Paul Petzl


President Societe Petzl

Monday, October 11th - 20.30 - 21.10pm : Ispo Opening Dinner

Topic: The extraordinary life and times of Paul Petzl



Paul Petzl was born on April 5, 1950, in Saint-Ismier (Isère), at the base of the dent de Crolles - in the Chartreuse massif. His grandfather a German engineer had settled there in the early 1900’s. Paul’s father, Fernand Petzl, followed his grandfather into engineering but his one true passion was caving. In 1933, with Pierre Chevalier, he explored 17 kilometers of the dent de Crolles network. From 1952, he headed the Gouffre Berger expedition, which in 1956 reached a depth of one thousand meters, a world record at the time. In 1933, Fernand began using his engineering skills to producing climbing tools.

Paul is like his father a caving enthusiast and decided he wanted to combine his work and his pleasure. And so after studying in Grenoble (BAC and technical diploma in mechanics), he joined his father’s small-scale workshop, in those days the business had 7 employees and turnover of approx 500,000 euros.

Ideas fused and culminated in 1973 with the creation of new rope clamps and the first «entirely on the head» headlamp. In 1975, things changed with the creation of the Petzl corporation and the construction of the first building at Crolles. The equipment manufactured by Petzl began to catch the interest of sports other than caving: mountaineers were buying the SHUNT, ASCENSION and headlamps designed specially for them. The 1980s saw an explosion in the practice of rock climbing. Petzl invented climbing harnesses for these new markets and designed the machines that would produce them.

In 1986 Petzl was the first company in its sector to equip itself with a testing lab. In the 1990s, many mountaineers and cavers set up businesses in the field of aerial work. This was a new challenge for Petzl. The work at height sector was about to develop. In 2000, Charlet Moser (manufacturer of crampons and ice axes) joined the Petzl group. Another important event in that same year was the invention of the first LED headlamp: the TIKKA. In 2006, the Petzl Foundation was born and started to support education, prevention, environment and research projects in the sports, work-at-height and rescue sectors and was followed in 2008 the creation of V.axess, The Petzl Institute for sharing and experimentation.

Today Paul Petzl sits at the helm of a business with sales of 80 million euros, 80 % outside of France, 450 employees, and a distribution network spanning fifty-one countries. Over a span of 30 years, Paul has significantly contributed to the development of both the sports and professional vertical market and many of Petzl’s developments have represented important stages in their evolution. Today, Paul lives with his family at the base of the Chartreuse. He has two sons, Sébastien and Olivier, the latter a member of the Petzl team.

His business philosophy is based on a few essential values
« to continually improve so that the company’s success gives it the means to be independent and to develop, to always listen to the needs of the users in each industry, to serve them best and with the most avant-garde techniques and to keep the human and family dimension of a company ,that respects its clients and its employees».