Who are Essilor: The brand behind the lenses
Who are Essilor: The brand behind the lenses

Who are Essilor: The brand behind the lenses

The truth is, even if you’ve not heard of Essilor, you’re more than likely wearing lenses made by us. Our history spans 170 years, with ambitious beginnings rooted in the 19th century. Discover more...

We live in a population that increasingly needs lenses to see properly. It was once believed that eyesight, and the deterioration of it, was determined by our genes; it has since been discovered it may actually be down to a huge change in lifestyle. There is a global epidemic of myopia, or short-sightedness, happening across the world. In 2013, it was forecasted that half the world’s population will be myopic by 2050. It was also discovered that myopia had nearly doubled across the younger population within a single generation.

Our lifestyles are ruled by the likes of urban living, digital screens and an ageing population. Both myopia and presbyopia have been linked to the likes of road casualty rates, struggling achievement at school and low productivity at work. 

We can bet that you’ve never really thought about where your spectacles and lenses come from. Your eyewear journey might start, and finish, in your local opticians, but your lenses have had a much bigger trip than that. With around 70% of adults needing corrective lenses, the eyewear industry is an important one, but not many of you will stop to think about how your lenses have been developed; you’re probably just relieved that you can see better!

The truth is, even if you’ve not heard of Essilor, you’re more than likely wearing lenses made by us. Our history spans 170 years, with ambitious beginnings rooted in the 19th century. Not only are we credited with inventing varifocal lenses, but we are dedicated to modern innovation and continued research into providing optimal lenses for every need.

Where did Essilor begin?

Our history goes back as far as 1849, with a spectacle-frame maker known as Société des Lunetiers, SL for short. It quickly acquired lens and frame factories and was already exporting its products all over the world by the end of the 19th century. Experiencing breakthrough innovations throughout its beginnings, it was Bernard Maitenaz, an engineer who joined SL in 1948, who revolutionised the company.

Creating the world’s first varifocal lens in 1959, Maitenaz had developed what became the most important innovation in eyewear since the invention of bifocals in the 18th century. This lens became known as Varilux. Shortly after, in 1962, SL rebranded to Essel.

In 1972, Essel and Silor, two French optical companies, joined forces and began to sell to the market. Specialising in plastic lenses, and thanks to our unique Varilux product, Essilor sparked a new generation of lenses.

Essilor lenses

At Essilor, we create lens solutions that are tailored specifically to your lifestyle and needs; everyone is different, as is everyone’s eyesight. We have two major lens types; Varilux and Eyezen, designed for different purposes to suit your specific needs.


Our flagship lens, Varilux, is a varifocal corrective lens designed to help you see close-up, far away and everything in between with ease. While previous lenses required you to point your nose where you wanted to look, our latest Varilux X series allows you to see through any part of the lens for increased comfort.

Thanks to innovation and research, modern technology has meant we can improve the design of varifocal lenses to create sharp, enhanced vision that helps for seeing everything within arm’s reach.

We have created 3 breakthrough technologies to enhance Varilux X series lenses. Through Xtend technology, your Varilux lens is optimised for multiple near distances between 40cm-70cm for one gaze direction, reducing the need for head movement to find the sweet spot of the lens.

Nanoptix can reduce a sensation of loss of balance, by diminishing image aberration through your lenses. The Varilux X series lens is re-engineered to refine its curvature, resulting in better vision stability.

Synchroneyes allows the lens to maximise vision from edge to edge, bringing all areas of the lens together in one clear image.


Since the invention of single vision lenses in the 1800s, the design has barely changed; but our lifestyles have progressed significantly. At Essilor, we have developed our own single vision corrective lens. Eyezen lenses are designed to keep up with modern, digitally-driven lives, reducing and preventing visual fatigue, making sure eyes don’t have to work quite so hard through the day.

Previously, you would often have to look through the centre of the lens to see clearly, often resulting in neck and shoulder pain when looking at digital screens up close. With Eyezen’s DualOptim technology, the lens is optimised for both distance and near vision, resulting in better comfort and acuity than before.

Essilor lens enhancements

With so many years of experience under our belt, we haven’t just created lenses. in 1992, Essilor first introduced its Crizal lens enhancement. Designed to create an anti-reflective, anti-scratch and anti-smudge surface, it was dubbed a huge advancement for an improved lens experience.

2012 saw the introduction of Crizal UV lenses designed to protect your eyes from harmful UV light. Essilor also introduced the new international index, E-SPF®, designed to help you understand the need for protection from UV rays. What followed was Crizal® Prevencia; the first preventative lens that protects from both harmful blue-violet and UV light. 

Blue-violet light, generated mainly by the sun and, in smaller amounts, LED lighting, is toxic for our eyes and has been identified in recent research to be the most harmful light to the outer retina, and is one contributing factor of age-related macular degeneration.(1)

Similarly, UV light is one of the leading factors of cataracts(2). We know to protect our skin from the sun, so why shouldn’t we protect our eyes too?

Because of this knowledge, in 2016 we created Eye Protect System; the first embedded protection for your lens against harmful light3. The Eye Protect System filters out harmful blue-violet light(3), while letting essential blue-turquoise light through, which we need for cognitive abilities. Without affecting the colour you see through your lens, Eye Protect System is a unique way to support your visual health while delivering an aesthetically clear lens.


In 2014, Essilor acquired 100% of Transitions; the world’s first organic photochromic lens under the brand. Designed to seamlessly adapt to the changing light conditions, Transitions feature fade back and block UV light. 

Transitions originally required UV light to activate the lens. As our lifestyles continued to change and we spend more time out and about in our cars, it was discovered that car windshields block 97% of UV, meaning the lenses didn’t activate. Transitions XTRActive was released, activated from visible light and UV. This was particularly innovative for those who suffer from light sensitivity, as well as those who are outside or driving a lot!



(1) Eye health relies on various factors (age, genetics, smoking, diet). Light is one of the modifiable risk factors on which an ophthalmic lens may act.The outer retina is composed of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells, plus the outer segments of visual photoreceptors. RPE is critical to the functioning, survival and constant renewal of photoreceptors.(Sunlight and the 10-year incidence of age-related maculopathy: The Beaver Dam Eye Study. Arch. Ophthalmol., 122, 750-757.New discoveries and therapies in retinal phototoxicity, Serge Picaud et Emilie Arnault, Points de Vue N°68, Spring 2013.)(2) McCarty CA, Taylor HR. A review of the epidemiologic evidence. linking ultraviolet radiation and cataracts. Dev Ophthalmol. 2002; 35:21-31.(3)Harmful light = UV and Blue-violet light

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