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