Vuarnet - Sunglasses to Die For
With the much-anticipated release of No time To Die the French brand Vuarnet has been propelled into the global spotlight once again, along with the iconic Aston Martin DB5 and Omega Seamaster, as James Bond’s sunglasses of choice. Again, because back in 2015 Vuarnet’s famous glacier glasses, first launched in the 70’s were 007’s defining accessory during the Alpine fight sequences in Spectre.
“Sunglasses are part of my armour”, Bond might have said, had the phrase not be coined already by that most prolific of sunglass-wearers Jack Nicholson. Like his friend Andy Warhol, he was rarely seen without them, and for good reason; “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson,” he once said. “Without them, I’m fat and 60.”
He too almost certainly owned a pair of Vuarnet’s in the 70s when the brand was enjoying its last great renaissance, made popular then by the likes of Mick Jagger and Miles Davis. Davis was an early adopter of the newly launched Glacier model with distinctive leather ‘blinkers’, developed for Jean Afanassieff for his successful ascent of Everest in 1978.
With a backstory like this, imagine my disbelief when I discovered a cache of new ‘old stock’ Vuarnet’s (including a pair of original Glaciers) in an antique shop in the South of France, while on holiday.
But I am getting ahead of myself…
Firstly we have to turn the clock back over sixty years to 1959 and a meeting between French Olympic skier Jean Vuarnet (pronounced Vu-ar-neh) and Roger Pouilloux. Pouilloux was an avante garde and visionary optician who had developed the now legendary luminous Skilynx mineral glass lenses, specially for skiers, as they highlighted contrasts and enhanced depth perception, a major asset when competing in downhill ski racing.
Testing a pair of these sunglasses at the 1960 Winter Olympics in California, Jean Vuarnet took to the slopes of Squaw Valley, and won gold. And with that, the Vuarnet brand was born.
If Jean Vuarnet hadn’t existed then Ian Fleming would have had to invent him. Seven times French Ski champion, Vuarnet was a pioneer in his sport discipline, and was the first to develop the crouched ‘egg’ position – that racers have been using ever since – and to incorporate metal components in skies, which have now become the norm.
Watching archive footage of Vuarnet in action, he is straight out of a vintage Bond movie.
During the 1960s Vuarnet further consolidated its position as the ‘must have’ ski optics, but that decade also saw it develop a growing range of stylish sunglasses that took it to another level and cult status. It took another screen idol, Frenchman Alain Delon, in the movie La Piscine (1969) to put Vuarnet on the radar of celebrity faces everywhere. Wearing only a personal pair of black nylon-framed Vuarnet 06 with brown lenses and matching brown paisley swimming trunks, Delon looked straight out of a Slim Aaron’s photoshoot and added pool-side glamour to the brand’s growing appeal.
No stranger to close-fitting trunks himself, was this Bond’s inspiration for choosing Vuarnet’s and in particular the sleek and stylish updated version of Delon’s sunglasses, now renamed the Legend 06? Probably not, but it is interesting that ‘the chosen ones’ for No Time to Die appear to be a personal favourite of Daniel Craig, as he has been seen wearing them since 2017.
Just like the original version these Vuarnet sunglasses are a stunning design fitted with the brand’s highly scratch-resistant mineral glass lenses, which are renowned for optical clarity, clearer contrast and rugged durability. Each lens is engraved with the signature V hallmark which guarantees its authenticity.
Thankfully all these features were to be found on the ‘cache’ unearthed in the South of France, along with the distinctive ski logo and Vuarnet name found on both arms, which was a relief, because with such iconic fashion accessories as these there will always be fakes waiting to be snapped up by the unwary.
Among the vintage Vuarnets I picked up were a model 438, a riff on the Rayban Wayfarer Max, featuring a beautiful handmade French tortoiseshell frame complemented by a gold metal bottom front frame that holds in place the Vuarnet PX-2000 high contrast brown mineral glass lenses.
There was also the PX5000 430 Glacier Sunglasses, an aviator style version of those used in Spectre (027). For this model, you need to look very carefully for the trademark Vuarnet ‘V’ on a ‘Ski’ logo which is laser etched into the lenses, and also take a long look in the mirror because you need a big pair of kahunas to carry these off, if you’re just standing at the bar and not actually making an attempt on Everest.
But my favourite is the 039 Vintage Vuarnet which were produced in only very small quantities, and therefore are almost impossible to find today. They have a uber stylish, retro matte gold metal frame and high-performance Vuarnet PX-6000 Unilynx amber-brown base mineral glass lens with an anti-reflective interior coating. According to Vuarnet this is a hybrid lens with similar characteristics to the Vuarnet Skilynx and is known as a serious lens for all-around outdoor use.
The other model chosen for the latest Bond movie is the Edge 1613. In contrast to the Legend 06, this has a round matt black frame constructed from high-grade stainless steel with a striking acetate rim, with polarised grey-green lenses to reduce glare. In the first few seconds of the official trailer, you’ll see 007 wearing the Edge 1613 sunglasses seconds before he’s catapulted out of a plane’s cargo hold, thousands of feet above Norway.
Not a brand to rest on its laurels, in 2016 Vuarnet announced that French actor Vincent Cassel was to be its latest brand ambassador. If ever there was a perfect Bond villain waiting in the wings it is Cassel. But if that ever happens there might be a problem, as we can’t have both Bond and his nemesis both sporting Vuarnets… or can we?