Personalised lens recommendations and driving vision are hot topics in 21st century eyecare. Practitioners increasingly seek out opportunities to sell multiple pairs, and deliver customised eyewear solutions to meet the full range of their patients’ vision needs. But did you know that recommendations according to lifestyle has been around for more than a century… and the single biggest reason for its emergence was the automobile?
The emergence of the car industry in the early 20th century spurred a revolution in eyewear. Eyeglasses that worked well for day-to-day life weren’t suited for the stresses and demands of motorists – especially with the open-air vehicles and unpaved roads of those early days of driving.
ZEISS played a key role in developing new technologies and designs that met the needs of drivers of the day through its subsidiary, American Optical. In turn, these innovations influenced the evolution of the automobile.
History began with high tech Goggle glasses, not Google glasses. Around 1910, goggles became stylish fashion accessories, along with heavy driving coats and scarves. Driving goggles were often lined with fur or leather, and signalled that the wearer was affluent and tech savvy. In the same way that a consumer today might flaunt an Apple Watch, the trendiest people a century ago made sure they were seen sporting fashionable driving eyewear.
But driving glasses were more than just a style statement and vision enhancement. They needed to deliver a wide range of functional benefits. Grit and particles could get into the eye, and high-performance spectacles needed to offer safety protection.
Even the earliest commercial automobiles didn’t have windshields – eyewear was the only thing separating drivers from oncoming objects. When Oldsmobile finally offered the windshield as standard in 1915, the car manufacturer took the lead from the eyewear field.
However, they still had much to learn from eyeglasses. Early windshields shattered easily and had poor optical qualities. Smart motorists continued to rely on their eyeglasses for protection as well as style.
Tints improved driver comfort, and by the 1920s, protection from UV rays also became widely available. Here too the auto industry learned from eyewear, borrowing many features for more advanced windshields.
Fascinating materials that will be shared over the coming months by ZEISS, in conjunction with the launch of its new DriveSafe lenses, will call attention to the long and interesting history of automotive eyewear.
These exhibits, drawn from the collection of the Optical Heritage Museum in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and sponsored by ZEISS, promote and display materials from the company’s American Optical archives. “ZEISS and American Optical laid the foundations for most of the eyecare field as we know it today,” said Hilke Fitzsimons, Managing Director of Carl Zeiss Pty Ltd.
“When the two companies came together in 2005, this not only represented a powerful business partnership but the union of two organisations that invented modern eyewear. We want to make more of these historical materials available online and in travelling exhibits.”
“Drivers still require the best technology for their vision needs today,” said Ms. Fitzsimons. “Surveys show over two-thirds of adults have difficulty in driving in low light or adverse weather conditions. Our new DriveSafe lenses address problems of glare, depth perception, and vision acuity at all distances. We are proud to represent a long history of meeting the special needs of motorists, and also to remain at the forefront of the field in the current day.”
Jeff Hopkins is a journalist and business consultant who has an extensive background in the optical industry. He is based in San Diego, California.
ZEISS is making images from the collection available to practitioners for use in their blogs and patient communications in conjunction with the launch of its new DriveSafe lenses. View the images at facebook.com/zeissbettervision.anz