What is "invisible" pince-nez?

“He wore a gold wristwatch, and on the bridge of his nose invisible pince-nez. He gave a little cough.”—THE LETTER by W. Somerset Maugham

I wonder what the word “invisible” means in the above context. Does this mean “very small”, “transparent”, or what?


I would have said: Invisible = que l’on ne voit pas (= nobody can/is able to see)
“transparent” would do, but one can see it as “very tiny/small” (so that nobody is able to see it.)

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It could also mean transparent clear, like a second skin. I can think of clear-colour sterile hydrogel bandage (for treating minor burns and cuts) besides nose clips made of clear silicone instead of metal.

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Think magician. When something at a certain distance is not visible to the naked eye, it is invisible, even though it is there. Maugham was very fond of this description and used it in several of his writings. Pince-nez had gained a resurgence in the mid-1800’s and were popular during the time that Maugham was growing up.

I haven’t done the research, so I am only speculating here, but I believe the “invisible pince-nez” was likely a popular style of the day, at least in certain circles. I would guess that at least certain styles of pince-nez were considered “invisible,” especially in comparison to clunky, standard glasses. They would have been considered the contact lenses of their day.


I wonder whether only some types of pince-nez were considered “invisible” or whether all types of them were considered so.
If everyone knew about “pince-nez”, the writer did not have to describe a common feature of them. If this is true, the pince-nez might have been of a special type.

As I said, certain styles of pince-nez were probably considered “invisible,” and there was probably even a popular style known as “invisible pince-nez.” But this style was probably quite expensive and high-maintenance, which is why I said popular “at least in certain circles.” But I’m only speculating. I haven’t read any literature on the subject.


Once again, I think you got it brucenator.

I would think it is the rimless kind, just two bare lenses linked with a bridge of minimalist design. It is hard to see from a distance.

Those with rims and elaborate fancy bridge designs are very easy to see with the amont of twisted metal involved. As they are to be mounted outside the eyes, they can’t be so tiny or very small as to be invisible.

By the way, I am always fascinated to see in period movies that a dandy or a scientific type suddenly pulls out and puts on a monocle to read something.