How Glasses Direct’s lens range has evolved in 20 years

26 Jun 2024

Founded by Jamie Murray Wells in the summer of 2004, Glasses Direct has seen many developments to its lens range in the last 20 years. To begin with, the website offered a very limited range of lens products and packages. Since then, it has expanded significantly.

Today, customers are given lots of choice thanks to developments in technology and the success of the brand. Step through time and explore the history of lenses at Glasses Direct.


To begin with, the Glasses Direct site had a very basic selection of lenses available. This included single-vision and bifocal lenses with a free hard coating.

By the end of 2004, several tints and lens options were made available, at an additional cost, on the Glasses Direct website, which included the choice of an anti-reflective, scratch-resistant or anti-UV coating. It also included a range of sunglasses tints, including brown, grey, green, red, blue and yellow.


In 2005, the most basic light-adaptive Transitions® photochromic lenses became available with grey or brown tints, offering a convenient solution for customers who wanted eyewear that could function as both fully clear glasses and sunglasses.

Photochromic lenses are still very popular today. They are designed to block 100% of UVA/B rays when exposed to bright sunlight.


Varifocal lenses were introduced to the site in 2006. However, the process of ordering these lenses was very different to how it is today. Customers would first need to place their order online, an optical dispenser would then arrange a suitable time to come and visit them at home. The optical dispenser would take the measurements needed from the customer in order to produce the varifocal lenses. Following this step, the glasses would be delivered to the customer’s door. This innovative service was exclusive to Glasses Direct customers at the time and offered the unique opportunity to order varifocal glasses online. It was not until 2010 that this process was replaced. At this time, customers could send an old pair of varifocal glasses to get measured before purchasing their new ones.

Now, varifocal customers can simply order their glasses online with just a few clicks. Yet, it is recognised that these lenses do require a lot of attention to detail, so an optician will often call the customer to confirm details and make sure everything is just right with their order before proceeding with any next steps.


By 2007, the option of thinner lenses for rimless glasses became available. This meant glasses with stronger prescriptions could be designed with thinner lenses, helping them to feel less bulky.


In 2008, a variety of thinner lens options came to the site to make glasses more flattering and comfortable for the wearer, especially for stronger prescriptions. This included a Thin Lens with a UV filter and scratch-resistant coating which was 14% thinner than the standard free lenses, as well as an Extra-Thin Lens at 33% thinner and Ultra-Thin Lens at 39% thinner. They each came with a UV filter, anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings.


In 2010, Glasses Direct’s sunglasses range expanded with the introduction of gradient tints and polarised sunglasses. Gradient tints, which are dark at the top and fade to a lighter shade, are ideal for driving as they protect you from sunlight overhead whilst still enabling you to see inside the car. They also make a fashionable alternative to dark tints. Meanwhile, polarised lenses are both stylish and practical, designed to filter out reflected glare and ease eye strain for improved visual comfort. They are particularly suited to people with a sensitivity to light and those who enjoy outdoor sports activities.

Lens packages were also launched on the Glasses Direct site in 2010. This included the Bronze Package which comes with an anti-scratch coating. Customers could choose to upgrade to Silver which adds an anti-reflection coating to the scratch-resistant properties of the Bronze Package. From there, there is an upgrade to Gold which has a refractive index of 1.6 with an anti-scratch, anti-reflective and anti-UV coating. Finally, there is the Platinum Package which is the thinnest lens available with a refractive index of 1.74, making it around 40% thinner than the standard lenses. The lens packages were introduced to the site to give customers a clearer indication of the value of their purchase. Named after precious metals, the customer could much more easily identify the differences at a single glance.


In 2017, BlueReflect™ lenses were launched on site. They are still very popular and are designed to filter blue-violet light to ensure improved visual comfort when you are watching TV or using your digital devices.


Once we get to 2019, the Transitions® range expanded to include Transitions® Signature, Transitions® XTRActive® and Transitions® Drivewear®. All of the lenses block 100% UVA/B rays. Transitions® Signature lenses adjust from clear to dark according to the intensity of the sun. They also protect against blue-violet light. Transitions® XTRActive® turn extra dark outdoors and darken behind car windscreens. The lenses came in brown, grey and green. Transitions® Drivewear® lenses, meanwhile, are always tinted and react behind the car windscreen as well as outside.

A variety of different varifocal lens options also became available to purchase from Glasses Direct in 2019. This included Varifocal Advanced, Elite HD and Supreme HD. The modern Advanced lenses provide a good field of vision at all distances, whilst Elite HD offer a wider field of vision than ‘Advanced’ and less peripheral distortion. Finally, Varifocal Supreme HD uses Digital Ray-Path technology and has an improved field of vision for reading and intermediate distances.

Our LensProtect+ add-on also became available in 2019. As an optional extra for customers, it increases the durability and clarity of their lenses with an anti-reflection coating. It also provides water-repellent, grease-resistant and anti-static properties.


In 2021, Transitions® Signature® GEN8™ was launched on site. The latest addition to the Transitions® range, it uses innovative technology and became the fastest-reacting Transitions® lens.


A new addition to the varifocal range arrived in 2022 and that was the KODAK Easy2 Max Lens. These premium varifocal lenses ensure clarity at all distances and are easy for all wearers to adapt to. They are designed to reduce peripheral distortion and provide greater clarity at near, far and intermediate distances.

In 2022, Glasses Direct also introduced the trendy new style colours for Transitions® Signature® GEN8™. As part of the campaign, we teamed up with the talented dance troupe Diversity. We went from offering just the standard green, grey and brown options to offering several vibrant new lens colours, including amber, emerald, sapphire and amethyst.


Last year, Glasses Direct was also proud to launch the KODAK Clean&CleAR Lenses and KODAK UVBlue Lens packages. KODAK Clean&CleAR single-vision lenses provide clarity and comfort for the wearer. They are easy to clean and have a durable scratch-resistant coating. The KODAK UVBlue Lenses are blue-violet light filtering and protect against UV light. They are also easy to clean and offer improved contrast for enhanced colour recognition.

2024 and beyond

This year, we launched Transitions® GEN S™ the latest photochromic lenses which are designed to suit busy lifestyles. These lenses seamlessly adapt to changing light and come in eight trendy colours, including the brand-new ruby colour.

Glasses Direct is constantly looking for new ways to expand its product range and offer customers the best possible experience and value for money when it comes to shopping for fashionable, high-quality eyewear. We have spent the last 20 years developing our site and expanding our range to keep up with the latest demand for eyewear. Today, within our range, we have a wide variety of lens options and coatings for you to choose from.