Pince Nez Reading Glasses a history. From Glass to Plastic

I watched the Matrix again last night, one of my favourite films and couldn’t help but notice Laurence Fishbourne’s cool pair of Pince Nez. So, I decided this morning, to undertake a bit of research into the history of their creation.

I was particularly interested in looking at the connections between the various elements which have combined to produce the product we now sell at Goggleyes, the Nannini Pince Nez.
Clearly the product is back in popularity with more and more orders flooding in for both the readers and sunreader versions since we included them in the range.


It’s quite an interesting journey and one that combines the talents and creativity of the Brits and the Italians in many more ways than I had first considered.

Glass, it is believed, was first invented around 3000BC (the bronze age). The manufacture of “Reading stones” large glass spheres used by monks was perfected by the Venetians, some of the best glass makers in the world.

It appears that the first spectacles were made between 1268 and 1289. In 1306 a monk of Pisa delivered a sermon in which he stated: “It is not yet twenty years since the art of making spectacles, one of the most useful arts on earth, was discovered. I, myself, have seen and conversed with the man who made them first”. The trouble is, no-one seems to know who that was !

Now the connections to Nannini of Italy and Goggleyes start to inter twine. The first known artistic representation of eyeglasses was painted by Tommaso da Modena in 1352. Modena is less than 20 minutes by car from the Nannini factory.

Tommaso produced a series of frescoes of brothers busily reading or copying manuscripts.

Pince-nez (pinch-nose) eyeglasses clip to the nose and get their name from the literal French translation. They are believed to have appeared in the 1840′s, and in the latter part of the century there was a great upsurge in the popularity of the pince-nez for both men and women.

Plexiglas, Polymerized Methyl Methacrylate, was invented by William Chalmers in 1931, although there does seem to be a debate about this on various web sites. Chalmers was a Canadian, born in Scotland, and I’m willing to accept what his grand daughter “Jen” had to say to a so called expert a few years ago , basically calling him a narrow minded american idiot when he questioned the validity of the the claim that he was the inventor!!… I certainly don’t want to cross Jen :-)

I introduce the invention of plexiglass because of its links to Nannini. In 1954 when Giorgio Nannini began producing quality eyewear in his Modena factory, one of his ambitions was to produce a low cost range of eyewear made with plastic lenses rather than glass. The use of methyl methacrylate lenses greatly improved the quality and clarity of the nannini product. It wasn’t long before Giorgio turned his talent and invention to the Pince Nez. I wonder though if he realised the close links to Italy and Modena when he decided to redesign the product and mould it in one piece from plastic resulting in his award winning design.

Over the years, many developments led Nannini to the ‘top of the pack’. As well as eyewear, Nannini patented and produced many different things such as: a “stop sign/direction indicator” unit for motorbikes (a great sales success), the first automatic machine for bending metal rims for eyewear and then increasingly sophisticated machines for processing lenses and optical resins. The interesting thing is that many of Nannini’s competitors, all over the world, produce eyewear with his machines.

So back to the Pince-Nez of today. Goggleyes distribute both the clear reading pince-nez as well as the tinted UV protecting sun readers from the Nannini stable with sales numbers growing once again it’s a fitting tribute to Giorgio and his Italian counterparts. Incredibly well priced they can be ordered on line and are available in a range of dioptre strengths from +1.00 to +3.00, they fit in your pocket or handbag and are the ideal emergency pair of reading glasses.

Restaurants and even hairdressing outlets are now stocking the product for clients who have left their expensive bulky designer reading glasses at home. So if you want to be as cool as Morpheous then why not add a pair to your wallet or handbag? After all, Mr Anderson, do you hear that….that is the sound of inevitability… day you’re going to need that spare pair of reading glasses.

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