|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
KWC America, Inc.
800 Aviation Pkwy.
Smyrna, TN 37167
151 Carlingview Drive
Etobicoke, ON M9W 5S4
(Meets North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
A Swiss company, KWC is a relative small manufacturer of high-end and high priced all-brass and stainless steel faucets known for their dependability. A lot of its style offerings can be had from other companies at less cost, but it is more difficult to reproduce the legendary reliability of the company's faucets.
Essentially a boutique faucet maker with just over 300 employees, the KWC has been remarkably astute in its marketing of contemporary faucets. As a consequence, KWC has emerged from the cloud of obscurity that envelopes most small faucet manufactures to become nearly as well known to the buying public as much larger competitors such as
The company manufactures contemporary luxury faucets for kitchen and bath. Designed, prototyped, tested and manufactured in Unterkulm, Switzerland. KWC faucet styles are distinctive and added to yearly by the seemingly inexhaustible creativity of industrial design partners Michael Lammel and Bertrand Illert, founders and owners of NOA, an industrial design studio in Aachen who, in addition to keeping the KWC at the forefront of innovative faucet design, also designs kitchen and dining ware for WMF Group, and porcelain sanitary wares for VitrA, a division of the ceramics giant, Eczacibasi Group of Istanbul, Turkey.
But, many KWC designs are becoming dated, some are more than a two decades old, and have been widely copied. It is increasingly possible to find more of less original KWC styles in mid-priced faucet lines such as Delta and Moen often at much less cost, but with no lessening of reliability. What your miss out on, however, is exceptional Swiss craftsmanship and reliability.
Founded in 1874 by Adolf Karrer in Switzerland to manufacture music boxes, KWC did not produce its first faucet until 1897. Music box production ended in 1902 at which time the company was renamed Karrer Weber & Cie AG. In 1984 the company was acquired by Hansa Metallwerke AG, a German faucet company headquartered in Stuttgart. The company name was shortened in 1986 to the current KWC AG.
In 2010 IK Investment Partners (formerly "Industri Kapital"), a German private equity group, acquired a controlling Interest in Hansa and in 2013 split Hansa's assets, selling KWC to its Swiss competitor, and Hansa Metalwerke to Oras Group, a Finnish manufacturer of distinctive contemporary faucets and sanitary ware. Industry watchers believe that Franke, a global player in the sanitary ware market with over 12,500 worldwide employees, bought the company primarily to gain access to KWC's state of the art factory in Unterkulm.
The KWC brand will benefit from Franke's world-wide distribution, and Franke will gain a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and access to some additional world-class design talent to supplement its own world-class design talent.
Because of its wide name recognition and reputation as a maker of upscale, very reliable faucets, Franke will probably continue KWC as an independent brand, but will merge distribution and after-sale support. Manufacturing will probably not be affected in the short term, but expect the outsourcing of some manufacturing. It is unlikely, however, that all production will be moved out of Switzerland. We don't expect any reduction in the quality of the faucets as a results of this change in ownership, and may, in fact see improvements in both brands of luxury faucets from technology crossovers.
There have already been consolidation in the company's North American operation. The separate U.S. web site has been closed, and the English language website is now a part of the German-language site. The former KWC headquarters has been abandoned, and all services moved to Franke's U.S. site in Tennassee. Customer service has been consolidated with Franke's North American customer service.
KWC has long been noted for its clean, crisp faucet designs in the North German tradition, and has earned recognition for its design finess in numerous international design competitions. The new ZOE faucet has been the recipient of an iF World Design Guide award (2016), a coveted Good Design award (2015-2016) from the Chicago Athenaeum, the oldest and most coveted of the international design prizes, and a special German Design Award (2016). Other winning designs include the AVA, INTRO, ONO and PIANA faucets.
KWC faucets have a reputation of being very reliable with a long service life free of problems. The proprietary KWC cartridge is one of the best and most faucets are equipped with the incomparable Neoperl® aerator. But, there are some limitations. All of that excellent Swiss craftsmanship is expensive, so the faucets are generally pricey as are the parts to fix the faucets should they ever break out of warranty. The narrow design range of KWC faucets makes most of the styles unsuitable for any but very contemporary kitchens and baths and the very small palette of three finishes further limits the range of decors in which the faucets will fit. So, if you are on a budget or your style is traditional or your aim is to duplicate the look of a heritage bathroom or kitchen, you will have to look elsewhere for your faucets.
The KWC website does not appear to be finished. The former North American website (www.kwcamerica.com) is defunct. Its abandonment was evidently a little premature, however, as the replacement site, an offshoot of the German-language site, is far from ready for prime time. The brief description of each faucet and the single 3/4 view image presented on the site is insufficient to make an intelligent faucet choice. Multiple images in color, or, better yet, a 360° viewing feature such as is used by In2aqua and MR Direct for its Sir faucets, that allows the mouse to rotate the faucet to any viewing angle, are invaluable in fully visualizing the faucet.
The more detailed technical data and installation instruction sheets are supposedly contained in downloadable .pdf documents, but none of the links to these documents were working when we tested the site. All is not lost, however. You can find a second link to at least some of these downloable documents under the "Service" tab at "Catalogs + Downloads" by clicking on "Technical Information" to display a list (white type on a barely contrasting light gray background, not great for anyone whose eyes are 55 or older — dumb idea) of products and a link to the technical documentation about the product — unless you have a popup blocker installed, then the list may not appear. We turned ours off but the list still did not appear about half of the time.
Once you open the technical document for a faucet, however, the information is extensive including installation instructions and an exploded parts diagram. What is missing is a dimension drawing to help you decide whether a faucet will fit your sink. Installation instruction are in five languages.
KWC faucets are sold only through showrooms and some internet retailers. The "where to buy" link on the company website works well but is difficult to find. Look for it under the "Service" menu. Irrespective of where you buy a KWC faucet, do not expect drastic price reduction from KWC's suggested retail price. The company enforces a minimum advertised price (MAP) policy that prohibits advertising a price more than 30% below KWC's list price.
The company warrants its faucets for as long as the faucet is owned by the original buyer. A proof of purchase is required. Formerly not all finishes were covered by the lifetime warranty, but under Franke ownership, that has changed. All three KWC finishes are covered by the limited lifetime warranty.
Problems with KWC faucets have been reported by both our plumbers panel and KWC owners. These include:
• The KWC single handle (mixer) cartridge seems particularly subject to damage by hard water buildup which may cause it to leak.
• A number of reports of catridges failing after as few as four years.
• Some faucets, particularly the Domo pull-out kitchen faucet seem to have a chromic problem with the base swivel corroding or building up deposits until it will no longer turn, a problem that appears to be related to imperfect engineering.KWC America's customer service is responsive and knowledgable, easily passing our basic customer service tests. While the company's lifetime faucet warranty is about average for the industry in North America, the company's response to warranty claims is usually quick and helpful. But, we have received reports of the company refusing warranty claims where the issue is caused by mineral build up inside the faucet or the faucet cartridge. The company's position appears to be that a failure due to mineral deposits is "ordinary wear and tear" that is not covered by its warranty. Our position is that if failure due to mineral buildup is to be categorized for warranty purposes as ordinary wear and tear, then it out to be identified as such in the written warranty as a specific exception to warranty.
In any case, if you live in an area where hard water is a problem, you might keep this in mind when selecting a faucet.
In Canada, the brand is distributed and supported by Nortesco, Inc. We have not tested Nortesco's customer support, but we have heard nothing but good things about this company that specializes in the importation of up-scal designer bath products.
Imported faucets comparable to KWC include
Comparable American-made faucets include
If you have had an experience with a KWC faucet, — good, bad or indifferent — that you would like to share, please drop us a note or post a comment below.