How the Oakley Romeo sparked the X-Metal movement and revolutionized how Sunglasses are created today!
History and Background
In 1996, Oakley announced its first model in the X Metal Collection, then named the Oscar. Today we know those sunglasses by a different name – the Oakley Romeo.
The initial release of the Romeo was delayed to the point that founder Jim Jannard stated he would voluntarily forfeit his 1996 incentive bonus of approximately $1.0 million if the Romeo did not ship by the end of February. On February 28th, 1997, the Romeo had its public release at the then partially completed Oakley Headquarters. The retail price? A cool $250.
Despite the star-studded launch, attended by Olympians, and various athletes, the Romeo was not an initial success. For the first year or two, it struggled commercially. After the release of the Oakley Juliet and the help of marketing campaigns, the X-Metal line and Romeo began to gain popularity.
One example was on the face of Tom Cruise in 2000’s blockbuster Mission Impossible 2. He sports an X-Metal pair of Oakley Romeo’s while defying death.
Making the Romeo
The X-Metal process to create the Romeo was revolutionary in the sunglasses industry. As we covered in our complete X-Metal Guide, the process involved in creating the material and sunglasses required a six-ton generator with 425,000 watts of power.
In the end, Romeo 1.0 sunglasses were produced from 1997 to 2004 when they were subsequently replaced by the Oakley Romeo 2.0. We’ll cover both of these pairs in detail below.
Oakley Romeo 1.0 Sunglasses Review
Frame, Size and Design
The Oakley Romeo frame features a full-rimmed design and an interchangeable “nosebomb” (re: nose pieces) to provide a precision fit.
The earstems are often referred to as “Hammerstems” or “Hammer” ear stems due to their unique shape.
Each frame is stamped with a unique serial number on the earstem, which denotes its production order (lower numbers were created first).
As Jim Jannard has stated in the past, many low serial number pairs were given to the employees and close friends of Oakley (e.t 1-100). For the Romeo, these pairs featured red earsocks, nosebombs, and hinge bumpers.
These red earsocks pairs have also been referred to as “Michael Jordan” edition Romeo’s after being seen on his face during several public events. But this name was never officially denoted by Oakley.
In the end, the Romeo is one of the largest and heaviest X-Metal frames created. The frame measures 152mm from temple to temple and weighs in at 46 grams. Almost 50% more than the 29g Ballistic M Frame from Oakley Standard Issue. The weight is due to the X-Metal material which allows the frame to withstand the weight of a car.
Over the years, wearers have complained of the weight and slight discomfort from the Romeo. Additionally, as the first X-Metal, they did have structural issues. The design of the frame caused a lack of flex and ultimately created stress points around the lenses which causes splintering of lenses and fracturing.
The Oakley Romeo Lenses used XYZ optics to provide zero distortion and perfect clarity. Despite being a full-frame design, the lenses can be replaced on the Romeo, but it’ll require a T6 Torx driver.
The original Romeo was available in 3 colorways. We’ve included the list below for reference:
- Plasma / Fire Iridium
- Titanium / Gold Iridium
- X-Metal / Black Iridium
Oakley Romeo 2.0 Sunglasses Review
Frame, Size and Design
In late 2004, the Oakley Romeo 2.0 was released with a retail price of $375. This pair aimed to improve on the existing Romeo design. The new frame featured a half lens structure that allows for greater downward vision. Plus an updated frame and earstem design.
While still made out of X-Metal material, the Romeo 2.0 was over 20% lighter than its predecessor weighing only 35 grams. Most wearers find the Romeo 1 and 2 to be completely different in terms of both design and comfort. Oakley also addressed the flex issues in the earlier frames to prevent splintering and fracturing of lenses.
Unlike the Romeo 1 however, Romeo 2 sunglasses don’t have unique serial numbers for each model. This is around the time period where Oakley began phasing out serial numbers for many of their mass-produced models.
Similar to its predecessor, the Oakley Romeo 2 lenses feature XYZ Optics and 100% UV filtering. Additionally, they offered Polarized Lenses in the original colorways.
The frame also features swappable lenses with the right tool – typically a hexagon wrench will do the trick.
Similar to the above, you can not purchase replacement lenses from Oakley anymore. However, you can find replacement lens manufacturers only who offer options for the Romeo 2.
- Carbon / Black Iridium
- Carbon / Fire Iridium
- Plasma / Gold Iridium
- Polished / Titanium Iridium
- X-Metal / Black Iridium Polarized
Oakley Romeo MUZM Release
In March of 2021, Oakley released the Muzm Series 1975 X-Metal Edition Sunglasses set which included an all-new Romeo frame.
Unlike the original Romeo sunglasses, the Muzm Romeo is 3-D printed though still using the same design and titanium alloy.
The Muzm Series Romeo also includes upgraded nosebombs, flex couplers, and earsocks to keep with the latest technology. Another huge upgrade on these Romeo’s is Prizm lenses. These are the first Oakley X-Metals ever to feature Prizm lenses with Prizm Black Polarized standard.
While it may all sound great, Oakley only produced 14 total sets of the MUZM X-Metals, each retailing for an insane amount! Find out how much plus complete details on the MUZM Romeo in our full post here.
Where to Buy Romeo sunglasses?
As the Romeo 1.0 and 2.0 are now discontinued if you want to buy one it will need to be through an aftermarket such as the OakleyForum.com X-Metal Exchange or eBay.
But as we covered in our X-Metal guide, you can expect the prices to be way above the original retail prices as these pairs have become sought after by collectors.
Despite early flaws, the Romeo 1.0 is cemented in history as the first X-Metal. Because of this, it will always be coveted by collectors. Even if you hated the weight, the design, etc. you have to respect the process that created the innovation in the Romeo. They truly are sunglasses that changed an entire industry overnight.
Do you own a pair of Oakley Romeos? Do you love them or hate them? Or are you looking to buy a pair? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below?