The Swarovski story begins in the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian empire, when a young Bohemian glass grinder, Daniel Swarovski, devised a machine for cutting crystal for use in jewellery. Settling in the Tyrol, his son, Wilhelm, developed an interest in astronomy, and, in 1949, set up Swarovski Optik.
In an area of Europe famed for its hunting, Wilhelm began to produce highly specialised, observatory-grade optical products, which are now venerated by those who watch or stalk wildlife. In 1999, Swarovski launched the EL Binocular,perhaps the most sought-after of them all.
Now, I ought to admit that I’ve never been one for crawling through damp heather with only the company of a taciturn Scotsman to take my mind off the gnawing cold, but I understand from those who do that these, and their rifle-scope cousins, are the very best there are.
My own experience, in the rather less rustic surroundings of Shepherd’s Bush, achieved remarkable results. I won’t pretend to know anything about optical science beyond what I’ve forgotten from my O-level physics, but the world as viewed through these tactile tubes assumes a sharpness and clarity that’s astonishing. I wasn’t so much counting the petals on my neighbour’s roses as the legs of the greenfly resting on them. I exaggerate slightly, but not much.
It’s not just the insides of these glasses that that are so effective-the exterior boasts cunning little ergonomic refinements, too. The thumb-sized declivity just below the bridge and the adjustable eyecups are small things that pay great dividends in comfort. The EL Binocular is the sort of product that I like because it’s the logical evolution of what has gone before, and is part of an incremental process of refinement that seems never to come to an end.
This culture of perpetual improvement has recently given birth to a range-finding system, which, coupled with some sort of downloadable app, will enable the sporting Swarovski user to shoot uphill, downhill and more or less around corners, too, bringing stalking a little closer to the stuff of Ian Fleming’s Q Department, as opposed to John Buchan’s John Macnab.
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