I purchased the Gunter Wilhelm 10" Chef's knife in December, 2008. I have been using a decent quality 8" stamped chef's knife for the last fifteen years and decided it was time to buy my first quality forged chef's knife. My target price was $100 and I had a hard cap of $125. GW's $65 price tag caught my eye.
I spent a great deal of time researching my purchase and compared the blade with the Henckels Classic, Shun Classic, Victorinox and Messermeister 10" models. GW mentions Henckles and Wusthof numerous times on their website so clearly they consider these brands their target competitors. The Wustoff was out of my price range. I eliminated the Henckels because the bolster extended the the heel of the blade, a feature (among many) I hated on a Forged Chicago Cutlery 8" knife I'd previously acquired. I eliminated the Shun because I didn't like the rounded handle. This left the Victorinox, GW and Messermeister knives. All appeared to be using a similar quality high carbon stainless steel. The GW was the front runner because of the price and attractive styling of the blade. I did have some concerns however and called GW's toll free number on a Saturday afternoon to see how they responded. The weekend answering service didn't know much but took my number and assured me someone would call me back on Monday. Paul Hellman, the company's founder, called be back less than 20 minutes later. I told Paul I was concerned about the place of manufacture and design of the bolster. He assured me that the blades were forged in Germany and only finished in China. Paul also told me that the blade was sharp all the way to the heel and the bolster was designed so the blade could be run across a sharpening steel from tip to heel without interference from the bolster. I thought about it for a few days and placed the order.
I have now used the knife daily for 8 months for everything from chopping vegetables and slicing meat to breaking down chicken, pork and beef purchased in bulk. I have the following observations:
1) The blade is very sharp from the factory, retains its edge quite well and is refreshed with just a few strokes across my sharpening steel. I use this knife when slicing tomatoes. It cuts through the skin cleanly with no pressure beyond the weight of the blade. Although I have run the blade over my finishing stone a couple of times it really has not needed to be sharpened yet.
2) The knife is well balanced and fits my large hand nicely. There is plenty of knuckle clearance when chopping unless I am seriously ham-fisting the handle.
3) Finally a criticism. The most common use of the chefs knife for me is dicing onions and mincing garlic. I like to remove the skins and papers by pinching them between my thumb and the back corner of the blade and pulling them off. The way the bolster tapers down from the handle to the heel of the blade makes it much more difficult than a knife with a truly bolsterless heel. I often put up with this inconvenience because I don't want to use two knives and this knife is much better at chopping, dicing and mincing that my other two chfs knives but this feature is quite frustrating. I have considered taking my Dremel to the bolster but that just seems wrong.
Verdict: Very good quality knife at a great price. Beautiful and well balanced I prefer it to my Fathers comparable Henckels piece. However, if your onion chopping technique is similar to mine, I suggest you pony up the extra $40 or so for a comparable 10" chefs knife with a truly bolsterless heel.
P.S. Both Paul and the lady managing his warehouse were courteous and responsive to my inquiries. Excellent customer service.