Classic Knife Review: Gerber Touché Belt Buckle Knife


Courtesy Chris Dumm for TTAK

Blackie Collins designed a lot of cool blades back in the day. In the case of the Gerber Touché, the day was 1981, and this discreet-carry daily folder made quite a splash across the pages of Soldier Of Fortune magazine. It’s a (theoretically) perfect escape tool for a kidnapped executive, but how well does it work as a functional knife?

The Buckle

Courtesy Chris Dumm for TTAKThe heart of the Touché is not its mirror-polished stainless 1.75″ drop-point blade: it’s the belt buckle that it folds into, and the ingenious-but-fragile cam screw that holds it all together. With a half-twist of its slim steel face, the Touché belt buckle unfolds into a small pocketknife as a precisely asymmetrical cam screw unclips and releases it into your hand.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for TTAK

Although I wore it nearly every day for several years, the buckle leaves something to be desired as a belt-tightening appliance. The whole thing weighs only 2.5 ounces, but like most plate-and-hook belt buckles it’s a little too thick to wear flat. I’m blessed with a non-muffin-top midsection, and I’ve always noticed that the Touché sticks out farther than I’d prefer. Maybe if I were chunkier I wouldn’t notice it so much, but I don’t ever plan to find out.

I’m right-handed, but I still couldn’t help noticing that the Touché buckle is aggressively non-ambidextrous. Even with a reversed belt, a southpaw must use an awkward movement to open it left-handed, and then the edge is still facing upward instead of downward.

The belt hook is made of ABS plastic like the rest of the buckle, and it has proven to be one of the numerous weaknesses of the Touché’s clever design. The hook tends to snap off, and once it does the buckle is essentially useless.

The Touché buckle had fresh, modern styling when it was introduced in 1981, but today it’s as dated as an 8-track tape of Dan Fogelberg’s greatest hits. If you can rock the whole outfit, it probably goes pretty well with bell-bottom jeans, a macramé vest and Birkenstocks.

The Knife

Courtesy Chris Dumm for TTAK

The Touché’s drop-point blade is made of an unspecified stainless steel, buffed to a mirror polish. The chromium content is probably sky-high, because it has suffered absolutely no corrosion even after two decades of neglect. It’s 1 3/4″ long by 3/4″ wide at its base, and is a mere 3/16″ thick at its spine. It can be sharpened to an outrageously fine angle, but it won’t hold such a sharp edge for very long. Cardboard boxes absolutely murder its edge in no time flat.

In all my years of carrying the Touché, I never once tried to open a can or pry anything with it. If I had, the thin blade would have snapped and I wouldn’t be writing this review. The whole knife weighs only 1.7 ounces, which isn’t much more than some skeletonized titanium-handled folders.

The blade is joined to the handle by the single screw. This design has none of the reinforcement of a typical folding-knife mechanism so it’s fairly weak. Adding insult to injury, the tension of the opened blade depends on an extremely precise alignment of the cam screw and its threads. My Touché cam screw threads have always been a little bit off, and as a result it’s always had a fairly floppy blade.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for TTAK

This picture shows the only way you can hold it to prevent it from folding closed on your finger. If you’re trying to do any serious cutting or whittling, the Touché’s handle becomes exquisitely uncomfortable. This shouldn’t be a surprise, because it only has three-inch length of brushed 7/8″ by 1/8″ stainless bar stock to wrap your hand around.

Why I Still Love It

It may have a delicate blade, a fragile mechanism and a craptastic handle. But in its day, the Touché was all but invisible as a discreet-carry knife. My own Touché was bought new in 1985, and it was my EDC knife decades before anyone had invented the term ‘EDC knife.’ By invisible I mean invisible: nobody ever noticed it during years of carry through high school and college, on dozens of airline flights, or even during an extracurricular trip to a police station.

Today, any of this could result in detention, expulsion, prosecution or even rendition to a black-site prison in Yemen, but the 1980s were a simpler time when the number ‘9/11′ was just a weird fraction. When I occasionally demonstrated the Touché for someone, they just chuckled at the clever James Bond gadgetry of it.

I never used my Touché for anything more exciting than opening an envelope, sharpening a pencil, or stripping wire insulation. But for years it was always right where I needed it, and even after decades of desuetude my fingers still remember exactly how to twist it out of its buckle and choke up on it for a proper grip. It was probably always useless as a defensive weapon, but as a 1980s-modern version of a (right-handed) gentleman’s pocketknife it absolutely excelled.

The Touché has been out of print for almost 25 years, so if you want one you’ll have to find it on an auction site. Their rarity and relative fragility make them mildly collectible, and in mint condition they’ll bring 3-4 times their original purchase price of $40-50. Even a beater like mine would sell for much more than I paid for it in 1985, and that isn’t bad for a well-used pocketknife.

Ratings (Out Of Five Stars)

Styling: **** (retro)
But pretty dated now.

Blade: ***
Maintenance-free blade can take a sharp edge, but it’s too delicate and doesn’t hold an edge very long.

Ergonomics: **
It opens easily and quickly for right-handed users, but its floppy blade and tiny handle only deserve one and one-half stars once it’s open. Whatever.

Ruggedness/Durability **
The blade is very thin, the belt hook snaps off, and the mechanism is delicate.

Overall Rating: **
As a functional knife it’s an ingenious novelty, but basically a fail. As a collector’s item it’s pretty darn cool. You can have mine when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

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21 Responses to Classic Knife Review: Gerber Touché Belt Buckle Knife

  1. SeaCreature says:

    This takes me right back to the 80’s. I was a teenager when these knives were introduced, and I thought they were the coolest thing ever. Unfortunately I lived overseas, and they were not available my neighborhood. Thanks for the review.

    • Lablady says:

      I have 2 of these I would like to get appraisal’s on, any idea where?

      • Chris Dumm says:

        I don’t actually have any resources for knife appraisals. From my short survey of Touche prices several months ago, I’d guess the used one might fetch $75, and the NIB scrimshaw perhaps $125. I might be aiming a little high, however.

  2. Brian O'Blivion says:

    Isn’t this the same knife used by Robin Williams in the 1983 movie “The Survivors”? He uses it to cut himself free after being tied to a chair, if I remember correctly…pretty cool!!

  3. AM says:

    Ever take it into a place with security that was looking for knives?

  4. Aharon says:

    That article brought back memories.

  5. Savage Dennis says:

    I was 10 in ’81. The not yet (they married years later) step dad was a Dect. Sgt with the local PD & came over with it one day. I nearly lost my mind over how cool it was. He wore that buckle out of uniform every day for 20+ years. One of the images that come to mind when thinking back, is him wearing that little piece. It’s long since disappeared, I wonder what ever happened to that little memory. I just might have to try & track one down for nostalgia sake.

  6. Mr. Ed says:

    My Dad has subscribed to Guns & Ammo since the 70s and once he was done with an issue, it came my way. (I still have a nearly complete set going back to 1980.) I remember seeing the adds for the Touche’ way back when (I’m in the same age group as SeaCreature and Savage Dennis) and I had to have one! The beauty of it is, I managed to save the money and get one – exactly as shown, none-the-less! Mine had the wood panels – no scrimshaw here! That was one of the coolest things I have ever owned and I so wish I knew what happened to it, as I would wear it proudly today. I’m praying it’s in a box of my kid stuff and I’ll find it eventually. It’s either that, or I’ll picking one up off of GunGroker for $150, or so. Better yet, I wish a talented knife maker would revive and improve the design. I’d pay several hundred for a modern design and better functioning Touche’.

  7. PJinSC says:

    I got mine in ’85 and wore it proudly for years on a Safariland gun belt until the belly made it face down more than up and the belt is cracked but still serviceable. Now it sits in a place of honor next to my Glock bug out piece. No, you can’t have it.

  8. Bob says:

    I’ve still got mine. I took it to The Blade Show last month and was offered $150 for it. Turned it down of course. I was thinking I got it in high school, but it must have been a little longer than that if it was the 80’s.

  9. Jerry says:

    Really nice buckle.I bought one in the early eighty’s and wore it on dress jeans till my jeans fell on the floor and some how I stepped on the buckle and broke the hasp that hooked on the belt.I was down for weeks.Started to shop around and very luckily found a few and bought a few even one sealed in the box all others in box’s with paper work.I still ware one almost every day.No one notices it,police,court house security and the like.Love it.

  10. Lablady says:

    I have 2 of these I would like to get appraisal’s on.
    1 is like the one pictured above.
    The other is New, with box and is a scrimshaw of a Bull Elk

  11. spidaman says:

    In 1983, I was working in Caracas, Venezuela for an international non-governmental organization. I was wearing this belt buckle every day, and wasn’t thinking about it when I went to a meeting at the US Embassy. The USMC Embassy Guard spotted the blade right away. After being relieved of my blade, I went on up to my meeting. Fortunately, the Guard was kind enough to return the blade when I left after the meeting. That was the only individual who ever recognized the blade/buckle. I still wear it every now and then, with jeans and a T-shirt.

  12. tim says:

    i bought mine in LA in the very early 80’s. it is plain with a fake pearl instead of wood panels. the blade does handle does not have a patent number like the ones shown. i wore it on and off and then put it in my tool box where it sat until a year or so ago when i showed it to my daughter. kinda cool.

  13. Frank Jimerson says:

    I have one of these, new in the box, but it has a solid brass base and hook, not ABS.
    Did they make different versions, or was this a custom order? My Uncle worked in the Lumber Broker business for 40 years, and so rubbed elbows with alot of big businessmen. This was given to him as a gift from one of them, but he never wore it.
    It has the initials DW on the front, but these aren’t his initials, so they might have been for the company that was giving them away as promo’s.
    I would be interested in selling this, if anyone is interested.
    jukeboxfrank@msn.com

  14. Don says:

    I have three, interested in purchasing them?

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