3 Competition shows up

3.1 USA

In the first half of the 1960's in the USA Univis launched the Omnifocal , a progressive with a front surface of revolution with substantially constant astigmatism over all the surface. This “isostigmatic” front surface was combined with a back surface of sphero-cylindrical power resulting from the superposition of the compensation cylinder and the prescription. This concept was presented by David Volk and Joseph Weinberg in 1962 [5] and the manufacturing process of aspheric surfaces of revolution was patented in US 3 239 967 (filed 1963) and the lens design in US 3 623 800 (filed 1969).

In 1975 when American Optical launched its Ultraview 25 (AO 7 in Europe) [6],it was the world leader in turnover in the Ophthalmic Optics industry. The optical design was conceived by John Talley Winthrop and protected by three patents filed in 1975 (continuation of a first application in 1973): In US 4 056 311, US 4 062 629 and US 4 055 379 he describes progressive surfaces with lateral zones in which the principal axes of astigmatism are horizontal and vertical. These portions are blended either by particular aspheric areas or by the thermal slumping process of the mould. The AO Ultraview was of the” hard design” type with spherical far and near vision zones and a short progression. It was a progressive design tailor made for the important US bifocal market.

As before in Europe the introduction of the new lens type on the US market was not easy because the ECP’s had no experience with progressive lenses. Consequently at the beginning the return rate due to centering and adaptation problems was rather high. In 1975 Essilor created MOC, the US subsidiary for the Varilux distribution. Based on the experience during the Varilux introduction in Europe the strategy of MOC was a thorough training on the specific characteristics of the new lens. This training was organized for the ECP’s and a limited number of labs, selected for the Varilux distribution.

So at the beginning in the US the challenge for Essilor was less to fight against competition but to do the pioneer work to educate and convince the market of the benefits of the progressive lens. This situation changed fundamentally in 1985, when SOLA launched its first progressive lens VIP.