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Essilor International S.A. is a French-based international ophthalmic optics company that designs, manufactures and markets lenses to correct or protect eyesight.[2] Its headquarters is based in Charenton-le-Pont (near Paris), France. Essilor is quoted on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange. It is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 share index.

Essilor International S.A.
Société Anonyme
Traded asEuronextEI
CAC 40 Component
IndustryMedical equipment
Founded1849; 170 years ago (1849)
Key people
Hubert Sagnières (CEO)
ProductsCorrective lenses; sun and readers eyeglasses; ophthalmic equipment and instruments
RevenueIncrease€7.5 billion (2017)[1]
Increase€1230 million (2016)
Increase€813 million (2016)
Number of employees
80,000 (end 2018)

Essilor is responsible for creating Varilux, the world's first progressive lens which corrects presbyopia and allows clear vision in the wearer's near, intermediate and far vision.[2][3] The company formed from the merger of ophthalmic firms Essel and Silor in 1972.[4] Its activities are largely focused on research and development. It is the world's largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses.[5]

In January 2017 Essilor announced a combination with Italian eyewear giant Luxottica.[2] On 1 October 2018, the new holding company EssilorLuxottica is born, resulting in combined market capitalization of approximately €57 billion.[6]



1849–1972: Essel and SilorEdit

Essel (Société des Lunetteries) was founded in 1849 (then-called L’Association Fraternelle des Ouvriers Lunetteries) as a small network of eyeglass assembly workshops in Paris. It quickly expanded in the late 19th and early 20th century through the acquisition of factories in nearby Parisian neighbourhoods and in Eastern France. Essel soon added frame design and trade to its activities. The firm launched a frame design in 1955 called Nylor which is still used today. The Nylor system introduced a thin nylon thread which embraces the lens and is fixed to the frame's higher branch. Essel's breakthrough came in 1959 with the invention of Varilux, the first ophthalmic progressive lens.[citation needed]

Original Lissac store in Paris

Silor (Société Industrielle de Lunetterie et d'Optique Rationnelle)first started under the name Lissac in 1931 as a retailer of ophthalmic lenses and frames before becoming a lens manufacturer. In 1959, the same year Essel invented the progressive lens, Lissac made a discovery of its own: the Orma 1000 lens, made from a lightweight material.[citation needed]

1972–1979: Beginning of EssilorEdit

After many years as rivals, Essel and Silor merged on 1 January 1972 to form Essilor, the then third-largest ophthalmic optical firm in the world.[2]

Essilor's first year of existence was marked by two events: the creation of Valoptec, a non-trading company composed of stock-holder managers which held half of the company's capital stock, and the purchase of Benoist-Bethiot, a French lens manufacturer specializing in the production of progressive lenses.

In the mid 1970s, Essilor focused on becoming a true optical group specializing in the plastic progressive lens. Many subsidiary activities are first sold off, but in 1974, Essilor fused Benoist-Bethiot with Guilbert-Routit, creating a subsidiary called BBGR. In 1975, the company was listed on the stock exchange. The innovations by Essel and Silor, Essilor's predecessors, lead to the launch of the Varilux Orma in 1976 .[citation needed]

The late 1970s were marked by Essilor's change in strategy of geographical expansion. By making the acquisition of manufacturing plants in the United States, in Ireland and in the Philippines, Essilor began its transformation from being a mainly exporting company to being an international company.[7]

1980–1989: International growthEdit

The 1980s began with intensified competition. To cut costs and improve service, Essilor purchased four new plants in four years, in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Thailand. In France, new instruments facilitated the automation of the manufacturing process. Many distributors were acquired or merged with Essilor in Europe (Norway, Portugal) and in Asia (Burma, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam).[citation needed]

In the United States, all subsidiaries were brought together under the Essilor of America umbrella. This global network allowed Essilor to launch a new Varilux lens called the VMD in Europe and the United States.[citation needed]

1990–1999: Partnerships and Varilux ComfortEdit

To maintain its position as a world leader, Essilor gradually withdrew its frames operations to concentrate on corrective lenses. Employing a value added strategy, the company launched the Crizal coating, offering lens resistance against scratches, reflections and smudges. Essilor also formed a partnership with PPG, an American company, to offer the Transitions photochromic lens, a technology that allows a lens to become darker or lighter depending on the intensity of ambient light. Through the acquisition of Gentex, Essilor was also able to launch the Airwear polycarbonate lens, a light and unbreakable lens material. Finally, the fourth generation of the Varilux was launched under the name Varilux Comfort.[citation needed]


At the beginning of the 21st century, Essilor launched the Varilux Physio, a lens that derives its performance from the Twin RX Technology which combines the wavefront management system to calculate lens optics, along with a production technique called advanced digital surfacing.[citation needed] Finally, in 2005, Essilor entered the French CAC 40 stock market.[citation needed]

In 2007 Essilor launched the Essilor Vision Foundation in the USA. This organization was created in order to run vision tests in schools to detect vision problems. The follow-up care and glasses are provided by Essilor Vision Foundation for children in need.[8]

Essilor acquired the Swiss company Satisloh in 2008, a manufacturer of prescription laboratory equipment.[9]

Two years later, Essilor acquired 50% of the kibbutz-based company Shamir Optical Industry. Shamir took advantage of Essilor's worldwide distribution network, and developed its activity by launching new products.[10]


In 2010 Essilor acquired FGX International, an American company whose brands include Foster Grant.[11] Essilor acquired 50% of the Chinese company Wanxin Optical in 2011. The growth drivers for the Chinese market are the aging population and the increase of reimbursement for eye care.[12] The 40th anniversary of the merger between Essel and Silor took place in July 2012. This was the occasion to highlight their contributions and improvements on technologies.[13] In September 2012, Essilor involved in the Special Olympics for 10 more years. The ophthalmic lenses supplier provided almost 100,000 free eyeglasses to the athletes since 2002.[14] In May 2013, Safilo and Essilor agreed on a 10-year licensing deal allowing Essilor to use Safilo's Polaroid brand for the making of polarized eye lenses.[15] In July 2013, Essilor announced the buying of 51% of Transitions Optical's stakes from PPG Industries.[16] Essilor will then hold 100% of Transitions Optical. The deal is to be closed in the first semester of 2014.[17] The transaction aims at developing Essilor's leadership in lenses that adapt to changing light.[18] In March 2014, Essilor announced the acquisition of the Canadian online distributor, which rebranded as in 2015. Essilor aims at reinforcing its presence online, adding to its online subsidiaries such as MyOnlineOptical, FramesDirect and EyeBuyDirect.[19]

On 25 November 2014, Essilor won 4 awards at the First Edition of the Vision-X VP Awards. Essilor's Varilux S Series won the award for Most Popular Lens (Progressive), while the Transitions Signature VII won the Most Popular Lens (Best Value) award. Its Crizal Forte UV and Mr Blue were voted the Most Popular Lens Coating/Value Add and Best Value Enhancer (Lab).[20] In 2015, the U.S. subsidiary of Essilor International acquired Vision Source, a service network of independent optometrists, from Brazos Equity Partners LLC for an undisclosed amount.[21] By 19 March 2016 the company had a share value of 23,564 million euros, distributed in 216,477,934 shares. In March 2016 the company bought the UK online contacts retailer VisionDirect UK, adding to many online eyewear brands Essilor already owns.[22]

In 2018 the birth of EssilorLuxotticaEdit

In January 2017, the company agreed to merge with Luxottica.[23][24][25] Luxottica and Essilor are currently (end of 2017[26][27][28]) in the process of merging, subject to regulatory permission and possibly competition conditions.[29][30][31] Luxottica has faced allegations that it uses its market dominance to inflate prices and restrict competition (see also Luxottica#Criticism).[32][33] In March 2018, proposed combination between Essilor and Luxottica received clearance from US federal trade commission and European commission without conditions.[34] On 1 October 2018, the new holding company EssilorLuxottica is born, resulting in combined market capitalization of approximately €57 billion.

Activity and distributionEdit

87% of Essilor's turnover comes from the sale of ophthalmic lenses and optical instruments, 10% is driven by sunglasses and readers and 3% from other activities, such as equipment sales. 28% of its sales are based in Europe, 46% in North America, 7% in Latin America with the remaining 19% based out of Asia, Pacific, Middle East and Africa.[35]

Corrective lensesEdit

Corrective lenses are manufactured in production plants and then customised in labs to a wearer's individual prescription. Essilor has a worldwide network of production factories, prescription laboratories and distribution centers which supply lenses, glasses or sunglasses to opticians, optical chains or for sale via its own online websites. An ophthalmic lens can have up to 25 layers of coatings or tints to make it more resistant to scratches, smudging, fogging up or to protect the eyes from UV or harmful blue light.

Sun and readersEdit

Essilor produces and distributes non-prescription sunglasses and reading glasses sold in pharmacies, department stores, airports and online.

In 2010, Essilor acquired FGX International which owns Foster Grant and Ryders brands. In 2011 Essilor acquired StyleMark, US distributor in reading glasses. In 2013, Essilor acquired a 50 percent stake in Xiamen Yarui Optical, owner of Bolon brand – the leading[clarification needed] sunwear brand in China, and bought the American company Costa, a specialist in sunwear for water sports. In 2015, Essilor acquired a majority interest in 2015 in Merve Optik, a Turkish distributor of optical products based in Istanbul that owns the sunwear brand Ossé.

Instruments and equipmentsEdit

The division Essilor Instruments distributes optical instruments used by opticians and eye health professionals. Through Satisloh, acquired in 2008, Essilor also provides equipment used to manufacture progressive lenses. In 2013, Essilor acquired a 68.3% stake in Interactive Visual System (IVS), a French company in technology solutions for electronic measurements and sales aids for eye care professionals. In 2013, Essilor announced the acquisition of Humanware, a Canadian company in the design and distribution of assistive technologies for people who are blind or vision impaired.

Research and developmentEdit


Essilor invests over €200m each year to research and innovation, three times the size of the rest of the industry combined.[2] Essilor is the world's leading commercial funder of research into eye health. The company's research and development team includes 550 researchers in its three Innovation and Technology Centers in France, the United States and Asia.[citation needed] In Singapore, the Centre for Innovation and Technology and the International Vision Academy are housed in a new facility, called Kallang Bahru.[36] In 2011, Essilor wearer tests have received accreditation from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, the largest scientific and medical complex in France. In 2018, Essilor was ranked for the 8th consecutive year on Forbes listing of most innovative companies in the world. The brand is the third French company in the ranking.[37]

e-SPF indexfactorEdit

Essilor's eye sun protection factor (e-SPF) was launched in 2012 to help consumers understand the overall level of eye protection. Moreover, the e-SPF takes into account UV rays reflecting off the back of the lens into the eye.[38]

Eye protect systemEdit

In 2016, the Silmo d’Or award in the vision category was won by Essilor's Eye Protect System innovation.[39][40] This innovation integrates the latest advances in Essilor's research into prevention. A system targeting harmful blue-violet light that absorbs the residual yellow tint produced by filtering blue light, Eye Protect System lenses additionally provide UV protection.


Essilor has a number of partnerships with universities and other scientific and technical communities.

Institut de la VisionEdit

Essilor participate in the Institut de la Vision de Paris, a research center on ocular pathologies inaugurated in December 2008. The development of technologies improving the life of visually impaired people is the main goal of this partnership.[41]

In 2015 Essilor, the Vision Institute and the Sorbonne University in Paris created Silversight, a joint public-private research program on healthy visual ageing.[42]

Essilor also has a new area of collaboration with the Institute de la Vision focusing on the role light plays in the onset and development of myopia.

University of Montréal, CanadaEdit

In 2001, Essilor began a collaborationthe with University of Montréal on perception and ageing.[43] In 2003 this became the NSERC-Essilor industrial Chair.

Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, CanadaEdit

In 2012 Essilor was one of six industry partners along with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to create a research chair in coatings engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal.[44] The research carried out at Polytechnique will improve the sustainability and effectiveness of materials in sectors as varied as aerospace, energy and manufacturing, as well as optics and photonics.

Wenzhou Medical UniversityEdit

In 2013, Essilor established a joint research center in China with Wenzhou Medical University to investigate the progression of myopia, with a particular focus on the evolution of children myopia.[45]

Shanghai UniversityEdit

In 2007 Essilor and Shanghai University created a joint R&D Center researching in the area of coatings and nanocolloids.


In 2015 Essilor and the CNRS LAAS signed a five research partnership. A joint, multidisciplinary team of researchers and engineers will pursue research on lenses and glasses with active and connected functions.[46]

Virtual realityEdit

Essilor's research department particularly concentrates on the combined progress of two complementary disciplines: optics and physiology, with particular recourse to virtual reality. A simulation tool that makes it possible to perceive and interact in 3D in a multi-sensory way. [47]

Researchers today use a virtual visualization system, equipped with algorithms and modeling developed by Essilor to explore new optical solutions that can be tested directly on wearers. This simulator makes it possible to vary the optical properties of the lenses tested, study optical effects and immediately gauge wearer satisfaction. In order to do so, a magnetic sensor records a subject's head movements and images that show the eyes' exact viewpoint 120 times per second. After testing, the results are used to fine-tune the performance of the lenses in question. In 2008, the Varilux Ipseo New Edition was designed using Essilor's Virtual Reality system.



Varilux is a brand of progressive lenses for people with presbyopia correcting their vision at near and far distances and in between. The lens was invented by engineer Bernard Maitenaz and was in 1959 the first progressive lens available on the market.

Varilux X seriesEdit

In 2017, Essilor launched its latest Varilux lens: Varilux X series. It was rewarded with a Silmo d’Or innovation award in 2017.


Crizal coating was launched in 1992. In the 1990s, Essilor's R&D teams began working on the visual comfort of eyeglass wearers, using treatments that reduced reflections on lenses, while simultaneously improving their resistance and durability.

Crizal PrevenciaEdit

Crizal Prevencia, launched in 2013, is a lens that lets in beneficial light and filters out harmful blue-violet and UV rays.

In 2014, Essilor won a Fibre Innovation Award for Crizal Prevencia at an event at the Paris Pierre and Marie Curie University celebrating advances in technology for the benefit of society.[48]

Crizal SapphireEdit

In 2017, Essilor launched Crizal Sapphire 360°. These lenses feature new Multi-Angular Technology to reduce reflections from any angle of light for less distracting glare, better aesthetics and safer nighttime driving.


Essilor launched Eyezen lenses in 2015, designed for people's increasingly connected life. Essilor's research had identified that the traditional reading distance of 40 cm which was used as a standard for lens development, had decreased to an average 33 cm when using digital tools.[49]

In 2015, Essilor received a gold award (Silmo d'Or) for Eyezen.


Transitions Optical, Inc., specialized in photochromic lenses, started as a joint venture between PPG Industries and Essilor International S.A., in 1990.

In 2009, Transitions Optical launched the first commercially viable photochromic shield for motorcycle helmets.

In 2010, Transitions Optical introduced Transitions XTRActive lenses, with new technology that allows the lenses to activate behind the windshield.

In April 2014, Essilor acquired the entire stake of PPG in Transitions.

In 2018, Essilor announced that Transitions Optical has partnered with Johnson & Johnson Vision to make the light-adaptive photochromic technology available in a contact lens for the first time.[50]


In 2009, Essilor launched Xperio polarized prescription lenses to reduce glare and protect the eyes from UV rays.

Xperio sun lenses feature specific polarizing filters that stop blinding glare while offering superior comfort and quality of vision.

Corporate Social ResponsibilityEdit


Essilor Vision FoundationEdit

The Essilor Vision Foundation was founded in 2007 in the United States to help eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences among children.[51]

In ten years, the Essilor Vision Foundation has helped to distribute 500,000 pairs of glasses and has expanded its projects into eight countries, with a particular focus on improving children's vision.[52]

Vision for lifeEdit

In 2015, Essilor created the Vision for Life strategic giving fund which has financed over 70 local vision care projects across the world. In March 2018 Essilor announced it will invest a further €19M in its philanthropic and inclusive business activities.

Vision Impact InstituteEdit

In 2012, Essilor created the Vision Impact Institute which manages a database of research and scientific studies on visual health and raises awareness about the benefits of corrected vision to guide public health policy decisions. One of the first research papers shared by the Institute highlighted that the global economy loses $227 billion every year from lost productivity caused by poor vision. In 2016, Essilor contributed to the EYElliance report ‘Bridging the visual divide’ which was published at the World Economic Forum and which called for more financial support to increase access to eyeglasses.[53]

New Vision GenerationEdit

In 2013, Essilor created an inclusive business arm called 2.5 New Vision Generation to focus on people who don't have access to vision care; underserved populations and rural communities where people cannot access conventional distribution channels.

2.5 New Vision Generation programs are developed for low income customers through adapting eyeglass products and distribution.

Essilor has a Base of the Pyramid Innovation Lab, supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, which evaluates the Group's different inclusive business approaches and connects the programs and partners with development funds.

Since 2013, Essilor inclusive business programs have expanded from 8 to 24 countries.

Eye MitraEdit

In 2013, Essilor launched the Eye Mitra program in India to increase access to vision care for underserved populations and at the same time improving their livelihood.[54]

Eye Mitras working in 14 provinces in India have helped more than 2.5 million people in their local communities to see clearly.

In 2018 the Eye mitra program was selected by the Australian Government to be part of its Business Partnership Platform, an aid investment programme to generate social and commercial returns in developing countries. This partnership aims at creating affordable vision care for almost 100,000 low income consumers in rural Bangladesh and train young people to become primary vision care providers known as Eye Mitras.[55]

Vision AmbassadorsEdit

In 2015 Essilor launched its Vision Ambassador program, training people to do simple vision screening and sell reading glasses and sunglasses. Following an initial program in China, Vision Ambassador Programs have been developed in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya and Ivory Coast and India.[56]


Special OlympicsEdit

Since 2003, Essilor has been the exclusive global supplier of ophthalmic lenses for this program and has helped more than 100,000 Special Olympics athletes receive prescription eyewear, protective sports eyewear and important health counselling on proper eye health and vision care.[57]

Our Children VisionEdit

In April 2016, Essilor's Vision For Life Fund co-founded a global coalition to tackle the issue of children's vision care. "Our Children's Vision" is a movement bringing together governments, development agencies, the private sector, eye health practitioners and communities with the goal of screening 50 million children worldwide for vision impairments by 2020.


Essilor and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) signed a three-year partnership that will promote good vision as a key pillar of road safety through awareness campaigns and underline the importance of having a regular sight test to ensure safe driving.[58]

The Jubilee Trust FundEdit

In April 2018 the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust announced the creation of the Vision Catalyst Fund to bring eye care to people in the Commonwealth. Essilor is a partner of this new Vision Catalyst Fund which brings civil society and public-private stakeholders together to provide sustainable solutions for eye health.[59]

Sustainable developmentEdit

In 2017, Essilor was ranked 4th of the 50 biggest paper consuming companies in France for its environmentally-responsible paper policy.[60]

Employee shareholdingEdit

Employee shareholding at Essilor has strongly developed as it jumped from 21% in 2016 to 55% by the end of 2017, making it one of the three French companies with the highest percentage of employee shareholders. Essilor's employee shareholding effort has been cited as an example by French President Emmanuel Macron several times.[61]

9000 Essilor employees who own more than 8% of the company's share capital have gathered in a shareholder association called Valoptec, which owns three of the fifteen seats at the board of directors.

Corporate governanceEdit

Board of directorsEdit

As of 2019, the company's board of directors consists of:[62]

  • Hubert Sagnières – Chairman
  • Philippe Alfroid – Former Chief Operating Officer
  • Antoine Bernard de Saint-Affrique – Chief Executive Officer of Barry Callebaut (Switzerland)
  • Maureen Cavanagh – Vice-President Retail, Essilor of America; Director representing employee shareholders
  • Juliette Favre – Strategic Projects Director, Worldwide Operations, President of Valoptec Association, Director representing employee shareholders
  • Louise Fréchette – Member of the Board of the Global Leadership Foundation (UK)
  • He Yi – President of Essilor China, Chairman of Essilor Hongkong
  • Bernard Hours – Former Chief Operating Officer of Danone
  • Ludovic Mathieu – President Middle-East, Turkey, Africa & CIS, Director representing employee shareholders
  • Annette Messemer – Divisional board member, Corporate Clients, Commerzbank AG (Germany)
  • Marc Onetto – Former Senior Vice-President Worldwide Operations and Customer Service of Amazon
  • Olivier Pécoux – Chief Executive Officer of Rothschild & Cie Banque
  • Paul du Saillant – Deputy Chief Executive Officer
  • Laurent Vacherot – Chief Executive Officer of Essilor
  • Jeanette Wong – DBS Group (Singapore) Executive
  • Delphine Zablocki – Director representing employees

In 2013, Essilor created a CSR Committee, chaired by Louise Fréchette.[63]

Management committeeEdit

As of 2019:[64]

  • Hubert Sagnières – Chairman
  • Laurent Vacherot – Chief Executive Officer
  • Jayanth Bhuvaraghan – Chief Mission Officer and Communication
  • Jean Carrier-Guillomet – Co-Chief Operating Officer
  • Norbert Gorny - Chief R&D Officer, IP
  • Hilary Halper – Chief Financial Officer
  • Grita Loebsack - Chief Marketing Officer
  • Frédéric Mathieu – Corporate Senior Vice President, Human Resources
  • Bernhard Nuesser – President Online
  • Paul du Saillant – Deputy Chief Executive Officer
  • Jeremy Teo – Chief Strategy Officer
  • Eric Thoreux – Co-Chief Operating Officer, President, Sun, Readers and China

Key figuresEdit

Financial informationEdit

Numbers in millions of Euros
Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Revenue 2,690 2,908.1 3,074.4 3,268.0 3,891.6 4,190 4,989 5,065 5,670 6,716 7,115 7,490
Net income 328 366.7 382.4 394.0 462.0 506 584 594 642 757 813 833

Other key figuresEdit

  • Employees: 67,000
  • Distribution centers: 14
  • Labs: 481
  • Plants: 34
  • Patents: 8,775
  • Investments in research & innovation: +200 million euros/year

See alsoEdit


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  42. ^ "Supporting agencies and industrial partners". Anging in vision and action.
  43. ^ "The 10-year history of the NSERC-Essilor Industrial Research Chair: an example of co-evolution of the industry and University R&D from a "mass" to an "individual" needs approach". Points de Vue. October 2011.
  44. ^ "Polytechnique Montréal and seven partners inaugurate the largest NSERC research chair in coatings and surface engineering". Polytechnique Montréal. 25 September 2012.
  45. ^ "PEssilor Establishes Joint Research Center with Wenzhou Medical University". Vision Monday. 21 June 2013.
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  47. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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External linksEdit