In a rare behind the scenes glimpse of the testing laboratories at Braun, be in no doubt that some of the world’s most innovative shaving and grooming products are being put through a rigorous regime created to leave only the most efficacious designs standing and ready to perform their duty.
Entering the glossy heart of Braun’s architecturally immaculate, clean lined and glass edged headquarters we are about to be given full access to their “reconnaissance” rooms.
It is here, cloistered behind a two-way mirror, that Evelyn Zechel collects some of her best intelligence. In neat, pristinely fitted out bathrooms men come to perform their shaving routines. The volunteers range from teenagers learning the art of the shave for the first time, to hyper groomed businessmen. As they shave and denude their faces, their observers look on in unseen close-up.
“At Braun, we promise our shavers will last for at least seven years,” explains by Chief Tester, Wolfgang Richter. “We need to be totally confident our promise is true, so we have to simulate one five-minute shave a day for seven years.”
The facility has the capacity to manoeuver 250 shaving tools at any one time. The gentle buzz and activity of the shavers is doing the equivalent of beauty hard labour. The resulting data mounts up to hours and hours of male and female shaving and grooming time to fulfil Braun’s product promise.
Everywhere you look in the lab, robotic arms are gliding Braun shavers and epilators over nylon “brushes” akin to beards and stubble, clipping them with every pass. These simulated beards are made of nylon fibres rather than human hair, their fibres designed to have the same thickness and resistance of human facial hair “It’s as close as you can get to actual shaving without using real humans,” explains Richter.
A second laboratory houses a “climatic” chamber. Just as museums and art galleries can regulate humidity and temperature control to protect and preserve their valuable pieces of art, Braun want to ensure their products function perfectly in all bathrooms and all climates. “Some people shave just after they’ve had a shower, so the air in their bathroom is really hot and wet,” Richter explains. The climatic chamber allows testers to assess product function in all manner of interior “weather” conditions and temperatures.
Putting theory to the test
A batch of epilators is being submerged in water. Repeatedly “bathing” the products ensures they are suitable for use in the bathtub. “It’s really important for us to know that our products will withstand rigorous and frequent use by consumers,” Richter explains. “If that means immersing them in the bath, well that’s something else they need to be ready for.”
A “drop test” sees shavers dropped onto a hard floor from a height well above the chin height of most men. “However careful our customers are, there’s always a risk they might drop their shavers while using them,” says Wolfgang. “We need to be sure they are robust enough, even for a stone bathroom floor.”
Living up to the hype
In a sleek minimalist shaving laboratory research and development specialists Heike Smetana and Johann Handt work with human testers. Highly sophisticated cameras, computers and lasers, enable them to observe in close-up exactly how the Braun shavers perform. So close-up, in fact, that they can measure and count the individual facial hairs. The human guinea pigs are often asked to shave one side of the face with a Braun product, and the other side with a rival manufacturer’s. External testing laboratories are invited to run their own tests to ensure results are unbiased. “We claim the Series 9 Shaver is the most efficient and comfortable shaver” says Heike. To uphold this truly bold statement, “We analyze our volunteers’ hair and skin at a microscopic level. We have to ensure this claim lives up to its reputation.”
“We are striving for perfect product design, so absolutely nothing is left to chance. Our tests are incredibly accurate”.
As we leave the analytics rooms we are in no doubt that he is right.