Arriving in Paris.
Essilor’s head office was situated at Créteil , which was a community in the southeast banlieue of Paris. As a big part of the banlieue and different from Paris it was not beautiful and characterized by a large number of apartment buildings of more than 25 stories. These buildings were mainly built in the years after the war until 1975 when the population of Creteil grew rapidly . The architecture of these buildings was practical but because of its dimension cold and impersonal. I remember when Bärbel and I drove through Creteil she was really depressed by the impression to see our future home there. But there were also more attractive parts of Creteil like the area around the lake of Creteil. I lived there during the first weeks of my work at Paris in a Novotel whereas Bärbel still stayed in Germany. In the evening hours I kept looking for a new home in the country. A big number of the people working in Paris is living in the country, and as we were looking for the independence of a house I was absolutely obliged to search on the countryside. This period was a little adventure. The places having real rural character were too far from Paris, so I visited homes in smaller communities in an area 20 to 30 kilometers southeast from Paris. Though not knowing the region, I searched without a real estate manager and I discovered at the same time new homes and new villages. I was offered farm houses , an appartment in an old castle which had to be restored, houses in the new impersonal dormitory settlements which were built continuously around steadily growing Paris. And finally one evening luck stroke in Yerres , a small town of about 30 000 inhabitants in the département Essonnes. The French administration divides the country in 27 regions ( of which 5 are situated overseas) and the regions are subdivided in departments. Every department has a 2 digit code. The code for Essonnes was 91. The house situated in a quiet side street was built in Louis XVI style with dormers emerging from the black slate roof. The outer walls were built of natural stone. The house was built by a now retired craftsman Monsieur Bonneville, who had restored French chateaux in the past (and there are plenty of them in France) and who was a carpentry specialist. Dining and living room were in a line connecting the two gardens in front and behind the house. Between the two rooms there was a big open fire place framed by rich beach wood decoration and from the end of the living room a wooden staircase was spiralling to the first floor. The distance from Yerres to Creteil was about 10 km and it took me about 30 minutes to go there by car, an almost ideal situation for Paris.
Essilor International and the German subsidiary had agreed that my mission in Paris should at first be limited to 2 years. After that Essilor International and I would decide if the mission should be extended. I was reporting to William Lenne, Director of the Innovation department, comprising Marketing, Communication and the Research departments. Michel Gillet was in charge of the Marketing department, named DVO ( Developpement Verres Ophtalmiques). He was one of the “companions” of Bernard Maitenaz during the memorable period of the Varilux invention and market introduction. Starting in the 1950s with the first industrially manufactured progressive Varilux1 until the end of the 1970s with the successful battle to implement Varilux 2 as the most successful correction of the presbyope, Michel Gillet was on the frontline explaining the principle and functions of the new lens, showing how to measure and to adapt it and to help the optician in the case of problems. Numerous brochures , argumentations and publications were of his origin. Now as the progressive lens principle was accepted by the market, the goal had to be to defend the Essilor leadership against the upcoming competition like American Optical, Rodenstock, Zeiss and particularly Sola, a very clever and aggressive Australian- US company. Varilux 2 had been launched in 1972 and its image had to be updated, a new design had to be launched on the market. And my mission was to prepare the marketing environment of the new lens with the code Gamma ( code name changed).