Noblex is a German manufacturer of sport optics equipment, such as spotting scopes, binoculars, riflescopes, red dot sights, and reading glasses. Formerly known as Docter-Optic-Eisfeld, the company has a rich history of producing top-notch optics products for the European market. Noblex is a subsidiary company of Frankfurt-based VF Capital GmbH and its headquarters is located in Eisfeld, Germany where the majority of the products are designed and developed.
The aftermath of the Second World War
The company was founded within Carl Zeiss AG in the aftermath of the Second World War. Numerous German and Austrian companies were forced to manufacture equipment for the German army during the war, and Carl Zeiss AG was one of the affected manufacturers. A part of the company remained in Wetzlar while the other part was assembled in the city of Jena and was renamed to VEB Carl Zeiss Jena. When the war was over, a significant portion of the workforce left the Jena plant, resulting in the dismantling of some parts of the company.
Zeiss Jena factory in Eisfeld, Germany
The company was restarted with the leftover employees and the product line was significantly modified to include only the top-selling models. In a matter of time, the production regained momentum and the Zeiss Jena’s yearly production reached an outstanding 200,000 units annually. To meet the ongoing demand, a subsidiary of the company was established in Eisfeld, Germany in 1952, which primarily acted as the manufacturer and supplier of smaller parts and pre-assembled Zeiss products in the beginning.
The roadway to becoming the largest producer of binoculars
Over the years, the factory continued to produce optics components for Zeiss binoculars, telescopes, and riflescopes, and later became the largest producer of binoculars in the world with an annual production for 300,000 units under the administration of Jenoptik Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH. Although the company initially kept its products to include only three binocular variants, 7×50, 10×50, and 8×30, the 1970s saw the introduction of roof prism models along with 10×40 and 8×30 binocular configurations. Following a restructuring and strengthening of the production capacity in the 1980s, the Eisfeld factory went on to employ over 1,100 workers.
After the reunification of East and West Germany in 1991, the two parts of Carl Zeiss, Jenoptik Carl Zeiss GmbH, and Carl Zeiss Wetzlar were reunited while the Eisfeld factory was taken over by Bernhard Docter. Under his administration, the company was renamed to Docter-Optic-Eisfeld. Furthermore, magnifying glasses and optoelectronic equipment were also added to the list of products. Even after the change of management, the company produced excellent products, and its riflescopes and red dot sights became popular among hunters.
Acquisition by Analytik Jena
Analytic Jena GmbH acquired Docter-Optic-Eisfeld after the declaration of bankruptcy by the owners in 1997. The new management continued the legacy of Bernhard Docter and the manufacturing was carried out while paying special attention to quality and performance. Additionally, all products were still marketed under the Docter brand which had become popular over the years.
Analytik Jena was listed in the stock market in July 2000 and this change allowed for rapid economic growth. The growing demand for Docter binoculars, riflescopes, and sights prompted for expansion in production capacity, and a new manufacturing facility was constructed in Eisfeld in 2006 to accommodate all production operations under one roof.
The takeover by Noblex GmbH
Analytik Jena sold the Docter manufacturing facility in Eisfeld to Noblex GmbH in May 2016, including all the production, assembly, and analysis components of the sport optics business. The acquisition allowed Noblex to rebrand the entire product line and the management introduced their business philosophy. The Docter riflescopes and red dot sights had a large customer following and the sudden rebranding of products has left many dedicated customers in nostalgia.
The company still has a strategic partnership with Analytik Jena, especially for its engineering and analysis technology.
Noblex produces binoculars and telescopic sights at the Eisfeld factory in Southern Thuringia, Germany.
Eisfeld, Thuringia, Germany
Jenoptik Carl Zeiss GmbH originally established the Eisfeld factory in 1952 for the manufacturing and procurement operations for Zeiss binoculars and telescopes. Although the factory was initially established to take some burden off from the Zeiss facility in Jena, it proved to be an effective investment when it became a standalone manufacturing plant for binoculars and telescope sights in later years. By 1970, the annual production rate at the factory reached a record 300,000 units which is one of the highest of any European manufacturer.
The factory has been renovated and expanded several times since it was established. The last expansion was carried out in 2006 when Analytik Jena combined all components of the plant under one roof to improve accessibility and coordination. During this time, the use of computer-aided-design programs was made possible for the designing of binoculars and riflescopes. Similarly, the design of optics using complex computer algorithms was also accomplished. As of today, Noblex uses mainstream design software for both mechanical and optical prototyping before finalizing a design.
The Eisfeld plant has state-of-the-art CNC milling and lathe machines for the manufacturing of binoculars and riflescopes. The factory uses specialized aluminum and magnesium alloys for binoculars, especially for the B/GA model which is the reason behind its robust construction and small weight. The factory also has an in-house metal anodizing facility, which is essential whenever metal is used in the manufacturing of equipment.
Regardless of the model, the optics for Noblex binoculars and riflescopes are produced in Eisfeld, Germany. Again, computer-controlled machines are used for grinding and shaping glass into lenses and prisms. The lenses are continually checked for defects before they are transferred to the coating department. Noblex has specific coatings for lenses that improve their optical performance and prevent the optics from getting affected by external particles. Even for models produced in China, Noblex German-made optics are used to ensure consistent optical performance.
Since optical equipment is sensitive in nature, binoculars and other sport optics are manually assembled in the factory to ensure the correct placement of sub-components. After the assembly and quality checks, the devices are sent for Nitrogen-purging which is the last manufacturing step. The purging is followed by a final quality control test where samples of binoculars are checked for possible gas leakage and magnification. Non-conforming devices are sent back for corrective measures and the remaining units are sent for packing.
Noblex binoculars are manufactured in Germany and Asia. Following is a list of all binoculars models that are currently offered by the company. Much of the Docter products have just been rebranded to Noblex except for one or two binoculars.
Made in Germany
The following Noblex binoculars are manufactured at the Eisfeld factory in Germany.
Binoculars are meant to be used out in the open and they are designed accordingly, but not all binos are designed and manufactured to withstand the extremities of the outside world, whether it is high/low temperatures, humidity, or rocky uneven terrain. This is where Noblex B/GA binoculars come to help. The B/GA series features an exceptionally resilient aluminum-magnesium construction that is covered in shock-absorbent and non-slip rubber armor, which protects the sensitive optics from accidental falls. Another key feature of these binoculars is the Individual Focus 5-lens eyepiece system that allows users to focus each barrel at a time irrespective of the other.
The lens system is coated with multiple nano-coatings that serve to enhance the optical performance as well as act as a defense mechanism against unwanted abrasion and dirt particles. Additionally, the binoculars feature large a roof-prism design that ensures precise optical performance, whether you are using the binoculars at a rough sea, mountains, or in the desert.
Currently, the Noblex B/GA series is available in 7×40 and 10×42 configurations.
Noblex has continued the legacy of compact binoculars of the Docter brand. These pocket-sized binoculars are easy to store and carry everywhere and for every occasion. Despite their small size, the binoculars feature a double-hinge along with a light and high-quality construction that allows for a reliable companion for traveling and outdoor sports. Additionally, the optics used in the compact models provide a field of view of 131/1000 and 105/1000 for the two variants respectively.
These binos are available in 8×25 and 10×25 configurations.
Mono is a compact monocular from Noblex in the shape of binoculars with an optical configuration of 8×21. With an extremely small weight of 80g, this device is light enough to be taken everywhere in pockets and no one will ever notice it. Even with a miniature construction, this monocular features Porro prisms and a standard magnification of 8x, which is decent for golfing, concerts and opera.
Made in China
Noblex Sport Optics has outsourced the manufacturing of following series of binoculars to China. This is usually done by manufacturers to lower the manufacturing and labor costs for affordable models.
The Inception range is offered in both Porro and Roof Prism configurations as well as several objective size and magnification combinations. The roof prisms models feature a shockproof polycarbonate housing which is covered with the NBR rubber armor for an ergonomic grip and an added protection against unintentional falls. Additionally, the optics used in the series is German made, which ensures consistent optical performance in low light.
The Porro prisms variants are primarily designed to be used at the sea by professional skippers, naval forces and boating enthusiasts alike. Apart from a robust construction and an excellent low light performance thanks to the Porro prism design, the series also offers a compass in two of the models. The compass is displayed with a reticle and allows users to point to the North even in rough waters.
Currently, the Inception series is available in 8×25, 10×25, 8×42, 10×42, 8×56, and 7×50 (Porro prisms) variants.
The Vector series offers an open-bridge design in the 42mm objective variant that allows the users to hold the binoculars comfortably, even with one hand. Other features of these binoculars include light water-tight housing and exceptional optics that provide razor-sharp images with unparalleled colors and contrast. Also, Vector binoculars feature a large central focusing knob, which makes it easier for the observer to adjust the focus with one hand while holding the binoculars with the other.
The Vector binoculars are available in two configurations: 8×42, 10×42, and 8×56.
Noblex is one of the oldest manufacturers of sport optics in Germany and was originally started as a subsidiary of Carl Zeiss Optics in 1952. After the reunification of Germany, the company’s Eisfeld factory operations were acquired and rebranded as Docter Optic Eisfeld and the plant continued to produce binoculars and other telescopic sights until 2015 under the Docter trademark. Since all products were manufactured in Eisfeld, Germany before 2016, the company proudly branded all binoculars, telescopes, and riflescopes with “Made in Germany”.
The Docter brand was abolished after Noblex GmbH acquired the company in 2016. It was very dear to hunters and many still miss the iconic riflescopes and binoculars. Additionally, the new owners brought their business philosophy to the company and some products, including the manufacturing of two Noblex binoculars series, have been outsourced to factories in China. Presently, only a few Noblex products are manufactured in Germany.
The outsourcing business model is relatively newer in the European industry and only a small number of companies have employed it. However, this model has been extensively used in the US and most optics manufacturers, such as Vortex, Bushnell, and many others have outsourced the manufacturing and assembly operations of many of their products to China and Japan. In Europe, only a few companies have a similar business strategy, such as Zeiss and Kahles Optics., both of which have successfully outsourced a fraction of their products to Asia.
We are not sure if this strategy is going to work for Noblex in the long term, because serious users prefer German-made products to outsourced ones.