Optima Elite

1946 - 1960s

Optima Büromaschinenwerk

Erfurt, Thuringa, East Germany

 

The Optima Elite was designed Johannes Krüger in 1932 and it's almost identical to the Olympia Elite. That's not a coincidence because Olympia actually owned and produced the Elite brand until 1948. The company of Optima Office Machine Works wasn't formed until a court ordered Olympia to split after WWII. The International Court of Appeals in The Hague allowed Olympia to produce typewriters under the Olympia brand in West Germany and, in Soviet Occupied Erfurt in East Germany, where the Optima factory was based, Optima was allowed to produce the same products but under the Optima brand.

Optima made the version of the Elite at the top of this page for a few years longer than Olympia (Olympia's SM-1 & 2 models) in order to control costs by extending the life of the tooling. The company also required more time to rebuild after WWII and to work through the newly imposed trade restrictions.

Eventually Optima grew into its own and sold quite well. The redesigned Elite was a more streamlined portable typewriter but still with a modern frontstrike typebar arrangement and a four-row keyboard. Its housing was constructed of pressed steel while the keys and knobs were plastic. Olympia's influence, however, was never fully shed. Note that the Optima still resembles the Olympia but more robust and with more rounded edges.

At Optima's zenith, in the 1960's, the company employed almost 7,000 employees. In 1978 the company was purchased by Kombinates Robotron and renamed to the Robotron-Optima Office Machine Works. Over the next few decades the company was bought, sold, renamed and downsized several times more until all manufacturing was sold and moved to Mexico. The number of employees in Erfurt, Germany dwindled from to 250 in the 1990's and, in 2014, there were just three employees. They were selling office equipment and office furniture under the Optima brand. All of the actual production was done outside of Germany.

 

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