Friday, 7 September 2018

Globe-Trotter: A Factory Visit

For the classic days of travel (think ocean liners, flying boats and steam trains) a decent set of luggage was required. It had to look stylish and be of solid construction with a stout pair of leather straps to hold it all securely. The brand to go to was Globe-Trotter whose suitcases and bags were (and are) used by royalty, celebrity and commoner. 

Of course the need for high quality luggage still exists and while waiting for hours in overcrowded airports doesn't cut the romantic mustard any more, it adds a little pleasure to an often tiresome journey to have a good suitcase. I've been using a Globe-Trotter luggage for a few months and everywhere I go it gets admired by hotel porters, airline check-in personnel and fellow travellers.

Arriving at the Globe-Trotter factory in Hertfordshire

I'm delighted to be able to report on my recent visit to the Globetrotter factory in Hoddesdon, North London. Founded in Germany in 1897, the company moved to the UK in 1932. Over the years its products have been used by the likes of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Edmund Hilary and Sir Winston Churchill. HM the Queen Elizabeth used Globe-Trotter for her honeymoon luggage in 1947 and continues to use her cases to this day. It was even James Bond’s luggage of choice in the film ‘Spectre’.

A corner of the Globe-Trotter archive

So, how are these cases made? The main structure is made from a special fibreboard - several sheets of paper bonded together using a secret process that involves vulcanised rubber. This produces a material that matures and strengthens throughout the first few years of it life and is as strong and light as aluminium. The fibreboard is cut to shape using laser technology and then carefully moulded using heat to prevent it from cracking. Leather corners, soaked for several days to make them flexible, are added and the case is bonded and riveted together. Leather handles and straps are added, giving the finished product its classic yet timeless style.

Shaping the fibreboard

Leather corners drying

Much careful hand work goes into each case

The older technology still works - presses for leather corners

Stitching the leather handles

Machine for stitching leather

Each case is hand assembeld and carefully checked

One of the great attractions of Globe-Trotter luggage is the combinations of colours available. A rich green case might be given tan leather corners and straps, or, as in the recent RAF100 Collection, a riveted aluminium-like finish is enhanced with black leather corners and a grey and black striped RAF belt. In fact, you can order your own bespoke set of luggage and have all the pleasure of selecting your own favourite colour scheme.

In common with many other British factories, Globe-Trotter appreciates the value of older technologies. Many machines at the factory have been used for decades to stitch handles, press leather corners or cut the materials used to construct each case. New technologies are used where needed, but sometimes the benefits of beautifully engineered mechanical tools are so great that they are kept in use and lovingly maintained.

Linings are added to the cases and checks made to ensure that locks align and work properly. Seeing the amount of hand work and quality checking that goes into each item drove home to me how these are products that are made to last and, unlike lesser suitcases, will not be going into landfill after a couple of seasons battering in airports, car boots and hotel luggage stores.

For more information visit Globe-Trotter

Note: I was a guest of Globe-Trotter at their Hertfordshire factory. This is an unsponsored post. I am using some Globe-Trotter luggage and will report back on its use from time to time here and on Instagram.

The Globe-Trotter Land Rover

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