigar factory, “VILLIGER DE NICARAGUA,” was built. The factory employs over 100 trained specialists who produce 16 brands for the European, North American, and Asian markets. Check out the latest blog post for more info.
More than milestones – a history steeped in tradition and craftsmanship
VILLIGER’s success is now shaped by around 1,600 employees worldwide, with VILLIGER cigars and cigarillos being exported to more than 100 countries. VILLIGER’s recipe for success has always contained four essential ingredients: a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a long tradition, innovation, and the quality and variety of cigars and cigarillos.
VILLIGER celebrates 135 years of history.
On October 7, 2023, the company celebrated its success and this year’s anniversary on the traditional VILLIGER CELEBRATION at the beautiful Lenzburg Castle. Dive into the evening too: