ContiTech History

Highlights of Our History

Since 1871, Continental has created a wide range of products and innovations that represent innovative strength, technological know-how, and material expertise. Get to know the product highlights and solutions as well as patents and curiosities from our eventful past.


This Is How the Horse Got into the Continental Logo

Our first highlight is “Hartmann’s Patent Hufbuffer” from 1875. It is a product of the very first hour of Continental. The hoof buffer was attached between the horseshoe and the horse's hoof. Its aim was that horses touch the ground with the entire surface of the hoof, as they would in their natural state. With the shod hoof, only the wall was in contact with the ground, i.e. the surface that is shod with the horseshoe. With the hoof buffer, the frog and sole of the horse also touched the ground. The results were less malformation of the hoof, protection against injuries and increased surefootedness e.g. on slippery surfaces. A true innovation in mobility.

The hoof buffer is of particular significance for Continental: On a related advertising brochure from 1875, the famous Continental horse is seen for the very first time. It is very likely that this has developed into our trademark, which, after various redesigns, is still used today.



This Is How Continental Brought Electric Light into the Car

Continental drive belts were groundbreaking for the automotive and industrial sectors at the time. Registration under the brand name Continental – including for drive belts – dates back to 1899. Initially, only belts for industry were produced. From 1907 on, the first V-belts for motorcycles were added. The catch: the drive belts were still finite, that is, they we re connected by a lock.

Drive Belts

Before the advent of the first alternators from 1913, vehicles were still illuminated with gas lamps. This new technology gradually electrified vehicle technology: Gas lamps were replaced by electric lighting, engine cranking was eliminated, and gradually various other electrical systems were connected to the alternator. Power transmission required drive belts that were as loss-free as possible. Continental was able to meet these requirements with the endless rubber V-belt.



This Is How Continental Developed Aircraft Fabrics to Fly

We emerged from a small, locally operating rubber factory to an internationally operating company during the period from the 1890s to the First World War. The reasons for the company’s success were not only the breakthrough in becoming an automobile tire manufacturer and establishing a bicycle tire business but also their diversification within the business areas of technical rubber products and consumer goods. Our aircraft fabrics are a good example of this.

Continental was involved in the development of an icon in early aviation, the first Zeppelin LZ1, that took off for the first time on July 2, 1900. The shape of the rigid airship was characterized by a lightweight aluminum frame covered in aircraft fabric. Inside the Zeppelin, there were several gas cells that provided the necessary lift for the airship. Our balloon fabric covering was used to seal these gas cells in the LZ 1. Besides the Zeppelin story, another milestone in the history of mobility is closely linked to our aircraft fabrics: When Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first person to cross the English Channel in an airplane in 1909, the wings of his plane were covered in our fabrics.



This is How Continental Protected Against Cold Feet

Especially from the 1890s to the 1920s, consumer products made of rubber determined the leisure activities and everyday life of all societal classes. The catalogs for consumer goods from these years were almost endless and housed every conceivable everyday item made of rubber, right down to curiosities such as billiard belts or rubber belts.

hot water bottle

Our hot water bottle is probably one of our best-known products. As an early player in this market as well, we produced and densely advertised our iconic red hot water bottles starting in 1922. As the hot water bottle gained popularity within the general population in the mid-1920s, it became a real bestseller. Meanwhile, 40 employees alone were busy producing 500.000 rubber bottles per year. After several decades, the production was discontinued in 1997. Today, the hot water bottle is a cult object - at relevant online auction houses, you have to spend at least 40 euros for a red piece of warming nostalgia.



How a Hose Became Industry’s Darling

The Gold Snake was developed in the early 1930s and was used wherever water was needed. For example, for filling a washtub. What sounds trivial at first was a real innovation back then, because these initial fields of application involved various risks for the intactness of the hose.

Heinrich Pahl, an engineer from Dusseldorf, was aware of the expectations towards hoses in terms of robustness and durability at the time and, thus, invented a hose that, for the first time, had corded single threads incorporated as pressure carriers. This technology, which he had copied from tire production, ensured great flexibility while ensuring extreme robustness, durability, and a significant increase in operating pressure. Nowadays, the Gold Snake ensures, for example, that tourists travel safely by car to their winter vacation accommodation: many winter services are equipped with particularly flexible and robust hoses.



How Continental Has Made Bus Rides Smooth(er)

When we started working with our development partner in the mid-1950s to improve ride comfort for the passengers of buses, we couldn't foresee how durable the solution – the air spring 644 N – would be. To this day, it still ensures a smooth ride in buses from various manufacturers, and that in an almost unchanged form.

Air Spring

However, new challenges arise in the development of air springs for vehicles with alternative drive systems such as electric drives or fuel cells. Air springs for electric buses have to be larger or must be designed for higher pressures than in buses with conventional drives. This is a challenge because space in the chassis is tight. Thanks to its special material expertise, in 2010 Continental succeeded in developing a lightweight air spring with an innovative rolling piston made of fiberglass-reinforced polyamide instead of conventional steel or aluminum – with fully utilized internal volume. The result: the lightweight air springs for use in city buses and coaches bring a weight saving of 2 to 2.6 kilograms per air spring system (depending on the axle type).




How Continental Contributed to Postal Mechanization

After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, our conveyor belts helped separated families to stay in contact and send packages to their loved ones on the other side of the Wall: The rubber conveyor belts from Hanover were in use for receiving, pre-sorting and distributing packages at major post offices and among other things helped with processing mail to and from “over there” from the 1960s onwards. Meanwhile, the post offices benefited from the very long service life of the belts and rapid amortization.

conveyor belt

Over the time, package conveyor belts became shorter and shorter, while belts produced by Continental became longer and stronger. As a result, we have withdrawn from the courier express package industry. Instead, we are focusing on strong, (very) long belts made of rubber and PVC and belt solutions with textile or steel cord carcasses, such as the ST 10 000, that are used in other industries.




How Continental Ensures Ride Comfort on High-speed Trains Around the World

Beyond the obvious – what do the TGV, ICE, KTX, ACELA and Transrapid China have in common?

Well, their passengers can sit back and relax jolt lessly. And this is because in all these high-speed trains, air springs from Continental ensure a particularly high level of ride comfort, even at speeds in excess of 300 km/h.

As early as 1983, the French railroad company SNCF was looking for a technology that provides its passengers with a pleasant journey and a high level of safety even at that kind of speed. The solution: air springs from Continental. After being successfully tested in the TGV, Continental also equipped the express trains for the journey across the English Channel and the ICE 2 fleet of Deutsche Bahn.

Word of the quality spread, and successive orders followed for subsequent generations of ICE and TGV trains as well as equipment for the Acela in the USA, the Transrapid and CRH-380 in China as well as the VELARO in Spain. Everywhere, air springs from Continental ensure that passengers can drink their coffee safely and spill-free, despite high speeds and curve angles of up to 8 degrees.




How Continental Helped Explorer Robert Peroni Brave the Arctic Cold

There is no bad weather as long as you wear the right clothes! For extreme conditions of minus 60 degrees Celsius, it takes very special expertise to make the right clothes, and a brave person who wants to wear them. Normally, no one would dare to go outside at such extreme temperatures – except for the extreme sportsman, explorer and Greenland enthusiast Robert Peroni. The experienced expedition leader was the first person to cross the Greenland ice sheet at its widest point.

To achieve his true mission in life, testing the physical and psychological limits of man, he was looking for the right clothing for his next Greenland expedition that would help him defy the hostile sub-zero temperatures. The requirement: maximum flexibility at temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius and below. Obviously, the suit also had to be as windproof, waterproof, impact-resistant and lightweight as possible.

In Continental, Peroni found a partner with unique material expertise and had, even at that time, over 120 years of experience in meeting even the most specialized customer requirements. Continental provided Peroni with a suit made of poly aramid fabric and Elastosil, which was only 0.21mm thin and elastic – even at temperatures as low as minus 85 degrees Celsius.

In addition to the bitter cold and mobility challenges, oxygen supply also presented a critical problem – because inhaling freezing cold air is life-threatening! Continental also provided support in this area.

Its engineers developed a 45-meter system of silicone hoses that made it possible to increase oxygen transport by 30 percent! This allowed Peroni to beat the cold. Continental was grateful for the opportunity to subject its innovations to an endurance test, as such low temperatures were only possible under the conditions of the Arctic winter at that time.




How Continental has revolutionized elevator technology

Where individual spires once dominated, skyscrapers and television towers now define the most famous skylines on the planet. Along with the invention of reinforced concrete, it was another invention making it possible for buildings to scale unprecedented heights: the elevator. Because after all, the mere static possibility of being able to build high is of no use if no one can get from floor to floor efficiently.

Now and then, even a century-old invention can still bear a real innovation. For almost the entire twentieth century, elevators and their passengers were transported by steel cables. Until 1998, when Continental launched an innovative drive belt concept based on its broad materials expertise together with a partner. Although the advantages were obvious, the industry responded with initial skepticism: three times longer service life, no need to use lubricants, and reduced weight. Today, these belts are standard in elevators – a true technological revolution. In the following years, numerous other innovative advancements followed, such as new variations featuring modified shapes and thicknesses of the steel cord, or different application-specific polyurethane compounds for the field of materials.

An impressive proof of the quality: The belts installed in the elevators back in 1998 are still running, for more than 20 years!




How Continental is advancing customers from a wide range of industries with digital solutions

In a rapidly changing world in which digitization, efficiency, and sustainability are becoming increasingly important, customer needs are more and more shifting from pure products and their installation to comprehensive solutions. For this reason, Continental started early to integrate digital solutions such as digital platforms, web and mobile apps, and digital toolkits into its portfolio.

For Continental Industry, it all began in 2012 with "Tension to go”, an app that allows users to quickly verify the belt tension via smartphone. This function was then integrated into the follow-up app "Make Power Smart” which also provides tools for measuring center distance and avoiding parallel offset of the pulleys.

Further digital solutions for a wide range of industries followed. Customers in the field of conveying solutions in particular benefit from Continental's development competence and digital expertise. As unplanned downtimes of the kilometer-long plants are very expensive for the operators, their maintenance and monitoring is of great importance. In the past, so-called belt runners visually inspected the critical plant sections and components and made handwritten notes – a time-consuming and often poorly documented process. With "Conti+”, an asset management platform, Continental offers its customers a comprehensive digital solution: All technical data is housed in a central database, and a comprehensive toolbox is also available to help digitally record the condition of the plant. This in turn optimizes maintenance and increases the performance and profitability of the conveyor system.

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