1991- Origin of “Oberwerk”- In the late 1980’s, Oberwerk founder Kevin Busarow was freelancing as a software designer/developer, in addition to his full-time position as a computer hardware and networking engineer, primarily supporting word processing systems from NBI of Boulder, CO. Perhaps inspired by work being done at Xerox PARC Labs, as well as Apple, his interest turned to GUI’s (Graphical User Interfaces). He spent countless nights and weekends creating one of the first icon-based GUI’s for the PC. By 1990, his “Counterpoint Graphical Menu System” was released as an alternative to Microsoft Windows (ver. 2.0 at that time), and became somewhat of a commercial success. In 1991, Amstrad, a computer manufacture in Europe, licensed Counterpoint to be pre-installed on all Amstrad PC’s sold in Europe. At that time, Kevin was advised to form a corporation. In choosing a name, Kevin thought back to his youth, when he would often turn pages and pull stops for his father- an accomplished organist and composer. The term Oberwerk comes from organ music (German for “above work”), and refers to the division of pipes physically mounted higher than the rest of the pipes, and played from the upper-most manual (keyboard) on a large multi-manual pipe organ. So the name was chosen because of the “above the rest” connotation, and also because Kevin’s software development was done outside of his “day job”. Creating and continously improving Counterpoint meant getting by on 4 hours of sleep most nights, hence “over-work” also seemed appropriate. Several other software titles were developed through the 90’s, including “DTP-Pro Desktop Publishing Utilities for Ventura Publisher”, and “Oberwerk Guitar Workshop”, which was one of the first guitar tutorial programs, and which ultimately evolved into a rather sophisticated guitar composition and score printing program as well. Guitar Workshop was eventually over-taken by a host of competitive products in the late 1990’s, right at a point when Kevin was burning out with software development, but becoming increasingly interested in his long-time hobby of astronomy. Kevin obtained an old 10″ f/8 Newtonian reflector telescope, so large and heavy that it was balanced with a concrete counterweight! Salvaging just the mirror and a few other components, he constructed a relatively-lightweight open-frame telescope using rectangular aluminum stock. The new scope was much easier to handle and mount- and a new obsession with optics and optical hardware had begun.
1999- BigBinoculars.com Opens- In July of 1999, Kevin was visiting Dana Point, CA for a family reunion. He visited Newport Beach Camera and Telescope Shop and saw a giant binocular for the first time- the legendary Chinese border guard 25/40×100- and was instantly smitten. But it was priced at $3995! (definitely not in the budget), and it wasn’t practical to fly home with it. Upon his return to Dayton, he did some online searching and found the binocular was manufactured in Kunming, China. He contacted the factory reps, and tried to purchase one directly, but they said they had a 100-unit minimum order policy. After several weeks of back and forth emails, the factory finally relented and accepted an order for just 4 units. The 4 units arrived, and 3 were quickly sold on eBay for $1295 each- just enough to cover the cost of Kevin’s binocular. At that time a few stores, as well as the Hammlecher-Schlemmer catalog, were selling this binocular for between $2500 to $4000- so the eBay buyers were thrilled to get one for such a low price. After using the binocular for a while, and seeing how good it was, Kevin sold off most of his antique duck decoy collection on eBay to raise funds to place another order, this time for 12 units. The domain name “bigbinoculars.com” was registered, and an online store was created.
2000- Small binoculars added- Oberwerk gradually added more binoculars to the product line beginning in early 2000. By 2003, Oberwerk offered about 25 models.
2001- Oberwerk’s first 45-degree model- A 45-degree 25×100, based on the original 25/40×100, was introduced.
2002- Kevin cuts his hours- Then employed as Senior Network Administrator at EDS, Dayton, Kevin cuts his workday to 4 hours (6am-10am), to devote the remaining workday to increasing Oberwerk business.
2002- Oberwerk’s first Binocular Telescope- The BT-100, a 1.25″ focuser version of the original 25/40×100, was introduced.
2003- Kevin resigns from EDS- Oberwerk becomes a full-time business.
2003- Oberwerk partners with Miyauchi- Oberwerk quickly becomes the USA’s largest Miyauchi dealer. This lasted until Miyauchi ceased production in 2010.
2004- BT-100-45 Introduced- The 45-degree 100mm binocular is fitted with 1.25″ telescope focusers and a fork mount, and our flagship BT-100-45 is born.
2006- Oberwerk Moves to the Russ Research Center- Oberwerk outgrew its original commercial space on Harbert Dr. in Beavercreek, OH, and moved to Bldg. 10 of the Russ Research Center.
2007- Oberwerk / Yunnan Optics Joint Venture- Oberwerk forms a joint venture with their supplier of Long-Range Observation and BT-Series Binoculars. Yunnan Optics Co. Ltd. in Kunming, China, is renamed Yunnan Oberwerk Optics Co. Ltd. (YunAo in Chinese). Oberwerk President Kevin Busarow becomes minority owner of YunAo, and sits on the Board of Directors.
2009- Oberwerk Announces Lifetime Exchange Program– Customers may now exchange any Oberwerk binocular, regardless of age or condition, for a new binocular of the same model, at 25% off.
2011- Oberwerk Ends Dealer Program- In order to better serve their customers, Oberwerk ended the selling of products through resellers. Oberwerk products are available only from Oberwerk’s showroom in Dayton, OH, or online at their direct-sales store at BigBinoculars.com
2012- Oberwerk Moves to a Former City of Dayton Fire Station- In late 2011, Oberwerk purchased a circa 1905 former City of Dayton fire station. Contractors worked for 6 months on the exterior and interior, and in July of 2012, Oberwerk moved from the Russ Reseach Center to the the newly-renovated fire station.
2012- Oberwerk introduces the BT-70-45- In late 2012, Oberwerk introduced a scaled-down version of their flagship BT-100-45 Binocular Telescope. The BT-70-45 Binocular Telescope is just 13″ long and weighs only 8.5 lbs. Just like its larger sibling, it is equipped with standard 1.25″ telescope focusers.
2013- Oberwerk Installs a Collimator- Kevin Busarow spent a week at Suddarth Optical Repair learning “Tail-of-Arc” binocular collimation on a Navy Mark V collimator. Kevin then built a collimator using an 11″ Zenith Optics military spy plane camera lens and a Suddarth auxilliary telescope, making Oberwerk the only binocular retailer in the USA with an in-house collimator (and the knowledge to use one).
2013- Oberwerk BT-70-45 named Star Product by Astronomy Magazine- Phil Harrington does a full review of the BT-70-45 in the July 2013 issue of Astronomy Magazine. Two months later, the BT-70-45 was named a Star Product for 2013.
2013- Oberwerk Purchases Garrett Optical- Oberwerk acquires the assets of Garrett Optical of Tulsa, OK, and Garrett becomes a division of Oberwerk. Oberwerk also establishes a partnership with Suddarth Optical Repair of Henryetta, OK for repairs of Garrett and other brand binoculars.
2014- Oberwerk 8×40 Mariner named Editor’s Choice by SPACE.COM- Our 8×40 Mariner was named the 2014 Editors’ Choice at SPACE.COM. Our 15×70 Ultra was named a SPACE.COM runner-up (didn’t win only because of it’s higher cost and weight).
2015- Oberwerk introduces the Sport HD Series- Oberwerk is finally a contender in the Sport Optics market with the introduction of the Sport HD Series (8×32, 8×42, 10×50). Ideal for bird-watching, these three compact and lightweight phase-coated roof-prism binoculars offer excellent image quality, at a price well under competitors.
2015- Oberwerk’s Headquarters Designated a Historic Landmark- Oberwerk’s home in the former City of Dayton Fire Station #15 (circa 1905) was awarded a “Historic Landmark” plaque from the City of Dayton.
2015- Oberwerk introduces the Sport ED Series- Oberwerk introduces our first apochromatic binoculars, the Sport ED Series (8×42 and 10×42). The use of ED (extra-low dispersion) glass eliminates chromatic aberration from the view. Ideal for advanced-level bird-watching and nature observation, when flawless color rendition is required.
2016- Oberwerk introduces a Spotting Scope- After many customer requests, Oberwerk introduced our first spotting scope, the Sport ED 20-60×82, at a price point well below comparable scopes from other manufacturers. Like the Sport ED Series binoculars, the 20-60×82 features an ED objective and lightweight magnesium construction. Spotting scopes offer very high power with great image quality, in a relatively small and lightweight package.
2017- BigBinoculars.com retired- Unable to keep up with increasing demands of running an e-commerce website, Kevin redirects bigbinoculars.com traffic to a newly-designed and professionally-managed oberwerk.com.
2017- Oberwerk forms Oberwerk-USA- Oberwerk stops importing wood tripods and forms Oberwerk-USA, to build custom wood tripods in Dayton, OH.* Oberwerk-USA tripods feature “Slip-Stop” (patent pending) crash protection, and are built from select American hardwoods in poplar, maple, and walnut.
*some parts imported