Near the East German Border

The general manager in Braunschweig was Peter Wolf, who strongly supported my start with Essilor. Essilor Braunschweig was not only a new company for me, but situated  in a completely different cultural region near the iron curtain, separating West from East Germany. The subsidiary was producing organic single vision and multifocal lenses as well as the second tear progressive for the whole German market.  I met a very experienced team, where my expertise was very welcome. My responsibility covered both subsidiaries, i.e. also for the products manufactured in Freiburg which was essentially Varilux.The drafting of sales brochures, publications in the professional magazines, lectures for the opticians and the WVAO was the same type of activity as in the years before, but now in the name of the company, which had invented and developed such innovative products as the progressive lens and the organic lens material. In order to evaluate the parameters of our products and those of the competitors we created a small measurement laboratory and we hired  a young engineer, Erhard Kampmeier, for the management of the lab. Together with him we conceived  a device to measure the isoastigmatism contour plots, describing the surface geometry of progressive lenses. At that time the battle  about the performance of progressive lenses, using contour plots as proof, was an essential part of the technical discussion. Supported by a small engineering firm near Nuremberg we designed within about 6 months the 3D measurement apparatus for about 100 000,- DM. It was about 10 times less expensive than the big commercial machines . Now we could establish the contour plots of each new progressive directly after its market introduction and were not dependent from information from the parent company in Paris. Other measurement devices, as for example for the evaluation of coatings, were already available and so the Technical Marketing had all the technical means to support  the sales force on the market as well as the production and quality organization. In only a few months our expertise was fully recognized and there was a regular and continuous demand for the assistance of the new group.

Our private settlement was a little more complicated. For the administration of our house in Bavaria we appointed a property manager and in Braunschweig we kept looking for a new home in the City.  We found a comfortable apartment, but for people  accustomed to the rural lifestyle  it was a little too noisy. So we decided that we should return to the country-side , where we rented a renovated farm-worker house in an isolated location near a farm. The new home was situated amidst oak and chestnut trees and in winter nights we had roe deer and red deer searching for chestnuts and acorns only a few meters in front of our windows.

Braunschweig was  founded in the 9.th century by the Saxons. Its most prominent medieval personality was Heinrich der Löwe ( Henry the Lion) of the House of of Welf  in the 12 th century. The fight between the  Welf and the Staufer dynasties for the title of the Roman German Emperor was one of the outstanding events of the German middle ages. In World War II bombing destroyed Braunschweig to almost 50% ( the center to 90%) and so only a few monuments as the castle and the dome as well as some half- timbered houses recall that Braunschweig was the largest timber-frame city of Germany. So it took not very long to visit  the sightseeings of Braunschweig  and we spent the weekends to explore the region north of  the Harzgebirge  which to a certain extent  was  similar to what we had experienced near the Netherlands border during our stay at Oberbruch.  We discovered  the picturesque  small  city of Wolfenbüttel,  nearly not damaged by the war, which gives an idea of what Braunschweig has looked like before the bombing in 1944. But time to learn the region better was short because in the middle of 86,  less than one year since we arrived at Braunschweig, Peter Wolf told me that Gerard Cottet ,CEO of Essilor International (chairman was Bernard Maitenaz, the inventor of Varilux) was interested for me to come to the head office at Paris to strengthen the Innovation Team under William Lenne.

For my wife and me the possibility to work and live at Paris was a dream. As we both spoke an acceptable French we were not afraid to meet difficulties to adapt and integrate. The news were less exciting for our landlord at Warxbüttel, because we had stayed only for some months in the newly renovated home.

Before we were looking for a new home in France we sold our Bavarian house in Pischelsdorf. The administration did not work as it should . The first renter, seriously selected still by us personally, disappeared in direction South America. He was in financial trouble, as we learned later, which was confirmed by the fact that he took our curtains including the curtain rods.