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Introducing the Rapha Classic Sunglasses, the perfect blend of elegant style and uncompromising on-bike performance.
Handmade in Italy and designed with a less overtly ‘sporting’ aesthetic, the Classic Sunglasses are versatile enough for training and social rides, as well as time off the bike. Offering a similar weight and field of vision as the more technical-looking styles found in the pro peloton, the glasses have a wraparound shape inspired by the history of bike-racing eyewear. This shape also aids airflow, ensuring the lenses won’t mist up and that the glasses can be worn with all helmet types. The frame is made of a lightweight acetate, a cotton-based material manufactured, by hand, by Mazzucchelli of Italy. Rubber-tipped nose pads and rubber arms hold the glasses in place.
Lens technology is supplied courtesy of Carl Zeiss Vision, and each of the three colourways features its own distinctive lens colour. All three lens colours are coated, for 100% protection from UV rays, and both the green and brown lenses are polarized for anti-glare. The pink lens is not polarized and is designed for low-light conditions.
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- Handmade in Italy
- Wraparound shape for excellent coverage
- Lenses by Carl Zeiss Vision
- Designed to fit with any helmet
- Mazzucchelli acetate frames
- Metal core
- nose pads built into frame
- Shaped for universal fit
- View lens info
The Rapha Classic Sunglasses have a distinctive wraparound shape that has been designed to suit multiple face shapes and sizes. For an idea of how they might look with your features, please use the guide below.
The Rapha product team recently visited Mazzucchelli 1849 and Carl Zeiss Vision, the key component suppliers for the Rapha Classic Glasses, to learn more about two of the most prestigious players in the eyewear industry.Continue Reading »
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.
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.
In the early days of cycle sport, riders often had to endure atrocious conditions. Mud and dust meant eye protection was critical. These pioneering routiers favoured an inherently intrepid aesthetic. Aviation or motoring goggles were popular, and were often made from leather and glass, which was sometimes smoked. Other options included welding glasses, ‘glacier’ goggles, and even ski visors. As technology and the eyeshade market developed, crossovers between industrial design and everyday spectacle frames became more common. Giuseppe Ratti’s Persol designs, for example, were used by early NASA pilots and were also worn by style icons from Fausto Coppi to Steve McQueen.Continue Reading »
Another style worn by men like Coppi (and still one of the most iconic and enduring styles to this day) was the ‘aviator’, an American design made by Bausch + Lomb. More commonly known by the brand name Ray-Ban, this style offered the first ‘wrap-around’ protection, and was soon picked up by riders such as Eddy Merckx. Another timeless style made famous by Ray-Ban and fashonistas from across the globe is the ‘wayfarer’. A shape still imitated today by countless brands, and in myriad colours and materials, the wayfarer is hard to beat for a cool façade.
Motorsport as well as aviation continued to influence the cycling eyewear market, with German brand Carrera pioneering the use of ‘photochromic’ plastics in lenses. But it was fledgling Californian company Oakley, starting out in the world of motor cross and BMX, that, in the 1980s, dramatically redefined cycle sport eyewear, their styles finding favour with English speaking riders such as Greg LeMond and Phil Anderson.