The CARL ZEISS Vision Sunlens (re-)evolution

Author: Esther Alonso

Interview of the Month
September 25, 2019

Pietro Speroni, General Manager of Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens

Decades of experience in the optical industry make the Sunlens department at Carl Zeiss an expert commentator on market changes.
Pietro Speroni, General Manager of Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens, explains in this interview with 20/20 Europe the developments in the sector and the company for which he works.

Looking to the future with Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens

Q: When was the department created? How has it evolved?

A: The Sunlens department has been in the market for several decades. As such, we have witnessed how the industry has changed. We have observed the emergence of independent brands in the past decade. They approach the market with a very different spirit and positioning compared to global licensed luxury or fashion brands that have predominated in the market before them.
The distribution system is also clearly shifting to new models: direct to consumer, online, click and mortar, and so on.
These are changes in the market which obviously have an impact on the supply chain, including our company. As such, Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens has also had to change their customer approach and product offer to match new challenges and opportunities.

Q: Design, sport or technology... what drives this sector?

A: We observe a complex market: there is a huge variety and number of sunglasses brands and each one of them is looking for their own unique positioning, through a search for functionality, brand storytelling and of course, through product design research. Sunglasses design is leaning towards greater differentiation; differentiation can also be achieved through a wider variety in the sun lenses used. There are certainly now more design, fashion and lifestyle brands than pure sports players.

Q: How important is the sun lens business in a company like ZEISS?

A: The ZEISS Group revenue was €5.8 bn in the last tax year through their different Strategic Business Units: from semiconductors to camera lenses. The Vision Care BU deals with eyewear lenses and comprises both prescription lenses and plano tinted lenses; the latter are handled globally by our Division: Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens.
Prescription and plano are different businesses, both in terms of product offer and the target: the prescription business focuses on restoring vision for people who suffer from eyesight shortcomings and it addresses for the most part the optician; whereas the Sunlens division focuses on outdoor lenses, mainly for consumers who don’t need ophthalmic correction; we work with sunglass brands and sunglass manufacturers worldwide. Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens’ main customers are frame manufacturers; as such they produce and sell both sunglasses and optical lenses, most of the time to the same trade partners to whom we sell our optical lenses. In the past years the selling of lenses and frames to the Opticians and Optometrists around the world has been managed as separate components but I believe the digitalization is already changing this paradigm. Within the ZEISS world we are the bridge to the frame factories and we look forward to a more integrated supply chain.

\\ ZEISS BioChrom, a new concept in colour management and wellbeing

Q: Do you think the market for non-prescription sun lenses is expanding? Towards which direction does it advance?

A: Although the evergreen tints - such as neutral greys, browns and dark greens are obviously still strong, we are observing a greater usage of diverse lenses, whether we are talking about the lightness of the tint or the saturation, the gradient type, the use of mirrors, coatings, and so on. This is the requirement for the positioning and differentiation of most brands.
Overal, with the matching of lens shapes, colours, tinting type, coatings, our company has developed over 16.000 different sun lens combinations. So sun lenses are definitely a differentiating factor in eyewear these days and I believe there is still a lot of room for further development.
In the past few years we have been quite active with coatings, especially mirrors and anti-reflective coatings in all different types, from functional to decorative. This is a great trend as anti-reflective coatings have a genuine function for tinted lenses and are definitely an added value for consumers.
The fact that more and more brands are applying an AR coating on their lenses means they are aware of the benefits and that they are willing to deliver a high quality product to their customers. Polarization is still a significant topic: sales are important in this area in the US but in Europe and in Asia their market share is still quite low. Given the significant better visual performance they can provide to the users there is still a lot of space for development. We recently launched a significant product innovation in this segment with our LightPro Technology lenses.

Q: What are your releases for the Silmo fair?

A: Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlens is introducing the Spring Summer 2021 Influences: fresh inspiration and a beautiful selection of lenses for the lifestyle and fashion sunglasses brands. It is always a very exciting collection to us as we’re happy to provide trendy concepts and contribute in the development of our customers’ future collections.

Q: What could you tell us about ZEISS LightPro Technology?

A: ZEISS LightPro Technology is a new step in plano sun lenses light management, which balances polarized light in order to offer top contrast and clarity. When light conditions are intense, polarized light can be a source of glare. Intense glare can be blinding and can prevent a good view of the environment. However, when light isn’t too intense, polarized light generates reflection, which helps to provide a full and natural perception of the terrain, of the surroundings and of potential hazards. Thanks to reflection, you get complete visual information.
With LightPro Technology, 47% of polarized light is filtered, and glare is greatly reduced. At the same time, visual information is still amply available with readable details, a higher contrast and depth perception. This includes a better visibility of digital screens which would often turn dark with a standard polarized sun lens. This technology fits both sports applications and lifestyle sunglasses.

Q: What could you tell us about ZEISS BioChromTM?

A: This new product is especially exciting to us as it goes beyond visual improvement and represents a new concept in colour management and wellbeing. BioChromTM tints trigger a biological response and can enhance and influence one’s mood, body performance and brand activity. BioChromTM is the result of thorough studies in vision science, neuroscience, colour physiology and psychology which are then translated into tinted lenses. We developed four tint concepts: Refresh to wake you up, Focus, Boost and Relax. Different enhancers for different times of the day and diverse lifestyles. These lenses are different from our regular range as they’re not exclusively outdoor lenses: they are also conceived for indoor use.

Q: Towards which direction do Zeiss’ future projects advance?

A: Since its foundation, ZEISS has been very active in the field of research and innovation. It is part of our DNA and our customers are expecting this from us. We are working on several projects but of course, given the confidentiality agreements we have in place with our customers, I can not disclose them right now. We will continue to leverage the key elements of our industry: colours, coatings, shapes, and materials but we will also work on new services we want to offer our customers in order to improve our efficiency and the way we help them to realize their ambitions.

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