Maxwell, celebrating 50 Years Young

Maxwell, celebrating 50 Years Young

Fifty years ago, after having served his apprenticeship at the New Zealand Naval Dockyards in Devonport, Auckland, Graeme Maxwell Cundy, began to design and manufacture sheet winches for the active and rapidly emerging yachting market in New Zealand.

Back in the sixties, New Zealand was subject to import licensing and tariffs on boating equipment, which forced many Kiwis’ to come up with innovative solutions for their marine gear. Graeme Cundy, with that legendary Kiwi ‘fix anything with a length of #8 fencing wire mentality’, incorporated Maxwell Winches in 1969 and over the following years, it grew to be the world’s third largest manufacturer of sheet winches.

Not content to sell his well-engineered, ruggedly built and dependable winches in New Zealand and Australia alone, Maxwell Winches thrust into the American market in 1978 with the establishment of Maxwell Marine Inc., in Southern California.

While exhibiting at the 1980 IMTEC boat show in the USA, Maxwell Winches saw opportunities for the inclusion of anchor winches (windlasses) to complement their range; so, in 1983 Maxwell-Nilsson Marine was formed by the merging of Maxwell Winches and Nilsson Anchor Winches, another New Zealand marine company. April 1985 saw the outright purchase of all anchoring systems and designs by Maxwell and the name Nilsson was dropped. By the late 80’s the Maxwell Winches Company began to be known for both its sheet and anchor winches.

The late 80’s also bore witness to another important stage in Maxwell’s development, and a pivotal shift in the industry: the design and release of the world’s first rope/chain capable windlass. This allowed for uninterrupted retrieval when chain was spliced to rope, something that had never been possible prior. By the early 90’s the mounting success of the anchoring systems saw the windlass side of Maxwell rapidly eclipsing the sheet winch market.

Although Maxwell continued to manufacture sheet winches until the mid-1990s’, emphasis on the production of anchor winches had already taken precedence. The decision to cease the manufacture and sale of sheet winches was made in 1995 and the tooling and remaining parts were sold to an Australian company in 2004.

As Maxwell’s growth continued into the new millennium, two more New Zealand manufacturing companies were purchased: Weaver Hatches and Southern Ocean Ropes (SOR). Weaver Hatches became Maxwell Hatches and many of the offshore and inshore models continue to be manufactured today under the VETUS branded “Altus” and “Magnus” models.

On February 23rd, 2008 well known Dutch Boating Systems and Engine Manufacturer VETUS purchased Maxwell, and became known as VETUS-Maxwell, operating under the VETUS group. The Asia Pacific branches employ 36 staff, which in turn service over 23 countries!

2008 was the start of a new era for Maxwell products, as becoming part of the VETUS group precipitated tremendous growth in the European market in both the Power & Sail and Superyacht ranges. The New Zealand engineering team responded to this growth and the changing market with the introduction of several new rope/chain windlasses and increased the SY capabilities.

In keeping with their long history of innovation the Maxwell engineers designed and manufactured the largest windlass test-rig in the Southern hemisphere and (to our knowledge) the world. This allows for testing to certified standards and quality control on the complete range of Maxwell products all the way to an SY44 (for boats 100 meters or more)!

Today, five decades on from the company’s inception, the name Maxwell has become synonymous with the highest standards of performance and reliability in providing anchoring solutions. The company’s international reputation for excellence is backed by its CE and ISO9001 accreditation and adherence to the rigorous standards of international certification agencies such as Lloyds, DNV and Bureau Veritas; to name but a few.

Fiercely defensive of Maxwell’s quality and reputation, the current team continues to work closely with all types of manufacturing yards and vessel operators ranging from trailer boats and pleasure yachts to commercial and military vessels, thus ensuring that Maxwell engineering and product development remains as dynamic and innovative as the industry it serves. To quote Andy Stephens, the CEO for Maxwell APAC: The extensive sales and customer service network Maxwell now has in place due to the synergies with the VETUS brand allows for ongoing and direct feedback to our engineering department. With a head office in Auckland, New Zealand and branch offices in Australia, USA, Europe and South Africa we are able to monitor the global marine industry and ensure the needs of our clients are met regardless of where they are.’

In 2018 Maxwell’s head office and manufacturing facility relocated to a larger premises (nearly twice the capacity of the previous) on the North Shore, and as the marine market continues to grow for the brand globally, the future remains bright for Maxwell. Here’s to another 50 years! Happy Birthday.