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Great eyeswear to dazzle Indians

Last updated on: September 13, 2003 17:07 IST

It could have been a scene from a Clint Eastwood movie. A police officer in Arkansas was shot in the face with a .45-calibre semi-automatic pistol while arresting a suspect.

Under normal circumstances the bullet would have gone into his eye and from there it would probably have travelled into his brain. Luckily, the bullet struck the policeman's super-tough Oakley sunglasses and was deflected downwards.

Now we're not recommending that you worry about shoot-outs when selecting spectacle frames. But glasses -- both in terms of looks and functionality -- have gone beyond the tortoise shell, steel frames and other safe options of yore.

Now a host of foreign players are plying their wares in Indian markets through tie-ups with local dealers and retailers. Consequently, your choices for top-end eyeware range from Oakley, Rodenstock and Mont Blanc to Versus and Cartier.

Has the Indian market shown a preference for any particular high-end brand? No, say most dealers.

As Lalit Kalra, director, Dayal Opticals, puts it: "Customers are still fickle. Whatever Govinda sports in his new film quickly catches on and becomes the trend of the moment."

Given that multi-option scenario, what is available? Let's start with some offerings by Oakley, which deals mainly in sportswear.

When these glasses aren't saving policemen's lives, they're adorning the faces of the world's leading sportstars and celebrities from the entertainment world.

Oakleys are worn by the likes of Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong and Tom Cruise. Closer home, you've almost certainly seen our cricket captain sporting them on the field of play.

Ganguly wears a model called the M Frame and the starting price is Rs 7,000 (it goes up to Rs 12,000). The hingeless frame can be fitted with five interchangeable lens shapes.

But possibly Oakley's oddest model is the aptly named OverTheTop. Resembling as it does a particularly fancy pair of swimming goggles, it's a shock for anyone who has a fixed idea of what a pair of spectacles should look like. The frame doesn't have conventional arms that fit behind your ears.

Instead, it has a scientific design based on the shape of the human skull and reaches "over the top" of the head. That might make it sound uncomfortable, but many athletes swear by it.

What makes it so popular with sporty types? One of the features of the Oakley range is the use of a material called Unobtanium, a synthetic fibre that absorbs perspiration and then uses it to strengthen the grip of the frame -- thus turning the user's sweat into an ally!

The nosebombs and earsocks (that is, those parts of the frames that make direct contact with the nose and ears) are made of this material.

If what turns you on is having something that very few others can get, make a beeline for Salvatore Ferragamo's Maharani sunglasses.

This limited-range model is inspired by a sandal created in 1938 by the Italian designer, for the Maharani of Cooch Behar. The original sandal had an embossed brass structure embedded with rubies, emeralds and other jewels.

Decades later, the company has created a jewel-like pair of glasses with a floral motif that reproduces the sandal's ornamental detail.

And yes, there's the exclusivity factor: these glasses aren't available at shops, you'll have to place an order for them with Dayal Opticals, which has a tie-up with Ferragamo, and they'll import a pair. The cost: Rs 20,000.

Other high-profile options include: Cartier's series of wooden frames, including the most expensive, Camarat, which costs Rs 58,000; frames from Chanel which have ornate flower, pearl or stone designs on the frames and cost Rs 10,000; and Seiko's nickel-coated titanium frames that are said to be non-allergic and which are available for Rs 3,650 onwards.

But while frames are the best way to make fashion statements, lenses are the crucial components of eyewear. Take the Crizal and Varilux lenses from Essilor, among the most technologically advanced progressive lenses in the world.

The primary focus area for these ophthalmic lenses are infotech companies, call centres and software professionals who spend around six to eight hours in front of the computer every day.

Crizal lenses are anti-reflective lenses, meaning they reduce the glare that causes eye fatigue. They are designed with two-sided scratch resistance, making them tough and long-lasting.

Also, they dramatically reduce distracting double images created by headlights from other vehicles and streetlights -- an especially relevant option given Indian drivers' obsession with the high beam.

Varilux lenses are progressive lenses designed specially for people who have difficulty reading once they reach the age of 40.

Unlike bifocal lenses, only one pair of lenses is required to see clearly at all distances.

Varilux lenses do away with that annoying line that creates an abrupt vision change when you, say, take your eyes off your computer screen to focus on a distant object. These lenses begin in the Rs 1,000 price range and move upwards depending on the type of coating used.

And to return to where we began, if you're wondering about the super-tough lenses used by that policeman, they are Oakley's plutonites, made from a higher form of extremely tough polycarbonate -- these glasses are tested by having projectiles dropped on them from a height of one metre.

The idea, again, is to provide the best protection to sportspersons who are in danger of falling down on the field of play.

The price range? Rs 10,725 to Rs 15,925. Costly, but they might be worth it, even if you aren't planning to be involved in shoot-outs.
Arjun Singh
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