E Leitz 1869 - 1987

Optical instrument maker
born in:
Wetzlar, Giessen, Hesse, Germany

The company became highly successful manufacturing microscopes before branching out in to camera manufacture. The first 35-mm compact camera was developed and manufactured at the Leitz company. Oskar Barnack, previously an employee of Zeiss, experimented with his idea for several years before he finally invented the Leica camera.

1849 - Wetzlar Optical Institute founded by Carl Kellner (1823-1855).

1864 - mechanic Ernst Leitz joined the Optical Institute, manufacturing lenses for telescopes and microscopes.

1865-1869 - partnership as 'Optical Institute'; Leitz became a partner.

1869 - Ernst Leitz (1843-1920) takes over sole management and renames company as E Leitz, Wetzlar.

1920 - management passes to Ernst Leitz (II) then to his sons, Ernst, Ludwig and Günther in 1956.

1924 - the camera goes into mass production. Leica became renowned as a maker of high quality equipment for photography, photographic reproduction, and observation.

1930 - incoporated as Ernst Leitz GmbH.

After the 1960s - company face increasingly stiff competition in the market from Japanese manufacturers.

1972 - co-operation between Wild Heerbrugg, Switzerland and Leitz.

1986 - Leica GmbH was founded to manage the Leitz camera division just as sales began to decline.

1986/1987 - company merges with Wild Heerbrugg AG to form Wild Leitz.

1990 - Wild Leitz and Cambridge Instruments group (including Reichert Jung) merge; now Leica Microsystems GmbH, Wetzlar + Leica Camera AG, Solms, Germany + Leica Geosystems, Heerbrugg, Switzerland.