Oakley's new Encoder looks slick, but what's far more interesting is the technology incorporated into the new lens design.

New Oakley Encoder sunglasses introduce clever new integrated frame design

The weight and field-of-view of rimless, but the stiffness of a full frame.

by James Huang

photography by Oakley


Sunglass giant Oakley has long had a reputation for pushing boundaries when it comes to style. But while the company’s new Encoder model does sport a somewhat avant garde look, the most interesting thing about it has nothing to do with optics or aesthetics.

At first glance, the Encoder uses a fairly straightforward frameless shield layout and an oversized lens that offers generous coverage. But while frameless sunglasses often offer field-of-view and weight advantages over full-frame designs, they also tend to be flexier, offer a less-secure fit, and generally just don’t feel as substantial. 

With the Encoder, however, Oakley has flared the upper edge and nose areas of the lens to create more of a three-dimensional profile and more stiffness as a result. In effect, it’s sort of like how a flat strip of aluminum is pretty flexible, but a similarly narrow strip with 90º bends along the edges offers far more rigidity. It’s a brilliantly simple approach to a common problem, and one that I expect Oakley will use more going forward. 

The temples are also supposedly shorter than what we’ve traditionally seen from Oakley in the past for better compatibility with various helmet retention systems. Two different nosepieces are available to help fine-tune the fit, too.

Oakley is offering the Encoder in four different stock color combinations for now (including the company’s superb Prizm Road tint), although you’ll want to choose wisely. While the new lens design is neat from a structural engineering perspective, it’s not interchangeable.

Retail price is US$236 / AU$311 / £146 / €228.

More information can be found at www.oakley.com.

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