In December 2012, Essilor began a partnership with Eric Brossier, a French geophysicist and scientific explorer living with his family aboard the expedition boat Vagabond in the Arctic circle. The objective: to evaluate the performance of lenses in extreme light and weather conditions through a unique live testing of eyewear. The conditions are extreme—daily winter temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius and polar summers of intense luminosity 24 hours a day. Such an environment justifies the need for high performance eyewear. As Bossier explains, “At the North Pole, to see well is to stay safe.”

The unique conditions of the “Extreme Testing” project meant developing a special test protocol, focused on qualitative feedback, comparing the visual experience of different types of eyewear in different situations/tasks, for example, working inside on the computer or checking exterior equipment in sub-zero temperatures.

Eric and his wife, France Pinczon du Sel, were equipped with 12 different pairs of lenses to report back on the perceived benefits.

Xperio: high performance polarized sun lenses
—Snow is the surface that most reflects the sun’s rays, 80 percent of which are UV rays that can cause serious damage to our eyes. In Grise Fiord, the sun never sets for six months, creating extreme and varying light conditions. Xperio lenses were highly accepted as the best sun protection equipment by the crew, testing very well for “color contrast level,” “tint of lenses” and “overall satisfaction.” Essilor testers were amazed by Xperio lenses’ ability to reduce glare and protect against dazzling light. Pinczon du Sel attests, “When I had to wear non-Xperio lenses, I felt less protected.”

Crizal protection for clear vision—With scientific work inside the Vagabond and outside on the ice floe, Essilor set out to test how Crizal coated lenses could keep the crew’s vision clear from glare, smudges, scratches, dust and water. On all tested criteria, the Crizal lenses showed better satisfaction, on “ease of cleaning,” “smudge protection” and perhaps the most important added-value: “glare reduction” and “transparency.” As Brossier notes, “When the light is strong, lateral glare can be very annoying, especially inside the boat. Global comfort with Crizal was clearly higher.”

Anti-fatigue lenses—Bossier and Pinczon du Sel must make a visual effort in their close work activities, including using a computer. Essilor wanted to evaluate how anti-fatigue solution relieved visual fatigue that can cause eyestrain, burning eyes or headache. The testers noticed an important lack of “visual comfort on computer” when not equipped with Essilor anti-fatigue lenses. “With Pack B, after a long day in front of the computer screen, my eyes are burning or itching,” says Brossier.

Optifog lenses—Fog always occurs following a quick temperature change—when going from a cold to a hot environment. Bossier can testify that it is a common problem in Grise Fiord, which has an average temperature of minus 16 degrees. The Optifog system prevents water from condensing into tiny droplets and instead spreads the water uniformly as a thin film on the lens surface, making it invisible. The Optifog experience continues as Bossier will soon test the new Optifog Activation System. The full test results will be available later this year. For more details on the Extreme Testing results, visit

—Andrew Karp