There’s this intangible aura about a timeless item that sets it apart from its peers. It’s an aura impossible to fabricate. Perhaps it’s a maker’s commitment to real craftsmanship. Perhaps it’s a durable design, or an inspiration drawn from a storied past, or a razor-sharp understanding of a ripe future. There is no real formula to achieve timelessness, but British luxury coachbuilder Radford Motors has mastered it. As has California premium eyewear brand SALT. Optics.
This summer, the two brands have partnered to release a range of limited-edition sunglasses featuring two aviator styles, the RS-500 and RS-600, available in four colorways reflecting the iconic Radford Type 62-2 colors. Specifically engineered using aerospace-grade Japanese titanium for an enhanced driving experience, the sunglasses are both anti-reflective and hydrophobic.
Craig Metzger, head of marketing at craft eyewear brand SALT. Optics, talked to us about the collaboration.
How does the SALT. brand relate to the unique ethos of Radford?
Both brands want to build things that are beautifully designed, timeless editions, with a respect for the past, using the latest materials and technology, while appreciating the human touch. At SALT., we are inspired by classic eyewear with deep histories in form and function, and we aim to improve the fit as well as enhance the optical viewing field. Radford Motors is inspired by classic cars and the art of coachbuilding, creating luxury cars that blend state-of-the-art automotive technology with a hands-on approach that heavily emphasizes craftsmanship. At SALT. Optics, we have a deep fascination with vintage eyewear related to driving sports. So when the opportunity arose to create a premium driving glass for them, we eagerly jumped at the chance.
What makes the Radford frame unique or special?
We wanted to take what worked throughout the history of automotive eyewear and evolve it by using the best materials and proprietary techniques. By utilizing Japanese Aerospace Grade Titanium, we were able to create a product that excels not only in strength but also in its lightweight nature. Through close collaboration with our partners in Japan, we developed a process that enables us to control the transitions in titanium thickness, resulting in improved lens placement and an enhanced viewing experience. Also, there are handcrafted details on some of the models that include, hand painted temples, hand detailed metal work on the hood and front grill as well as hand brushing for a classic look and feel. The lenses also feature best-in-class optics that are engineered for an improved driving experience. The custom SALT. anti-reflective, oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings reduce glare, repel dirt and water and diffuse harmful light rays allowing for the highest performance.
When you conjure up the icons cited in the Radford collaboration (ie Steve McQueen, Paul Newman), what comes to mind about these individuals that is meaningful to SALT.?
All our inspiration can be traced to iconic people and periods of time in eyewear. Paul Newman’s look at the 1979 24 hours of Le Mans is as classic as the Porsche he drove. Both men were icons, and they wore highly functional eyewear pieces that were ahead of their time and closely associated with driving and racing culture. We examined these iconic eyewear pieces and embarked on a mission to enhance their functionality and fit. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, in particular, epitomized the racing culture and turned out to be influential for Radford Motors Co as well.
Lots of brands espouse "craft" or "craftsmanship" in their products, but don't deliver in the way that SALT does. How does a brand stay true to craft amidst all the popularity of the term and the marketplace competition?
It’s hard but once you hold a pair of our glasses in your hand and you notice the subtle details, you begin to realize these aren’t any ordinary pair of glasses. We spare no expense on our lens technology and use only the best materials, so besides the fit and finish the viewing experience is above the rest. We don’t use any catchy marketing terms for our superior lens technology and our shapes are classic without falling victim to trend. The goal for us is to create a pair of glasses you’ll have for the rest of your life, something of heirloom quality without looking like a costume piece. As an independent eyewear brand we are fortunate enough to have the ability to create eyewear that we can truly stand behind without having to cut corners or use materials that our competitors are forced to use in order to appease shareholders.
The collection is limited to 125 pairs of each colorway for both styles and are numbered on the outside left temple with 000 - 125. Each pair comes in a special Radford Motors + SALT. Optics branded glasses case and retails for $750 USD. The collection is available to shop at saltoptics.com.