Competencies - June 2022

Flushing with Phoenix – day after day

Old but gold

An original Phoenix wooden cistern from Geberit is still doing its job reliably in the Swiss city of Winterthur.

When sanitary specialists hear the word “Phoenix”, their thoughts first turn to the pioneering wooden cistern and not the immortal bird from Greek mythology. Developed back in 1905 by Albert Emil and Leo Gebert – the sons of the company founder – the forefather of all flushing cisterns laid the foundation for the future growth of the company.

“We wanted to keep it”
One of these Phoenix models is still in action in the 2 sqm guest bathroom of a sprightly pensioner in Winterthur, Switzerland.

The owner has no idea about how old the wooden cistern with lead lining and lead fittings is. All she knows is that it was already there when she bought the house back in 1983. “Right from the beginning, it was clear that we wanted to keep it,” she says.

Originally painted grey, the proud owner had the cistern stripped back to the wood finish, replaced the old pull chain with a retro model and purchased a WC seat and lid in matching wood design. The small guest bathroom exudes the charm of a bygone era.

Picture of the original Phoenix wooden cistern from Geberit.
The charm of days gone by: the original Phoenix wooden cistern from Geberit. (Photo: Ben Huggler)

“It would have been a shame to replace it”
Despite its reliability, the years have still taken their toll on the Phoenix. A few years ago, an overhaul of the cistern was needed.

The plumber Paul Bosshard was well aware of the historical value of the original product, and immediately accepted the job of bringing the old yet still functional cistern up to scratch: “It would have been a shame to replace it. It’s a perfect fit for the small guest WC.”

True craftsmanship
Given its age, the overhaul of the Phoenix required a great deal of expertise. The experienced craftsman, who completed his apprenticeship as plumber in Winterthur more than 40 years ago, thoroughly descaled and cleaned the float valve and flush valve. “Making running repairs on a cistern like this requires some real handiwork and a certain skill,” he explains, as the flush mechanism works differently to the flushing systems seen today. “It has to be a real labour of love.”

View inside the Phoenix.
Despite all the deposits, the lead-lined cistern still goes about its work reliably – thanks to the work carried out by the specialist. (Photo: Ben Huggler)

“I’ll keep servicing the wooden cistern for as long as possible”
This additional work is all part of the service offered by the plumber, much to the delight of the owner: “I wouldn’t trust anyone else to work on my Phoenix.” And what does the saviour of this historical gem have to say? “I’ll keep servicing the Geberit wooden cistern for as long as possible.”