No sooner had Luxottica and Essilor announced their merger plans in mid-January than industry observers began speculating about the changes that might result from it. The history-making mega deal will create a $15 billion optical behemoth that would be involved in virtually every sector of the optical industry, from retail and wholesale to frames, spectacle lenses and managed vision care.
Financial analysts were quick to point out the potential synergies that could result by combining the world’s largest frame supplier with the world’s largest lens maker. On a purely product level, there are some obvious benefits to the matchup, such as Essilor supplying sun lenses for Ray-Ban sunglasses. But let’s consider some other ways the two companies might collaborate in the ophthalmic lens arena.
Luxottica’s Oakley unit has already offered Essilor lenses as options for some of its sunwear styles. But a deeper collaboration could combine Oakley’s proprietary optics with Essilor’s own sun lens expertise and that of its Costa subsidiary. Additionally, Essilor’s strength in lens design, coatings, materials, lens processing and lab systems would add another valuable element.
An Oakley-Essilor hookup might also involve electronic eyewear, a field in which Oakley is a leader. Oakley was one of the first eyewear companies to venture into wearable technology, first with its Airwave ski goggles and more recently with Radar Pace, a smart eyewear coaching system it developed with Intel. Luxottica also has a relationship with Google aimed at redesigning Glass.
Although Essilor has been slow to embrace electronic eyewear, it has been quietly exploring it for years. Essilor holds a majority interest in Humanware, a leading designer and distributor of electronic assistance products for the blind and vision impaired. It also has a stake in DeepOptics, an Israeli tech startup that is developing an electronic focusing lens and glasses system. As the wearable tech category continues to evolve, an Oakley-Essilor partnership could be a formidable force.
Before any of this happens, the Essilor Luxottica merger must clear regulatory hurdles in the U.S. and internationally. And Essilor executives have said that the integration of the two organizations would take several years. Assuming the deal goes through, it will be fascinating to see what new lens technologies emerge.
• Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology