In the latest James Bond film, Spectre, actor Daniel Craig complements his Tom Ford jacket and slacks with a pair of aviator sunglasses with black leather side shields.
Vuarnet, the closely-held French company which makes the eyewear, didn't pay for the product placement, yet it comes at an opportune time – just as it reissues the vintage Glacier shades worn by Craig at a price of $600 a pair. The goal is to recreate past glories, the biggest of which was the brand's sponsorship of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
"We want to be like Panerai," said Vuarnet CEO Lionel Giraud, referring to the Italian-Swiss watchmaker. "Sophisticated and stylish."
Vuarnet's not a big brand – it's aiming for sales of $10 million in a $78 billion industry this year – so the only way it can compete with the likes of Ray-Ban maker Luxottica Group SpA is by producing standout products, Giraud said. One advantage it has is that it still makes its own lenses near Paris out of glass, which provide a clearer view than plastic, he said.
That sophistication comes at a price – Glacier shades can cost more than three times as much as a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. It also makes the 58-year-old brand a good fit with Bond, according to Rebecca Robins, a director at Interbrand in London and co-author of the book Meta-luxury.
"Brands that are somewhat under the radar, that require a process of discovery, are intriguing to consumers for whom being in the know is a key driver of demand," Robins said.
The value of Bond for a niche brand like Vuarnet – owned by London's Neo Investment Partners – is arguably greater than what well-established companies derive, according to Robins. Other brands featured in the film include watchmaker Omega, Belvedere vodka and carmaker Aston Martin.
Giraud is looking beyond Bond. The CEO, who joined in May, will make the brand more exclusive by more than halving the number of Vuarnet sales points in France, where the company gets about 80 per cent of sales. He's expanding in the US and plans to develop partnerships with luxury brands to supply them with lenses.
Vuarnet is also reissuing other classic models from its archive, including the 006, which was worn by actor Alain Delon in the film La Piscine. Actor Matthias Schoenaerts also dons a pair in A Bigger Splash, an adaptation of the 1969 thriller, released later this year.
Vuarnet didn't pay for that placement either.