2024 has arrived, and it's time to refresh my gear. One item I replace religiously every year is sunglasses. They get scratched, broken, or simply don't fit right. So, I was excited to get my hands on VALLON's latest release, the Watchtowers. Here are my initial impressions
1. Designed for gravel cycling
The moment I saw the VALLON Watchtowers in a picture, my inner gearhead did a fist pump. These shades weren't just cool; they screamed purpose-built for gravel cycling. The generous coverage shielded my face from the elements, a welcome defence against dust, mud, and (let's be honest, if you're in the UK) the occasional bovine projectile.
Of course, good sunglasses need more than just swagger. The Watchtowers delivered with 100% UV protection, a must-have for any self-respecting adventurer. While I wouldn't recommend chucking them off a cliff to test their shatterproof claims, the sturdy build and high-quality materials inspired confidence.
The flexible temples, complete with grippy rubber ends, kept the shades comfortably in place, no matter how bumpy the terrain. And the three interchangeable silicone nose pads were a game-changer, ensuring a perfect fit from the get-go. At a featherweight 32 grams, these shades felt like they were barely there, even on long rides.
2. Not just practical but looking great
The Watchtowers' appeal goes beyond the practical. Sure, they shield you like a fortress, but let's be honest, they look damn cool. It's a subjective thing, of course, but I see a perfect blend of 80s nostalgia and modern cyberpunk. They exude confidence and fun, the exact vibe an experienced gravel rider should rock.
Admittedly, I was initially sceptical about their size on my smaller face. But with a helmet on, they magically morphed into the perfect fit. Talk about exceeding expectations!
Watchtowers come in 3 colours:
- Black smoke
- Dark teal copper - my personal choice, a bold statement with a hint of warmth
- Silver blue
3. Carl Zeiss lenses
VALLON claims the Watchtowers' lenses, developed with Carl Zeiss's RiPel technology, boast a hydrophobic and oleophobic coating that should repel water and grease. While they're not magic shields, the results are pretty impressive:
- Water does bead up and roll off easily, minimizing smudging and making it easy to keep a clear view.
- Fingerprints wipe away without much effort, though a dedicated microfiber cloth would be ideal. (The included pouch, while soft and effective in a pinch, is probably destined to get lost at some point!)
4. Lenses for daytime rides
My copper lenses hit the sweet spot for daytime rides. They provide ample shade without being overly dark, even in mixed light conditions. In fact, I found they enhanced my vision in wooded sections, making the dappled sunlight more comfortable on the eyes.
The only slight snag I encountered was a brief flash of glare from the lens at a specific angle, when the sun was low and slightly behind me on the left. It wasn't a major issue, but it's worth mentioning for those seeking absolute perfection in their eyewear.
5. Seamless comfort
The moment you slip on the Watchtowers, they disappear, becoming an extension of yourself. During my test ride, with the temperature hovering around 2 degrees Celsius, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of lens fogging, even during breaks. And unlike other glasses, these beauties didn't leave the slightest pressure point on my nose, even with a buff snugly wrapped around my ears.
VALLON is proud of using recycled materials. I doubt that they use tons and tons of plastic to build these sunglasses (though the frames are made from recycled fishing nets!), but each purchase contributes to their ambitious pledge to collect and recycle 1 kg of plastic, adding an extra layer of eco-conscious satisfaction to your ride.
7. In summary
Watchtowers are awesome gravel cycling sunglasses. If they had a transparent or photochromic version available I’d definitely get them, as I like my gear to be as versatile as possible, and I like to cycle in the dark too. But for day rides, they do a fantastic job. So, looking at the price and compared to other purpose-designed glasses I think they're positioned very well, and the Lifetime Warranty makes it a deal not to miss.
I’ll try to keep this post alive and update on durability after a season. For now here’s a link to the official VALLON website where you can buy them (sometimes they offer 10% off for new customers so watch out for that popup when you enter the site!)