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Rapha Classic Glasses II
The perfect blend of classic style and modern performance, Rapha’s Classic Glasses are now available in a smaller, refined size, alongside new frame colours.
Fit for all
The frame and lens of the Classic Glasses II are 20% smaller than the original Classic Glasses, to suit a wider range of face shapes. A longer frame arm provides a secure fit, whether worn on top of the head or in the vents of a helmet.
Occhialissimi: Mazzucchelli 1849 and Zeiss Vision
The Rapha product team visited Mazzucchelli 1849 and Carl Zeiss Vision, the key component suppliers for the Rapha Classic Glasses II, to learn more about two of the most prestigious players in the eyewear industry.
Due to both topography (rivers and lakes) and politico-economic heritage (Austro-Hungarian influence), the Lombardy region of northern Italy is the wealthiest and most industrialised area of the country. Just to the south of the Dolomites, those epic natural structures described by Corbusier as “les plus belles constructions du monde” reside factories producing all types of consumer goods, from shoes to cheese to helicopters. A little further out of the shadow of the Dolomites is Castiglione Olona, a commune of the province of Varese, and home to Mazzucchelli 1849 and Carl Zeiss Vision Vision, suppliers of the components for the new Rapha Classic Glasses II.
Eyewear history is somewhat blurred, but it’s safe to say Europe began to ‘manufacture’ ocular aids in the 14th century. Italian historians might have you believe eyeglasses were invented in Pisa a century earlier. But these new ‘oculars’ were, at first, only sported by literate types; so priests in Tuscany may well have popularised spectacles. As technology and literacy developed, so too did the need for magnification of written and printed communication.
By the twentieth century transportation, aviation, motorsports and more outdoor ‘leisure’ activities were making further demands on the eyeballs, so protective eyewear came into play. And unsurprisingly, northern Italy, with its proximity to ski slopes, aircraft facilities and innovative industries, not to mention fashion capital Milan, became the world’s centre for eyewear and sunglasses manufacturing.
Whilst they don’t work exactly in tandem, Mazzucchelli and Carl Zeiss Vision used to share the same factory buildings before what was then Sola Optical merged with the German company Carl Zeiss Vision. Zeiss, alongside producing high spec optics for eyewear here in Castiglione Olona, manufacture some of the world’s best photographic, surgical and magnification lenses. But it’s here in Lombardy where they produce optical lenses and coatings for eyewear.
In 1846 Carl Carl Zeiss Vision opened a precision mechanics and optics workshop in Jena, Germany and since then the company has invented the first anti-reflective coating, built the first surgical microscope and helped the first man on the moon take photographs of the lunarscape. They also now work in the video glasses field, conducting more boffin-optics than we’d care to mention. Carl Zeiss Vision is the industry standard for sun-lenses, so they test a lot. They offer the same optical quality as prescription lenses and often ‘exceed international standards’.
They boil lenses, test them with bayer, eraser, steel wool and stick them under an accelerated weathering process. Colour consistency is tested with a spectrophotometer alongside refractive power and visual acuity. A man in a white coat in their very serene R&D laboratory says “prismatic power and precise vision is what we’re looking for”.
“Recipes are developed in the laboratory for tones and tints, and the lenses are then bathed in solutions, and sprayed or injected with particular coatings, then cleaned. Then they are tested with intense UV rays and other simulated conditions such as humidity and precipitation.”
Under the UV light of their accelerated weathering machine 100 hours equates to two years of sunlight. Sunlight photons are emitted in a random manner so coatings and injections balance this. With sports lenses you generally achieve a view beyond the point of origin of the reflections for a clearer view. Lenses also increase contrast and make things seem hyper-real.
And the great thing about polycarbonate and polyamide lenses is they do not shatter. And for cyclists, of course, they also keep flies out of your eyes; can they test for this? “Not yet…”
Mazzucchelli 1849 is perhaps less famous than Carl Zeiss Vision but no less prestigious… As suggested by the name the company was founded in 1849 by Santino Mazzucchelli, originally as a button making business. As the company grew they began to manufacture combs and by the turn of the twentieth century were making a variety of consumer products from raw materials like horn, metals and shell, but also celluloid. This production of early ‘lifestyle plastics’ led to expertise in acetate manufacturing and the advent of fashionable eyewear frames.
The offices of Mazzucchelli are eye-opening themselves, an example of mid-century civil architecture, juxtaposed with the 19th century yellow stucco buildings also on site. Erected in the late 1950s, the architect wished to incorporate the ‘plastic art’ of the era that Mazzucchelli made its name on. Outdoor coatings and external renders were made using polyvinyl and vacuum mouldings. Inside the building remain the plastic coatings, tile patterns and vacuum formed furnishings that were so fashionable at that time.
Having formed an alliance with motor giant Fiat in the 1950s it was at this period that Franco Mazzucchelli and business partner Giorgio Orsi vowed to ‘ennoble plastics’, developing innovative ideas in fashion, art and consumer goods. But the reason acetate is still used is not just rose tinted nostalgia, it’s one of the more beautiful man-made fibres and certainly the most eye-catching (and not just because photographic film is made from cellulose acetate).
First prepared in 1865, cellulose acetate fibre is one of the earliest synthetic fibres and is based on cotton or tree pulp cellulose (“biopolymers”). It has a fantastic feeling, compared to other more ‘hard’ thermoplastics and anyone who has a semblance of a vinyl record collection will know there is something acetate has – it’s tactile, tenacious and enchanting. It is resilient too, breathes, dries quickly, and has no static cling.
Then there are the patterns and aesthetics you can create with it. Deep brilliant shades, light reflections creating gorgeous effects, which is why it began to be used as a more economical alternative to horn and tortoise shell… It’s godly design, manmade yet having something of the natural, precious quality to it. The original Lego bricks were manufactured from cellulose acetate from 1949 to 1963.
Acetate production starts with a clear material made from cotton, then mixed into this is the colour or powder. This is then spun into fibres, aged and dried. This creates a base colour for the patterns and textures to be developed.
They have a real expertise in design. Creating the patterns is puzzle like, the sheets of colour are then combined in presses or vices and compressed to create unique patterns ready to be cut and moulded into frames.
85% of Mazzuchelli’s production is frames for eyewear. But it’s not just for the idea of seeing, it’s to be seen as well. It occurred, as we walked around both premises, that the sensorial effects the road has on a rider is enhanced by good sunglasses, and back round came that Paul Fournel quote again, now meaning even more, “to look good is already to go fast.” And to see well is just as important.