Fritz  Gegauf


Fritz Gegauf was born on 5 April 1893 at Steckborn, Switzerland.

He was the son of Karl Friedrich Gegauf  inventor and first manufacturer of hemstitch sewing machines , the "ancestor" of the "BERNINA" company.

From 1910 until 1914, Fritz Gegauf made a mechanics apprenticeship in his fathers sewing machine factory at Steckborn. 

In 1919 Fritz Gegauf,  announced the patent for the "Wotan hemstitch sewing machine".

In 1920 he got married to Hermine Meienhofer, daughter of the baker Hermann Meienhofer. From then until 1923 he worked for the sewing machine factory Athos in Paris.

After the death of his father in 1926, he ran the family business together with his brother Gustav under the name of Textilmaschinenfabrik Gebrüder Gegauf.

On April 5, 1929 the factory was moved with its 35 employees to newly built premises, just opposite the old monastery in the Feldbach district, where their father had once begun. 

After the crash of the New York stock exchanges in October 1929, the United States slumped into the Great Depression and did act to accelerate the global economic collapse. (It would take World War II, and the massive level of armaments production taken on by the United States, to finally bring the country out of the Depression after a decade of suffering).

The demand for hollow seam machines declined rapidly. Fitz Gegauf sold licenses for the production of scythe machines to Italy to make money. Since now also a french Group of companies involved in the company Gegauf, the company was transformed into an AG in July 1931.

Fritz Gegauf knew Willi Brütsch from their youth and were both familiar with sewing machines. The two families Brütsch and Gegauf often sat together, and fathers and sons each discussed the current situation on the machine market.

Willi was the son and commercial business partner of Wilhelm Brütsch, an ingenious well-known and respected embroidery and sewing machine designer who in earlier years developed before his independence in various factories abroad.

The precarious economic situation required new measures. Willi Brütsch and Fritz Gegauf came together to build a new household sewing machine.

There was already the swiss Helvetia Schweizerische  Nähmaschinen Fabrik in Lucerne, however, they were of the opinion that it could well tolerate another producer, especially since around 20.000 sewing machines were imported into Switzerland from abroad every year.

In 1932 Wilhelm Brütsch designed the first BERNINA household sewing machine class 105 ,which was produced by Fritz Gegauf and presented to the public.

Bernina  105
Bernina 105


The two new business partners concluded a contract which assured Brütsch & Co. indefinitely the sole right to distribute the new BERNINA sewing machines for the whole of Switzerland.

On October 26, 1937, the twentieth-thousandth machine left the Steckborn factory. 

In 1938 he launched the first Bernina zigzag sewing machine.

In 1945 the first portable zigzag sewing machine on the market.

In 1947 Gustav Gegauf left the company.

Since 1947, its official name has been "Fritz Gegauf Aktiengesellschaft, Bernina Nähmaschinenfabrik"

Until 1975 Fritz Gegauf was on the board of directors, becoming honorary president thereafter.


Fritz Gegauf died on 24 February 1980 in Steckborn.