Julbo, a French family business: internationally renowned.
Julbo is a French company set deep in the heart of the Jura Mountains, with a 29 million turnover of which more than 40% is exported internationally. These are superior quality products designed especially for outdoor sports. We went to meet this family run business, to visit their factory and discover the process of their sunglasses and goggles from conception to the finished product.
Texte : Franck Oddoux
Photos : Franck Oddoux & Dom Daher/Julbo
To get to Julbo headquarters in Longchaumois, you need to climb over mountain passes, through forests and across borders. This historical eyewear factory began its life in 1888 in the neighboring village of Morez, where workmanship and a unique knowhow of creating metal frames and plastic injection for glasses has traversed generations. It was eventually bought by René Beaud in 1979 and moved to Longchaumois and is now run by his two sons. Here, in this hidden town, lies a tradition and pride for precision craftsmanship.
Bringing production back to Europe
Little by little the French brand decided to repatriate its production from Asia back here to Europe and over the last 15 years Julbo has returned 75% of its manufacture to Europe, between the Jura and Romania. An order from China requires a 3month time delay, whereas manufacturing in Europe enables Julbo to save this time.
Longchaumois is where the molds for the glasses are made, as well as being their R&D headquarters. Once the injection tests have been carried out they are sent to Romania in a truck. So not only is the manufacturing faster, the carbon footprint has been reduced by half.
Technicality and quality control
Even though sunglasses and goggles are considered accessories, they are in fact very technical products, complicated to manufacture and must fulfill multiple functions: protection against UV rays, shocks, bad weather, wind, etc. All the products have European standards to abide to. At Julbo they supervise both the manufacture and quality control.
Technically different types of lenses exist: glass lenses, which are tough material, breakable and heavy but without optical distortion. Plastic lenses, which are injected plastic, lightweight, tougher than glass, but can have defects during the injection process. Julbo uses a special type of material that is especially produced by casting at moderate temperature. “NXT” (used in the models Zebra, Zebra Light, Falcon, Octopus, Cameleon,…). It is neither plastic injection nor glass and incorporates the advantages of the two types of lenses in one. So whilst being unbreakable and lightweight it does not have any defects. They can also have photochromic and anti-fog treatments added into the material. Julbo was the first brand to use this NXT lens and is now the reference for other brands.
In the factory the optical centering is done to precision. The optical center corresponds to the optical center of the eye. Each type of lens is graduated from 4 to 12 depending on its curvature. The lens, depending on whom it belongs to and its category represents a decentering: one side thicker than the other because the frame is also curved and this needs correcting to be able to see properly. Therefore this optical axe needs to be re-centered.
The same goes for the two polarizing lenses for a pair of glasses of which the axes must be the same way around. Otherwise headaches and visual deformities ensue, these effects are often evident with cheap sunglasses…
Julbo’s reputation is founded on its optical quality, more than a million products are sold worldwide.
Future goggles with corrective lenses…
No goggles on the market have yet discovered a method for have corrective lenses.
The problem is that you must integrate the lens behind the goggles screens. The main point of goggles is its double screen: a screen, then airspace and a second screen. So the difficulty is that the first screen is molded and the second is thermoformed. Therefore you must add the lens inside. Julbo are working on it, in the testing phase…but still some tweaks to do before launching the product.
What to remember:
- Protection categories are graded from 1 to 4
Class 1: Lightly tinted lens must not be used in bright light.
Class 2: Moderately tinted lens for moderate sunlight.
Class 3: Dark tinted lens for very bright light and reflected light: sea, beach, winter sports.
Class 4: Very dark tinted lens for extreme bright sunlight: exposition on a glacier, high altitude. Prohibited to use whilst driving.
- Lenses are classified from 4 to 12 depending on their contours.
- Goggles do not need optical centering because they do not use the same geometry and the same lens thicknesses.
- To clean goggles with anti-fog treatment only use water, which will reactivate the anti-fog molecules.
- Some anti-fog goggles have self-repairing molecules that can regenerate small scratches on screens.
There are two fundamental aspects to vision. Central vision: this concerns the details. Peripheral vision concerns surrounding movements.