6 Varilux Comfort, a new concept of the progressive lens
The launch of Essilor VMD/ Varilux Infinity slowed down Essilor’s loss of market share but, especially in the USA, the pressure by Sola remained very strong.
To develop a special design for each age class of the presbyopic wearer means a complete database of physiological characteristics. Until ‘91 the young research team under the responsibility of Jean-Louis Mercier had made a big progress in their knowledge about the visual behavior of persons with different age with and without spectacle lens correction. They developed new mathematical and optical tools in order to engineer a design process capable of high performance and reactivity. This team designed daily several new progressive equations corresponding to different physiological concepts in order to select possible candidates for exhaustive comparative wearer tests. A new optical measurement method ( patent US 5 581 347 , filed in France 1993) and sophisticated CNC machines allowed to manufacture the prototypes for the wearer tests respecting a tight timetable and in exact compliance with theoretical data over the whole surface. As a major result of this new process it was for the first time possible to conceive progressive surfaces which were fully aspherized -which is beneficial for the peripheral and dynamic vision- nevertheless maintaining a high quality for foveal vision.
These results offered the opportunity to develop a new progresive lens with exceptional performance following the new iterative Design Loop process. In the middle of 1991 Werner Köppen, now Marketing Director for Essilor Progressive Lenses set up together with the research team the specifications for a second generation of the Multi-Design concept.
The physiological research work concentrated on the comfort of head posture and head and eye movements ( patents US 5 270 745 and US 5 272 495, filed in France 1991) and is described in a paper by Christian Miège and Claude Pedrono . Wearer tests confirmed that Varilux Comfort was distinguished by a more natural vision than with previous progressive lenses with head and eye movements close to the viewing conditions without spectacles. Compared to natural vision the wearer when reading with progressive lenses has to lower the gaze more and to lift the head a little. By a rather short power increase the Varilux Comfort design reduced these changes of the visual behavior considerably. For the progressive lenses before Varilux Comfort a short progression meant however inevitably a rather high peripheral astigmatism. But the Varilux Comfort design is soft and smooth and thereby offers excellent peripheral and dynamic viewing conditions ( patent US 5 488 442, filed in France 1992).Varilux Comfort was the first progressive lens which combined the advantages of a "hard" and a "soft" design, large fields for foveal and peripheral vision and good dynamic viewing conditions .
This vital project for Essilor was managed with high professionalism by Denis Blandin, also Product Manager for Varilux Comfort. Jean-Marc Leroy, Technical Product Manager, was in charge of the technical definition of the product, as regards geometry, power range, materials …., which is so important for the Rx production and a complete, competitive product range.
After a promising market test in France, Netherlands and Germany Varilux Comfort was launched 1993 in Europe and 1994 in the USA and Asia.