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Essel (Société de Lunettiers) was founded in 1849 (then-called L’Association Fraternelle des Ouvriers Lunetiers) 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.
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.
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 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 .
In the United States, all subsidiaries were brought together under the Essilor of America umbrella.
Two years later, Essilor launched a merger with Shamir Optical Industry. Shamir Optical Industry took advantage of Essilor's worldwide distribution network, and developed its activity by launching new products.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.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.The Nylor system introduced a thin nylon thread which embraces the lens and is fixed to the frame’s higher branch.