“Von Arkel eyewear has been inspired by the precision of Swiss watch making since it was founded by Christophe Kozma in 2014. Now a focus on design is pushing this high-tech frame maker into the realms of luxury fashion.
When project Von Arkel began designing eyewear, it was heavily influenced by watchmaking. Indeed, Christophe Kozma, a Swiss born optometrist and founder of Von Arkel, loved the “tricks” of the trade and approached a great friend who was a watch engineer for help.
“My friend was working in a renowned company in the Vallee-de-Joux, where all the big brands of watches are made. His company comes up with innovative ideas, developing new patented systems for the major watch brands.
“I went to see his company and asked whether it would be possible to collaborate on developing a new hinge system for glasses. At first I was told, ‘no way, we are only doing watches,’ so my friend and I started working collaborating during week-ends and days off. However, when the project reached a point of maturity, my friend and I decided to ask his boss again for help. Eventually he said, ‘OK let’s do it, it will be a first for us,’ and so we created the Calibre 9.0 hinge.”
the Von Arkel hinge enables a pair of glasses to be transformed in colour and style, and worn as an exclusive jewellery accessory
The Calibre 9.0 is composed of just two parts, which allows for easy assembling, as well as a simultaneous fixture of the lenses and temples via a double lock mechanism. It joined Caliber 8.00, which had been developed by the same friend with the help of a business partner in the eyewear industry. Later came the Calibre 6.0 and soon there are more to come.
“Our hinges are made using the same fusion of tempered steel and polishing techniques used in watchmaking. They offer exceptional solidity and sturdiness, without relying on screws, glue, soldering, or rivets,” said Mr. Kozma. “It’s a mechanism that allows the lenses to be tightened while ensuring freedom of arm movement thanks to integrated friction regulation.”
Indeed the hinge, which seamlessly connects the temple with the frame face via a ‘canon and axle’, simply locks into place, though the wearer will never be able to work out how.
“The process is really simple, yet it looks complicated, so once the optometrist knows the secret of unlocking and locking the hinge, they can do it in front of a customer and it is like an impressive magic trick. Importantly, in the end, the hinge is really reliable – once it is fixed in place, you can never lose the temple. That’s the spirit of Von Arkel – the same as a watch, it looks simple but the mechanism is very complicated and very reliable.”
Focusing on Fashion
Initially, Von Arkel had its eyewear designed with male customers in mind. More recently however, the brand has broadened its market taking on board a Swiss designer who is expanding the collection to appeal to females. Addressing a broader range of clientele, and with a presence in about 20 countries, has forced the team to think further and differently. “It makes of course, the adventure richer and more thrilling” said Mr. Kozma.
“My main focus was on technology, and as an optometrist with experience in my boutiques in Switzerland, I was producing timeless shapes that male customers like. But today with our technical core value better established, the brand has full legitimation to explore super high-end designs in more depth. In this respect, we have pushed our new designer to produce shapes that are younger and more fashion focussed, while keeping the same DNA”.
“In general, our eyewear for men is promoted on the technology of the hinge whereas our eyewear for women is all about glamour – our eyewear is like a piece of glamorous jewellery.”
Jewellery for the Face
As well as being a technological feat, the Von Arkel hinge enables a pair of glasses to be transformed in colour and style, and worn as an exclusive jewellery accessory.
There are plenty of hinges to choose from, in a number of different finishes, from polished stainless steel to 23.5-carat gold finished by PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition, a physical tint embedded into the metal) and coated with diamond like carbon for extra hardness and high corrosion resistance. Some hinges are encrusted with rubies, sapphires, and there’s a special diamond encrusted edition as well.
Von Arkel’s ambition is for customers to have frames that can last over time.
“You choose your hinges, with their exclusive precious gemstones, and you keep them for a life-time, and then with the evolution of fashion, you change your frame, as it pleases you – twice a year – once a year. The jewellery hinge, which gives you your unique identity, remains the same. You simply change the look of your glasses by dropping into your optometrist to choose your new frame and have the jewellery hinge plugged into place – that’s the concept of Von Arkel,” he said.
“So you see, you turn glasses into jewellery. In fact, this concept is even better than jewellery. When you wear earrings for instance, they can be hidden by hair whereas when you have gems embedded at the temple of your spectacles, everyone can see them.”
As you’d expect, the hinges are much more expensive than regular hinges you can find on the market. Fortunately, the system does not require optometrists to keep a full selection of hinges in stock. “We have created an app for your iPad which allows you to show your patients the full range of hinges and they can make their choice from there,” said Mr. Kozma… and of course, the great thing is that this system tightens the relationship between patient and optometrist as the optometrist will always be required to lock new hinges into place. Smart!
Von Arkel is distributed in Australia by MYM Group