April 24, 2017
Hardcore Product Testing
Over the 42 years since Oakley was founded, they have managed to position themselves in a fairly unique place in the sunglasses market. Oakley are top-end, sell for high prices, yet they’re not really linked to the fashion world that most other sunglasses brands rely on.
This is mainly down to their innovation ethos, crafting products that are simply better than their competitors and actually useful for the environment they are meant for, instead of a cheap product with the latest designer tag attached.
This in turn has meant that Oakley has managed to secure some interesting and lucrative contracts, such as the US Military with their ballistic glasses, Special Forces with night vision optics and other branches of the army and airforce with their tactical eyewear.
However, all of this means that Oakley need to do some fairly serious product testing. On one end of the spectrum, goggles and glasses are often given to the most extreme athletes who take them to places very few others would, such as Mount Everest. Several serious climbers swear by Oakley sunglasses to protect their eyes from the truly dangerous levels of ultraviolet at those altitudes, whilst still looking the part. On the other end is eyewear that is designed to protect the user from more serious eye injuries, such as shrapnel.
Oakley Si is the division that deals with military grade eyewear, and some of the testing carried out is amazing. For a product to pass both industrial standards and also the self imposed ‘Oakley standards’, it has to resist the following:
– A 500gm metal spike dropped from 130cm, simulating large projectiles at close quarters.
– A ¼ inch steel shot accelerated to 102mph, and at sever different angles, to simulate small, faster moving projectiles.
– For the ‘Elite’ spec, the lens must resist a 0.15 calibre projectile at 650 feet per second, with no dislodged components or fractures to the lend, to simulate real life combat situations.
All of this means that as well as a fashion brand, Oakley product development produce some of the toughest and most extreme glasses. As a brand they are a complete one-off, and both the time and money they devote to design and testing means they will be very hard to emulate.
It’s a very interesting business model and a great example of thinking outside the box and following your own path paying off.