Lighting
the past and the future

Yes,
we are turning 90!

That might sound old to you, but think about it this way. We have had 90 years to develop our expertise and knowledge. And the best part is that we can build on this know-how to make sure that we are always ahead of the game with the latest technology, the most reliable services and a price that works for everyone. Finally we have the chance to tell you our great story.

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1899

A pioneer is born

A small man with a big heart is born in Vienna.
We don’t know this yet, but he will turn out to be someone special – a true pioneer.

Jules was born in 1899 in Vienna. After joining the army towards the end of World War One, Jules graduated with a degree from a business school in Austria. His first employer sent him to London in 1923 as a sales rep for a company selling gas mantle lanterns. But then the company went bankrupt a year later. Jules was now 27 years old, unemployed and living in a foreign country. He saw the situation as an opportunity and decided to stay in London and start his first company: the Electric Lamp Service Company. However, instead of gas lanterns, Jules began selling electric light bulbs.

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1928

Psychopath or genius?

“Everybody thought I was a psychopath when I decided to make lamps. I went ahead anyway and built more than 70 factories.”

It was March 1928 when Jules Thorn started the Electric Lamp Service Company. The main focus was selling electric light bulbs and radio tubes. Business was on the up, but the industry was in the hands of a cartel that controlled the production of the main components for light bulbs. Jules started importing components from Hungary, which enabled him to offer his bulbs at a more competitive price.

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1936

The window into a large world

The breakthrough came when Thorn Electrical Industries was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Jules took advantage of the global economic crisis and bought Atlas Lamp Works. This is how he started producing his own lamps in the early 1930s. When Thorn was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1936, the five-shilling shares were oversubscribed 36 times! Thorn Electrical then took over the Ferguson Radio Corporation. As well as lamps, the company was now also selling light fittings, domestic appliances, TVs and radios.

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1948

Tee-hee – we are the first!

Thorn Electrical Industries is the first European manufacturer to start the mass production of fluorescent tubes.

In 1946 Jules Thorn started a cooperation with an American company called Sylvania Electric Products, helping him gain valuable knowledge about the secrets behind an important new innovation: fluorescent technology. Two years later he became the first European manufacturer to start the mass production of fluorescent tubes.

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1954

Big, bigger, Thorn

By now Thorn is not only the tenth biggest company in the UK, but it also launches the most popular product of all times. Well, okay, at least in the Thorn world. The Popular Pack is born.

The hugely successful PopPack (initially known as Popular Pack) was launched in 1954. This product became the best-selling batten luminaire of all time with around 90 million fittings sold up to now. You might still remember that at this point we were also producing TVs. So here is an impressive fact:
TV production grew from 28,000 televisions in 1947 to 1.8 million in 1955. Well, a lot happened in the 1950s, so here is one more bit of news: In 1959 Jules Thorn built Thorn House, his first office building. It was the biggest building in London at the time with views over the Houses of Parliament. Thorn was now the tenth biggest company in the UK.

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1967

The Knight of Light

Thorn starts the first production of high-pressure sodium lamps – 10 years ahead of the competition.

So you thought the 1950s were busy. Well, here come the 1960s. In 1967 we won the Queens Award for Technical Innovation for the development of the world’s first dip-beam halogen car headlights. In 1964 we merged our Atlas Lighting division with a competitor called Associated Electrical Industries and gave ourselves the name British Lighting Industries. Jules Thorn was knighted for his services to industry in the same year. Oh, and he also somehow found time to start the SIR JULES THORN CHARITABLE TRUST – an organisation that remains active today.

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1975

What do The Beatles and Muhammad Ali have to do with Thorn?

Yes, you read that right. The 1970s were exciting times: from the fight between Joe Bugner and Muhammad Ali in Kuala Lumpur to our merger with the brightest stars in the industry.

The famous Bugner-Ali fight was actually lit up by Thorn floodlights. No wonder Muhammad Ali won, right? What else happened in the 1970s? Well, there was the merger of Thorn Electrical Industries with EMI. Thorn EMI Lighting became a subsidiary company and we also took over Kaiser Leuchten in Neheim, Germany. What a decade!

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1983

Bad hair and the Epcot Centre in Disney World

The 1980s are not only known for bad hair, but also for the time we lit up the Epcot Centre in Disney World.

You had no idea? Well, then read on…
We don’t want to brag, but this was another ground-breaking achievement. Mission: SPACE! Well, almost!In 1983 we lit up the famous Epcot Centre in Disney World. In 1985 we then started producing electronic ballasts. A couple of years later we expanded our horizons to include Sweden, France and Australia and opened sales offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

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1995

Hamish Bryce and the Queen of England

Okay, here is a fun fact. In 1998 Thorn Lighting tried to buy the Zumtobel Group, but they couldn’t come to an agreement. And yes, there is a good reason why a famous Scottish rugby player and the Queen of England are getting a mention in our 90-year history.

Remember Poppack? By 1995 this batten luminaire had sold 60 million pieces, so the Queen paid a visit to Spennymoor on 13th October 1995. We opened additional sales offices in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region and decided it was time to sell our lamps business to General Electric and take over the Philips airport lighting business segment.A management buy-out in 1992 led to the separation of the lighting business from Thorn-EMI. The buy-out was overseen by Hamish Bryce, Chief Executive of Thorn EMI Lighting and a former Scottish international rugby player (in his younger days). In 1996 we opened a factory in China and a year later we became the leading supplier of airport lighting. We then purchased the Danish outdoor lighting manufacturer Jakobsson – just as the millennium was drawing to a close.

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The Queen visiting friends

2000

We are family!

So, after Thorn Lighting tried to acquire the Zumtobel Group, things went full circle and the Zumtobel Group bought Thorn Lighting. As Jürg Zumtobel put it: “It was a perfect fit”

ZUMTOBEL GROUP

2018

Happy birthday!

You must now be thinking “wow, what a story!” Well, that’s not all of it. We have this wonderful history and heritage to look back on, but we also have plenty of reasons to look ahead. We are excited to be part of a technical revolution and we work constantly to maintain our high standards, helping you get your job done. Because that’s what we are all about. We produce luminaires that are reliable, easy to install and simple to use. We always have done – and we always will.

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Milestones

Dobro

  • Complies with HACCP standards
  • Complies with IFC standards (tick)
  • Complies with BRC food standards

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Wilko

  • 230,000 Thorn luminaires
  • 126,400 installation hours
  • 0 minutes of retail down time

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Hong Kong International Airport

  • Long lasting partnership since the 90’s
  • Special colour temperature of 5000 Kelvin
  • 700 HiPak luminaires

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Sydney Opera House

In 1988 Thorn flood lights brought all the attention to the Sydney Opera House

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Epcot Center

The 49m diameter globe, named ‘Spaceship Earth’ which is the symbol of the Epcot Centre in Florida, was floodlit by CSI lamps in 1983

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Wembley-Stadium

  • Largest stadium in the UK and the second largest in Europe
  • The floodlights at Wembley achieve a switch level of 63 000 lux
  • The arch can be illuminated in an endless range of colourful possibilities

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London University

  • Reduced energy usage by up to 60 percent
  • Closely collaboration with Halsion Building Services Engineers
  • Refurbishment project

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Arco della Pace

  • Special optic with a beam angle of only 8° guarantees concentrated light
  • Only 20 Contrast 2 LED floodlights were needed for illumination
  • The new installation highlights the various architectural shapes and decorative elements

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Oslo

  • The City of Oslo is a long-term Thorn customer
  • A total of more than 4,000 Thorn Legend, Thor, Urba and R2L2 street lanterns have been installed across the city
  • Energy consumption reduced by 30-80%

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PalaTrento

  • 4360-seater arena
  • 92 symmetrical and asymmetrical Altis Sport floodlights
  • Impressive results have even prompted comparisons with the NBA

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Eurasia Tunnel

  • Only tunnel in the world to link two continents
  • The 5.4km tunnel carries 120,000 vehicles a day
  • 3,500 customized GTLED PRO

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We make light work.
For you.