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Max Gort-Barten was a German-born entrepreneur who found himself in England – and therefore signed up to the British army – just as the second World War broke out. When the war was over he bought a small factory in Camberwell in the absolute certainty that he would utilise his engineering skills and creativity to manufacture products. He had several early ideas, including the Dual-Light electric fire from which Dualit took its name, but it was a patented toaster that caught people’s attention.
An astute businessman, Max decided not to compete head to head with other
emerging consumer brands but instead focused on the commercial market. He designed and engineered a six-slice toaster with a built-in timer (the first of its kind) in 1952, which bears a striking resemblance to today’s Vario toaster. The company grew slowly over the next 20 years, gradually improving and extending its range of commercial toasters and adding other related products.
Everything started to change in the '70s. Max’s son Leslie joined the business. A Government-sponsored design grant gave Dualit the opportunity to employ a Royal College of Art design graduate. Export incentives prompted Leslie and Max to exhibit at foreign trade shows. And consumer demand for professional kitchen appliances led retailers like John Lewis to stock Dualit products.
When the Dualit toaster became the must-have kitchen appliance of the '80s, the company was swamped by an insatiable demand. It was forced to extend the factory twice over and find ways of increasing its manufacturing capacity.
Today Dualit produces a range of kitchen and home appliances which remain firmly rooted in the values Max set out for the company in 1945. It is run by Max’s son, Leslie and is one of a handful of successful, independently-owned British manufacturers. Reliable, well-engineered products remain at the heart of the company and there is an instantly recognisable – and now nostalgically retro – Dualit aesthetic which can be traced back to Max’s first toaster designs in the 1950s.
One constant – an ability to embrace change – has seen the company revolutionise its manufacturing capability without compromising on quality and reliability. The innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that was so much a part of Max, is echoed in Leslie and now his son Alex who sit firmly in the product development driving seat.