Today many companies outsource a lot of the parts of their products, and the sunglass lenses found in today's aviator sunglasses can come from many different parts of the world. For the most part, however, the 4 primary places where sunglass lenses are manufactured are China, Germany, Japan and the United States. But are they all created equal?
Sunglass Lens Materials
There are 3 basic materials sunglass lenses are manufactured from:
Aviator sunglasses can be found ranging in price from less than $ 10.00 a pair to over $ 1,000. a pair, so it should be clear that the lens materials used in these sunglasses can not possibly be of the same quality. A good pair of aviator sunglasses will cost between $ 100. to about $ 500., and will have crown mineral glass lenses.
Why Glass Lenses?
Crown Mineral Glass lenses can be ground so that they are distortion free right to the edge, providing the very best visual acuity. In addition, crown mineral glass lenses, even a clear glass lens, will block 95% of harmful uv radiation. Also, glass lenses will take the tint very well, and the tint will not fade over time. The problem comes in when we consider the weight of the glass lenses in the sunglass frame.
Glass Lens Manufacturing
Sunglass companies, like all companies, are under pressure from their stockholders to increase shareholder value. This means that the sunglass companies must get the cost of their product down to the very lowest cost possible. As a result a lot of sunglass lens manufacturing has moved overseas to China, Germany and Japan. So how do the lenses compare from manufacturers in these 3 countries? Everyone starts with the same thing - a round crown mineral glass plug that looks like a hockey puck. They then grind his glass puck down as thin as possible while making sure that the lens remains distortion free right out to the edge. This is very important for peripheral vision. The first issue is how thin can they make the sunglass lenses without failing to meet the ANSI standards for impact resistance. The second issue relates to the different coatings that get applied to one or both sides of the lens. The third issue is quality control.
How Can We Know?
The best way to evaluate where the best aviator sunglass lenses are manufactured is by talking to the sunglass manufacturers to see what their experience is. We represent several of the better aviator sunglasses companies, and through conversations with them it is our opinion that the lenses manufactured in China have the greatest number of problems, followed by the German manufacturers and then the Japanese manufacturers. It seems that Chinese manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to control costs which has resulted in some quality control issues. In addition, they do not seem to be able to get the lenses as thin as possible. Several of the companies I represent have moved lens manufacturing from China to Germany or Japan. For a long time German manufacturers like Zeiss have been known for the quality of their lenses, in particular lenses for cameras. In addition Zeiss manufactures a lot of sunglass lenses
for the better class of sunglass companies like Randolph Engineering, Inc. Serengeti sunglasses use lenses
made by Corning because they are 20% thinner and lighter than those made by other manufacturers. Corning uses hydrogen fueled lehr furnaces to activate each lens with photochromic properties made famous by Serengeti. Needless to say the cost of these exceptional lenses makes Serengeti sunglasses more expensive than those dime store sunglasses that sell for a couple of bucks. Today there are a number of companies centered in the Fukui Prefecture
in Japan which are world renowned for the quality of their lenses and frames. In fact, titanium frames were first invented by a company in Japan. When Jeff Herold of Scheyden Precision Eyewear
couldn't find a quality pair of flip-up sunglasses
to wear while flying his TBM700, he immediately began to research all of the lens and frame manufacturers in the world and is convinced that the Japanese frame and lens manufacturers are the best in the world. In fact, after designing and manufacturing an excellent line of flip-up sunglasses he expanded the line to more traditional aviator sunglasses like their Mustang and Maverick styles
We hope this information helps you understand why the price of sunglasses can vary so widely, and why some sunglasses are much better than others. Have a prosperous day!