France has a rich tradition of expertise in eyewear manufacturing. The craft of making glasses flourished in Jura, a region in eastern France near the Swiss border. A number of eyewear brands that still exist today were born in the region.

 

A little history

The first glasses appeared in Italy around the 13th century. They were mainly used by monks who copied and illuminated manuscripts—very tiring work for the eyes. Glasses made the work more comfortable.

 

Glasses were very expensive and made of precious materials, so they soon became fashionable among the aristocracy. With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, glasses became more widespread. As the literacy rate increased during the Renaissance, more and more people began using glasses to make reading easier, among other things.

 

A region with serious expertise

Eyeglass manufacturing was industrialized in Morez, Haut-Jura, in the 19th century. Specialized metalworkers had been active in the area since the 16th century. In 1796, master nail maker Pierre Hyacinthe Caseaux designed the first wire frames. By the early 19th century, he employed 13 workers and produced 3,600 pairs of glasses per year, selling them in France and Switzerland.

The Jura region

Morez

Glasses circa the late 18th century. ©Musée de la lunette. Photo: Pierre Guénat

Hyacinthe Caseaux paved the way for a new generation of industrialists, who achieved great success with wire-frame glasses from the 1830s onwards. Eyewear manufacturing gradually improved, and very light metal frames quickly became the region’s specialty. 

 

They were developed based on metalworking techniques: a wire encircled the lenses, and end pieces welded on either side held a screw that was used to tighten the wire around the lenses. 

 

In just 20 years, from 1826 to 1848, production in the region expanded from 3,000 to 720,000 pairs of glasses. The boom continued, with 11 million pairs produced in 1882 by dozens of companies powering the region’s economy. In 1900, Morez became the capital of French eyewear as a result of its reputation for quality and creativity1.

 

Since the Second World War, eyewear manufacturing has evolved based on fashion and innovation, including the advent of new materials like plastic. The future of eyewear manufacturing in the region is bright. It’s home to a school that trains eyewear makers, opticians, and technicians and continues to teach traditional skills combined with modern technology. Today, Jura is a world leader in handmade eyewear.

 

A mark of quality

Opto-Réseau clinics carry frames from a number of companies based in Jura that still use the multi-stage artisanal process. The frames in our exclusive Millésime collection are a good example. They are handmade by Roussilhe, which is based in Oyonnax. In 2012, they were the first frames to obtain Origine France Garantie certification. Every detail of the brand’s metal and acetate frames is carefully planned and finely crafted. The concepts, designs, colours, materials, comfort and functionality, durability, and aesthetics of the frames are meticulously scrutinized.

 

The Millésime collection is inspired by classic shapes and designed for modern life. The collection also takes inspiration from French culture, with the frames named after icons like Juliette Binoche, Vanessa Paradis, Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Béart, and Fanny Ardant.

 

Artisanal touches such as hand-crafted temple tips, riveting, guilloche work, polishing, and more are the result of traditional craftsmanship.

Morel, the company behind brands like 1880, Koali, Oga, Lightec, and Nomad, is also located Jura, in the town of Morbier. Its frames have been designed, manufactured, assembled, and tested there since 1880. Julbo, which is renowned for high-quality sports eyewear, also follows tradition by hand making its frames at its facility in Longchaumois, Haut-Jura. Julbo makes frames for the whole family, from young children needing comfortable and adjustable frames to adult sports enthusiasts seeking performance.

Morel

Morel’s head office in Morbier

Julbo

The craft of eyeglass making was born and bred in Jura. The region is home to quality products that have put French eyewear on the map. Try on our selection of French frames at one of our clinics to see why they’re renowned the world over.

1 http://www.lunetiers-du-jura.com/page/deux-siecles-dhistoire-industrielle-a-morez