Review & Rating
1700 Executive Dr. S.
Duluth, GA 30096
Footnotes:1. If a cartridge is replaced under warranty, the warranty on the replacement cartridge is 2 years or the rest of the original 5-year period, whichever is longer.2. For the useful life of the faucet.3. You may have to return the faucet or defective part, along with the receipt, to Dornbracht for inspection at your expense.
This Company In Brief
Dornbracht faucets sold in the U.S. and Canada comply with all of the laws and regulations governing the sale and installation of faucets in North America. They may be legally installed in any State or Territory of the U.S. or any Canadian Province.
Dornbracht Americas is the U.S. division of Aloys F. Dornbracht GmbH & Co KG, a designer and assembler of an extensive line of luxury kitchen and bath faucets distributed worldwide from its Iserlohn, Germany headquarters.
Dornbracht is the only German faucet line imported into North America that is still produced primarily in Germany using German-made parts and components. are at least in part, manufactured somewhere else — mostly china or use mostly foreign-made parts and components. Dornbracht is also one of three German faucet firms (Blanco and In2aqua are the others), still owed by Germans.
The company has been family owned and managed since its founding in the ruins of the Post-War Ruhr Valley in 1950.
It forms half of Dornbracht Group. The other half is Alape, GmbH. Dornbracht makes faucets and water delivery systems, while Alape's forté is water containers such as sinks and tubs. Together they can outfit the entire contemporary bathroom with luxury baths, sinks, faucets, showers, toilets and accessories. Alape, which manufactures at two factories in the Goslar region of Germany, is represented in the U.S. by Dornbracht Americas, Inc.
Dornbracht also manufactures faucets and accessories under license from Villeroy & Boch that it sells under the Villeroy name. These are, according to company literature, "matched to the Villeroy & Boch bathroom collections" and developed in "close coordination between the two companies". Villeroy & Boch is a manufacturer of sanitary fixtures and tableware that has been in business in one form or another for over three centuries in and around Mettlach, Germany.
As Dornbracht claims, its faucets are manufactured "only in Germany": not, however, by Dornbracht. The company these days is an Assembler rather than a true Manufacturer.
Dornbracht's management considers "metalwork" to be "low tech" and of little "strategic importance." A company spokesman noted that "Fifteen years ago, we asked ourselves which part of the production process we should make our investment in and it wasn't doing a thread on a faucet." So, Dornbracht makes none of its own castings and does very little, if any, machining. It buys faucet parts and components from outside suppliers, 90% of which are, according to the company, located in Germany.
Its plant in Iserlohn is an assembly and finishing facility. The company considers the faucet finishing process the "hi-tech", strategic part of manufacturing that it needs to do in house; and the part that the company has "perfected." The company also finishes some of its accessories, but many are purchased from other, mostly German, suppliers completely finished and ready to sell.
This business model is also used by other upscale faucet companies, notably This U.S. based company designs and engineers its faucets, but has the components for the faucets manufactured by sub-contractors. It then concentrates on assembly and its very high quality finishes. Other faucet companies in this group include
Fewer than one third of Dornbracht's faucets are sold in its home country. More than 65% of its products are exported — 44% to the rest of Europe and the Middle East, and 22% to the rest of the world, mostly North America. It maintains sales offices in more than 60 countries
In 2009 an explosion in an adjacent chemical plant destroyed much of Dornbracht's production facility in Iserlohn. Its inventory of parts and components was either destroyed by fire and structural collapse or so contaminated by chemicals that most of it could not be used and had to be destroyed. Insurance studies show that 75% of manufacturers struck by a disaster of such magnitude do not recover. Dornbracht resumed limited production 12 weeks later, and is now fully recovered. The silver lining of this dark cloud was that the company was able to update its machinery and incorporate the latest, most state-of-the-art processes in its rebuilt facility.
Dornbracht faucets are unblushingly luxurious, upscale, premium products. Like U.S.-based Dornbracht does not manufacture any mid-priced faucets to help subsidize its premium line. All of its faucets are at the very high end — with prices to match.
The company originally offered only bath faucets, not adding kitchen faucets until 1998. According to company sources, bathwares account for 83% of its sales and kitchen fixtures and accessories only 6%. Villeroy & Boch faucets and accessories amount to a further 8%.
Dornbracht regularly wins international awards for its product designs, including most recently, the Best-of-Year award from Interior Design Magazine for its innovative Pivot faucet (shown above). Dornbracht's product designers and architects include Sieger Design, which has been designing for Dornbracht since 1984; Matteo Thun & Partners in Milan; and Achienbein & Pier, a collaboration of noted designers Claudia Achienbein and René Pier in Stuttgart, Germany. All of these designers also design for other German luxury sanitary ware companies such as Duravit, Geberit and sister company, Alape.
A designer faucet company like Dornbracht has to keep rolling out new designs at a fairly steady pace to keep ahead of copy cats and outright counterfeiters. Protecting a design is very difficult. Most countries allow only very limited copyright or patent protection for the design elements of a faucet. It is not hard to reverse engineer a successful faucet design, make subtle changes to avoid patent infringement, and then manufacture knockoffs in great quantities for a much lower price than the original designer company can possibly afford. As a consequence, the life span of a successful faucet design is about five years, after which time it has been so widely copied that the design is no longer fresh or new.
Many of Dornbracht's designs have reached this stage and have been widely copied, particularly by Asian faucet manufacturers.
European Price Fixing
From 1992 until 2004 Dornbracht participated in a scheme among 17 European sanitary wares manufacturers to fix prices in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France and Holland. The conspiracy unraveled after in 2002 and shortly thereafter discovered the plot, which it promptly reported to European authorities.
In 2010 the European Commission fined the companies involved over $700 million for violating Article 101 of the European Union Treaty, the largest fine ever imposed by the Commission, finding that the companies had been a willing participants in the illegal activities of the group. Only Hansgrohe escaped the penalty for having blown the whistle on the plot.
The following companies were implicated in the conspiracy:
|Artweger GmbH & Co. KG||Austria||$3.2|
|Cisal Rubinetteria SpA||Italy||$1.4|
|Duscholux Holding AG||Switzerland||$1.9|
|Kludi GmbH & Co. KG||Germany||$6.4|
|RAF Rubinetterie SpA||Italy||$0.3|
|Roca Sanitario SA||Spain||$47.4|
|Villeroy & Bosch AC||Germany||$87.5|
Dornbracht tightly controls its retail outlets. It sells only through authorized dealers and designer showrooms, and does what it can, to discourage internet sales. In a 2010 interview, the company's CEO Andreas Dornbracht commented that
"[W]e still have a big challenge with the internet. We are trying to do everything to limit the access of online dealers to our products, but we have to play by the legal rules. So we have to try and discourage online dealers and support our showroom retailers better than ever with training, advertising materials and advice on how they should be realign with the internet issue."
But, in fact, the company has not always played by the "legal rules". In 2010 the company paid a fine of $14.3 million for its participation in a price fixing scheme in Europe (see sidebar), and in 2013 was ordered to pay €800,000 ($1,080,000) to German internet retailer Reuter Onlineshop GmbH after a German court ruled that Dornbracht offered discount prices to retailers that agreed not to sell Dornbracht products on line, forcing on-line sellers like Reuters to charge higher prices for Dornbracht products. The court found the practice anti-competitive.
In North America, the company sets minimum selling prices for its products, and does not permit authorized retail outlets to sell its faucets below those minimum prices. According to the Supreme Court in Legin v. PSKS, this is not price fixing (although 100 years of prior case law said that it is).
The company also tightly controls the number of authorized retailers it permits in a market. It has not hesitated to close unproductive or uncooperative dealerships and showrooms, reducing the number in the U.S. from a high of 450 to about 200 today. (To find a distributor near you, check the company web site which features a dealer locator.)
Dornbracht's faucet warranty is sub-par for the North American market where the standard was long ago set by each of which offers a warranty on all parts of its faucets for as long as the original purchasers owns the house in which the faucet is installed. Dornbracht has improved its warranty over the past few years. It now offers a warranty on some finishes for the "useful life of the faucet". But its mechanical and cartridge warranty is still at five years.
When we see a less than lifetime warranty on what is thought by most buyers to be a lifetime product, we wonder why. For many faucet companies, it is because they have less than complete faith in the quality and long term durability of their faucets, finishes or cartridges. We don't think this is the case with Dornbracht which exercises such tight control over its production process that it's hard to imagine that has any major concerns about the quality of its products.
More likely it' reflects the mindset of Dornbracht's management that a stronger warranty is unnecessary to remain competitive because Dornbracht's reputation for quality has become indelibly fixed in the minds of premium faucet buyers. But, we predict that as other upscale European and American faucet manufacturers like example and strengthen its warranty further over time.
Paini started selling faucets in the U.S. with a similar 5-year warranty, but increased the warranty term over time. Today, Paini offers the U.S. standard lifetime warranty.
These are expensive faucets but not necessarily more expensive than other faucet imported into the U.S. from Germany, and has the advantage of actually being made in Germany from (mostly) German components. The warranty is weak, however. It is standard in the European Union, but very sub-sub par for North America where lifetime faucet warranties are the norm. Other European companies that sell their faucets in the U.S. and Canada have adjusted their European warranties to fit the North American market. Dornbracht has not. The miserly 5-year cartridge warranty would certainly give us pause before paying Dornbracht's prices for a faucet.
Other German faucets comparable to Dornbracht include Hansgrohe, and In2aqua. Other foreign-made faucets that compare favorably are
Comparable American-made faucets include
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Dornbracht faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.