CAMERAS > FRANKE & HEIDECKE - ROLLEI
When Reinhold Heidecke went to open his own workshop in 1920 together with Paul Franke, probably didn't imagine that some time later their products would become cult items, perfect examples of german quality. The goal of the factory was to manufacture cameras easier to use than the complex counterparts made by competitors by then. The third of the models made by Heidecke, the Rolleiflex, would bring them world attention.
Heidecke was trained at other of the great Brunswick factories, Voigtlaender, were he started right from the bottom up to production manager. Aged 40, Heidecke would associate with Franke to create "Franke & Heidecke - Fabrik Photographischer Prazisionsapparate". Starting with a handful of employees, Heidecke initially was interested in designing stereo cameras, a relatively underdeveloped field by then. Within one year, the company presented their first product, a 3-lens (two taking, one viewing) stereo camera named "Heidoskop" after its creator.
Two years later the second model was introduced, the "Rolleidoskop". This new development was necessary because rollfilm, by the 20s, was gaining popularity and steadily replacing plates and sheet film. By 1928 his skills as camera maker were once more demonstrated with the "Rolleiflex". When Paul Franke showed the camera to prospective clients in Germany, the first batch was sold immediately. The same happened across Europe and USA. This demand consolidated a fast expansion of the company. By 1930, Franke & Heidecke had 800 employees.
Franke, sales representative for Rollei-Werke, played a big role in their success. Not really liking office work, he preferred to travel as much as possible showing their products, both within Germany and abroad. Like his partner, he was a big advocate of quality and precision, the main goal behind the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord, the latter introduced just as a simple, cheaper alternative.
Paul Franke died in 1950 at 62 años, and Reinhold Heidecke in 1960, 79. Both lived to see the first hit to their company during the war, when the factory was use for military purposes. After the war, about 40% of the premises and more than half of the machines were destroyed, and the patents looted.
Factory soon restarted production at good rythm, being one of the main drivers of the german economy. By 1950 employeed some 1.000 people. After Paul's death his son Horst became sales manager.
Company continued growing until the early 60s, but soon the fierce compatition of the japanese camera makers started to pay its toll. By 1964, Dr. Heinrich Peesel took over the management of the company, named since 1962 "Rollei-Werke".
Although to survive it was necessary to lend money from entities such as the Landesbank, Peesel saw a great future in Rollei building a new factory at Uelzen and then another even bigger at Singapur, with branch sales offices abroad.
Production was higher than demand, and then Hans Heinz Porst appeared and initiated the proceeding for filing bankrupcy. Looked like the end but, a year later a british corporation, "United Scientific Holding", bought the company and the patents.
It wasn't long until the return of the company to german hands: Jos. Schneider Optische Werke Kreuznach bought it through Heinrich Mandermann, which had already rescued Schneider-Kreuznack and Pentacon, and was the founder of Beroflex. The Rolleiflex, that hasn't been made since 1981, was modernized and relaunched with the 2.8GX. The Rolleiflex 6008 Professional was introduced a year later.
After being bought in 1995 by Samsung Techwin, part of the korean group Samsung, changed hands again in 1999. In 2002 it was bought by a danish consortium and by 2005 it was splitted in two different branches, "Rollei GmbH" in Berlin, owner of the Rollei brand and manufacturer of OEM products, and "Franke & Heidecke GmbH, Feinmechanik und Optik" in Brunswick.
By 2009, Franke & Heidecke GmbH, Feinmechanik und Optik filed for bankruptcy again.