Oakley sunglasses: worth the price premium?
I have to begin today’s blog with a disclaimer of sorts: I am, admittedly, a big fan of Oakley sunglasses. I think they look great, the optical quality is excellent (this is particularly true of their new Prizm Road lenses) and they are very well made. I own several pair of Oakley Sunglasses, and I’m very happy with them. They are the only sunglasses I wear while cycling. Well, at least until recently…
Not too long before Christmas, I was on Amazon adjusting my December Subscribe and Save shipment. While I was browsing the site, a lightning deal caught my eye. The deal was for a few bucks off the already very inexpensive Rivbos 801 Polarized Sports Sunglasses Glasses with 5 Interchangeable Lenses. These sunglasses sell every day on Amazon for less than 20 bucks, and the lighting deal brought them down to around $15.
The Rivbos sunglasses are Chinese-made clones of the Oakley Prizm Road Radarlock sunglasses, which are my absolute favorite pair of Oakleys. The Oakley Prizm Road Radarlock sunglasses sell for about $240.00, and so I figured I should order a pair of the Rivbos and see how they compare.
The Rivbos sunglasses are available in a whole bunch of lens/frame color combinations. I went with Red & Grey. They look very much at home with my collection of Oakleys:
Aesthetically the Rivbos sunglasses are nearly identical to the Oakleys. If the company branding were removed, you’d be hard pressed to tell the two brands apart.
The Rivbos arms open and close a little more stiffly than the Oakleys, but they function just fine.
The Rivbos nosepads feel 100% identical to the Oakley nosepads.
Optical clarity of the Rivbos sunglasses is excellent (they come with 5 sets of lenses, but I used the mirrored lenses for all my tests). All the lenses have 100% UV 400 protection, and the black lenses are even polarized–something for which Oakley charges quite a premium (about 80 bucks, if I recall correctly).
I’ve worn the Rivbos sunglasses on 4 rides now, and they are just as comfortable as the Oakleys. In fact, I forgot that I was not wearing my Oakleys.
Look, I love my Oakleys, but I came away from this experiment very surprised. I did not expect a product that sells for a tiny fraction of the price of Oakleys to give me 95% of the performance. Oakleys have a little bit better build quality, and the Prizm lenses provide better contrast than the Rivbos mirrored lenses, but apart from that you’re paying a huge premium for the Oakley name.
You could literally buy 12 pair of Rivbos sunglasses for the price of one pair of Oakleys. Lose a pair? Step on them? Crash and break them? Scratch them? No big deal, they cost you 20 bucks.
I’ll still wear my Oakleys on “big” rides, but for most of my training rides, doing yard work, projects outside and so on, I’m going to rock the Rivbos.
Here are some hastily taken photographs from this morning (click any to enlarge):