Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In Review: Randolph Engineering Sportsman Sunglasses

Randolph Engineering has an incredibly rich history.  Founded in 1972 by Polish immigrants Jan Waszkiewicz and Stanley Zaleski, they first produced eyewear as a subcontractor for the military in 1978, and shortly after were contacted by the Air Force to produce their aviators directly for them.  During Desert Storm Randolph actually stopped commercial sales to ramp up manufacturing for the armed forces and supplied over 200,000 optical inserts for soldiers' chemical-biological masks.  In 2000, RE was awarded the Frame of Choice contract, providing soldiers with an alternative to current standard-issue military glasses for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and NASA.  They've maintained that contract through their 4th five year term now.   Impressed yet?  On top of that, they also expanded into the commercial market after civilians became aware of their products and have built up a great reputation for quality work and solid service.

All that being said, the Sierra Trading Post deal I posted about a while back was just too good to pass up myself.   I broke down and ordered a pair of Sportsman sunglasses in black matte frame/grey flash mirror (nonpolarized) and they arrived a couple of days ago.

Anyway, let's get on with it.

Construction

I already own a pair of Ray Ban aviators (comparable to the Randolph Concorde styling) in classic gold frames with the G-15 lens, so I wanted to get something a little different.  I chose a pair of Sportsman sunglasses (same basic frame shape with a sweat bar) in a black matte frame and grey flash mirror lenses (non polarized).  Each Randolph Engineering line comes in a variety of options.  When you order from the site, you get to choose your frame size, lens color/polarization, frame color, and temple shape.  Since I got mine on STP, that was not the case.  Luckily, they have a lot of great choices as it is.

Randolph frames are comprised of 18% nickel silver eye wire, which is supposedly stronger and more resilient than most comparably priced frames in the market.  Randolph states that they literally twist every 50th pair to test their durability.  I can tell you, though they look similar at first glance to other sunglasses, just picking them up there's a pretty large difference between the feel of these and more mainstream sunglasses I own.


Everything about the sunglasses feel solid, and there's no joint or hinge that has any wiggle room or laxity.  It's no surprise as each pair goes through more than 200 stages during production - apparently most by hand.

The silicon nose pads are "stickier" than average (in a good way), and again there's none of the unwanted movement pads can sometimes have, at least from the wear they've gotten so far.

Lenses are mineral crown glass, scratch-resistant, and have very excellent clarity. They’re also ground and chemically tempered for impact resistance that exceeds ANSI Z-803 standards, the American National Standard (ANS) that provides guidelines for recreational sunglasses.  

I can't find a single thing to complain about in terms of craftsmanship, honestly.

Sizing and Fit

I have a big head.  It's cool - I know it.  With my Ray Ban aviators, though, I actually wear a "medium size" 58mm lens, 14mm bridge (listed as 58-14, found on the inside arm of most sunglasses).  I went with a similar 57-15 size on this pair.  They fit in a similar fashion, unsurprisingly.  I could probably get away with a 61mm as well, but I like this size just fine.  With my tall lanky build, I'm afraid with lenses too large I could start bringing to mind images of a praying mantis or stickbug.

The lenses allow a range of 12-18% of visible light to pass through. Comparing this to my Ray Bans and Persols, the amount of light reduction is similar with a neutral tint vs. the slight greenish cast of the G-15 lens.

Wearing them for some period of time I've experienced none of the annoying slippage on the nose that can happen with sweat - something I'm appreciating a lot right now in this summer heat.

Impressions and Value


Randolph Engineering asks in the range of $149 to $239 for their sunglasses, similar to Ray Ban pricing and cheaper than Persols, though you can generally find RE discounted at similar rates as well.  In comparison, I'd say they feel much more substantial in build quality than my Ray Bans and I would absolutely recommend them if you are looking for something similar or want to break away from the Luxottica stranglehold on the market. It's a little shocking how much Luxottica owns of the market, to be honest - they own Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Lenscrafters and more, which sell the almost 30 brands of sunglasses and optics they manufacture, including Ray Ban, Persol, Oliver Peoples, and more.  Don't get me wrong, I actually really like my Ray Bans, and I'm not sorry I bought them (though I overpaid for a couple back in the day).  The Randolphs are just plain built better.

At full cost, I think their asking price is more than fair.  More and more consumers are trying to find companies who make high quality products in the USA without any smoke, mirrors, or hype costs built in, and Randolph Engineering does that in spades.  As noted, Sierra Trading Post got their hands on some and with discounts I picked mine up $58.26 shipped.  Take a minute to consider how ridiculous that is.  Polarized models will be a little more expensive at ~$80 with applied discounts, but still outrageously low when you consider the cost/value ratio.  If you are even half-considering it, just do it.  Of note, going through their website puts you at a higher price but also gives you the ability to fully customize your glasses vs. picking from pre-fabricated models of arguably lesser attractiveness, depending on your tastes (I personally like a lot of the available models).  In any case, this is one of the more clear-cut examples of fantastic value in my recent memory, and I look forward to getting my hands on more Randolph Engineering products in the future.  For a look inside the factory, check out A Continuous Lean's tour of the Randolph facility.

"“I’ve never seen a problem that can’t be solved when you’re working 14 hour days.”
— Randolph Engineering founder, Jan Waszkiewicz"


You can find them at Sierra Trading Post

or

Direct from Randolph Engineering


Things I Liked
Superlative value
Superior build quality and materials
Made in USA
Really interesting history (if you are into that sort of thing - I am)

Things I Didn't Like
Wish I had tried them sooner
Reminder of the largeness of my head





1 comment:

  1. If you have a round face too, you might want to stay away from glasses that are round in shape. Sunglasses for Men

    ReplyDelete