The story of Kern began in 1819, when Jakob Kern opened a workshop in Aarau, Switzerland, for the production of mathematical, levelling and field measuring instruments. In 1885, the firm was named Kern & Company. Under the direction of Heinrich Kern, the grandson of Jakob Kern, the company continued to manufacture an increasing range of surveying instruments.
The optical and lens departments of Kern & Co. AG opened in 1914. The heavy demand for fine optics brought on by the first World War led to the construction of new factory buildings. From these shops came the Kern anastigmat lens with a speed of f/6.3 and f/4.5.