Rado Watches Co., Ltd.
Rado Watches Co., Ltd. (Est. 1917) Although originally established more than one hundred years ago as the watch movement factory, Schlup & Co., in Lengnau, Switzerland, Rado is now a globally recognized watch brand; part of the Swatch Group. The Group’s official website states that Rado is, “… famous for innovative design and its use of revolutionary materials to create some of the world’s most recognizable and durable watches. Ever since its beginnings in Lengnau, Switzerland, Rado has had a pioneering spirit, with the brand philosophy “if we can imagine it, we can make it” still holding true today.”
The Schlup & Co. watchmaking factory was founded by brothers Fritz, Ernst, and Werner. Their humble workshop was a converted part of their parents’ home. Though Schlup & Co. began quite modestly, by the end of World War II, the factory was among the largest producers of watch movements in the world.
Between 1950 and 1959, Schlup & Co. began selling watches under the Rado brand name. Its first creation, the Golden Horse, made its debut in 1957, the same year that Schlup & Co. celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Green Horse collection followed in 1958 and was one of the first Rado models marketed on its water resistance. By the end of the 50s, Rado was an international brand with a presence in over 61 countries.
In 1962, Rado introduced the original DiaStar 1 that was the brand’s first scratch-resistant watch. The company promised that even after years of use, it would still look as brilliant as on the day it was brought home. To achieve its durability, it was made using two materials new to watchmaking: hardmetal and sapphire crystal. Additionally, scratch sensitive glass was replaced by sapphire glass – a material that combines extreme hardness with transparency. The model is still in production and available today.
Since then Rado has experimented with a number of technologies and materials, among them tungsten, titanium, sapphire crystal and lanthanum. The Rado watches price list ranges from below $1,000 to more than $200,000. Popular models are the Rado Jubile watches, Rado Ceramica, and Rado Pezdir.
While other brands use conventional materials like gold, brass, or steel, Rado goes for innovative materials such as high-tech diamond, high-tech lanthanum, sapphire crystal, hard metal, or high-tech ceramics.
Its high-tech diamond process creates a material as hard as natural diamond. For decades Rado had imagined making watches from a material as hard as natural diamond. Through research and the use of cutting-edge nanotechnology, the Rado dream became a reality with the unveiling of the Rado V10K watch.
With its uniquely resistant high-tech diamond surface, the Rado V10K achieved a hardness of 10,000 Vickers. Ten thousand on the Vickers scale is the hardness of diamond. Consequently, the V10K name describes the watch’s extremely hard surface. The watch has an ultra-minimalist look with three rectangular planes that define the case which lacks a crown.
Although watches with ceramic bezels and dials are common, few brands offer fully-ceramic cases and watchbands. Because ceramics start with malleable clay, ceramic cases can take on a wider range of shapes than carbide cases. Rado offers watches in two different types of ceramics beside traditional ceramics: plasma high-tech ceramic, and Ceramos metal ceramic.
The plasma ceramic is similar to the company’s normal high-tech ceramic, but a plasma treatment melts the outer surface. This creates an exterior that is smooth and shiny resulting from a surface with fewer microscopic pores than untreated ceramic.
Metal ceramics, such as Ceramos, include a metal alloy in the ceramic mixture. This gives a bright and unmistakably metallic appearance to the watches whether with a matte surface or smooth polish.
Because they resist denting and scratches more readily than metals, hard materials are prone to cracking rather than denting. The carbide and ceramic watches look brand-new for a long time, as long as they don’t fall onto hard surfaces.
Ceramics were the next step in Rado’s progression of scratch-proof engineering and easier to shape than carbides. The 1986 Integral used ceramic in both its rectangular case and linked bracelet. Stainless steel appeared in both of these in order to support the ceramic components. The outward-facing black ceramic panels of the bracelet’s links afforded high scratch resistance while steel elements added appealing contrast.
In 1990, the first Ceramica arrived on the market, sporting a case of the same width as its bracelet. Though the Ceramica sported a minimal, modern aesthetic, its shape recalled the rectangular watches popular before World War I. This was the brand’s first ceramic watch where the bracelet had no visible metal parts. The watch’s case is ceramic except for the sapphire crystal and titanium caseback since a metallic caseback allows for waterproofing.
While not the first fully ceramic case, Rado’s new processes and proprietary ceramics made these components ready for mass production. Like many Rado watches, most Ceramica watches used quartz movements, however, an automatic mechanical variant came out in 2017.
For nearly three decades, high-tech ceramic has played a central role in Rado’s approach to watchmaking. High-tech ceramic timepieces are objects of art and craftsmanship: Their smooth stylish surfaces can be metallic or matte, crafted in an ever-expanding array of colors. They are also a gentle approach to glamour: Lightweight and hypoallergenic, high-tech ceramic watches are comfortable and can be worn by anyone with sensitive skin.
The True series, with a sleek monobloc case and linked ceramic bracelet, offers both minimal simplicity and eye-catching and unique visual design. In the True Open Heart, for example, the watch reveals its automatic movement through a skeletonized dial that frames the movement’s spinning wheels. Also, a limited edition True Automatic Open Heart boasts a 0.6mm-thick mother of pearl panel as its dial. This creates a semi-transparent, fascinating view into the movement’s workings while leaving the dial and its markers easily visible.
Rado often works with fashion and interior designers to come up with unique ideas for new True models. For example, Swiss interior design studio Big Game collaborated with the brand to create the True Phospho, an open heart watch with an industrial take as the concept. The Phospho’s dial is a perforated black brass grille, creating openness while retaining dial visibility like the mother-of-pearl True.
Fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga’s offering is the True Shadow, with a dial that darkens when exposed to ultraviolet light. Indoors, the dial is totally transparent, giving a clear view of the movement below, but becomes near-opaque black in sunlight.
Other innovative creations include The True Thinline with a modern-looking round Monobloc, monochrome case. It fits a 1mm-thick quartz movement into a 4.9mm-thick case. A minute and hour hand float over a dial that displays the Rado logo, but is otherwise blank. This collection also comes with automatic movements. This automatic movement displays itself prominently in the limited edition True Thinline Skeleton, but the model is exceedingly rare because the Skeleton version had a run of only 99 pieces.
According to the Money Inc. website, many of Rado’s watches are relatively rare. Unlike mass manufacturers, Rados are produced in a limited quantity each year, making their watches rarer than most well-known brands. The truth is one doesn’t see a Rado watch every day. They only manufacture 500,000 watches per year — including all of their unique designs. The watches are also available through limited retailers.
A recipient of numerous, prestigious international design awards, and with one eye firmly focused on the future, Rado is regarded as the most forward thinking design player in watchmaking today.
Rado made waves in 2016 with the relaunch of its iconic Rado Ceramica collection. Teaming up with renowned industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, the brand updated its well-known, starkly geometric timepiece with a contemporary new look. In 2017 the brand took this visionary timepiece a step further. For the first time, it added matte grey high-tech ceramic and an automatic movement to the Ceramica collection.
For the greater part of its history, Rado only designed and created watches for men. It was not until 1996 that they moved into the world of women’s watches. The first model was the Diaqueen, a combination of gold and white ceramic. While the design was visibly elegant, it was still classified as scratch proof.
In addition to creating the best scratch-resistant watches, the company continues to push the envelope in the area of water-resistant timepieces. Currently available designs can tolerate three bars of pressure or resist water infiltration up to a significant 30 meters. The company is promising more water-resistant models in the near future.
Specializing in high-tech ceramic watches, Rado has gone from one breakthrough to the next and has a long and proud history of innovation, continually introducing the unexpected into Swiss watchmaking.