When Beretta was founded in the 16th century, there were no nation-states, witches were burned, and tomatoes were considered poisonous. 15 generations later, the Italian arms manufacturer is still in business.
Interview with Beretta Holding President and CEO, Pietro Gussalli Beretta. 

Luzi Bernet (text), Andrea Pugiotto (pictures) - English translation

Music sounds in the engraving workshops, a strange music. A bright, metallic sound fills the room. With small hammers and chisels, the craftsmen decorate the side plates of the rifle stocks with artistic hunting scenes. An employee has a large photograph in front of her eyes. It shows a hunting dog with a duck in its mouth, a classic motif. A customer wants the picture on his shotgun – engraved in zinc. The young woman checks her work with a magnifying glass.

In the workshop, time seems to stand still, the atmosphere is reminiscent of an artist's studio. Or to a watch manufacturer in the Swiss Jura. "Graduates from art schools work here," says a retired employee who gives me a tour of the company.

Art and weapons? An unusual combination. But Beretta is also an unusual company.

The age-old business model

Beretta is the oldest production company in the world. For 15 generations, it has been manufacturing weapons near Brescia in northern Italy. For five hundred years, the Berettas have steered the family business through history. Through good times that have made them rich. And through bad times that almost forced her to give up. How was the company able to survive half a millennium? Was it because the family plans particularly ahead? Because there have always been wars? Or was it just luck?

Is there a secret to how you can survive as a family-run industrial company for so long? "You see," answers Dottor Pietro, "in the family we always say to ourselves: We may be old, but we can't stay old. We always have to be innovative." At some point, the workers no longer made cannons, but rifles; later, mass production revolutionized the business, then the company opened up new markets throughout Europe. All this costs a lot of money, says Pietro Gussalli Beretta. "But we agree on these central issues, that's how we were brought up. We believe that our factories must meet modern standards."

The oldest company in the world (