What makes a mechanical wristwatch relevant and timely? We spoke with Matthias Breschan, CEO of design-driven Swiss watchmaker Rado, to hone in on what strategies the company employs to make a timepiece truly modern.
As a relatively younger brand—we started in 1957—Rado made the conscious choice to focus on the design and housing of our timepieces, as well as the movements. We had to take the lead on new materials and innovative design to stand apart. Now, I can say we are a leading brand for incorporating new materials into watchmaking, especially ceramics. We are the masters. From the introduction of our unique DiaMaster Original case design in a hardened metal alloy in 1962, we have been at the forefront. In the 1980s, we were early in identifying high-tech ceramics as the material of the future. Still, there were limitations in the early days: ceramic watches benefited from durability, scratch-resistance and lightweight, but were universally black, shiny and square. That specific ceramic format is still important to us, but in 2011, we revolutionized the use of ceramic compounds with a monobloc case design (similar to monobloc designs from the aerospace and automotive worlds). Injection molding of the ceramic compounds now allows for multiple shapes beyond squares, including exquisite thin round cases. Ceramics also let us deliver a deeper, richer use of color in our cases, but the process can be difficult. Ceramic cases are cured at 1450 degrees Fahrenheit, and some color-specific chemical compounds can “cook out,” leaving a disappointing gray hue on the case. We comply with iconic designer Le Corbusier’s color theory and standards, which segregate 63 relevant colors for design and architecture. We further hone that focus to one color from each group, and in our current True Thinline Les Couleurs collection, we will introduce nine stunning color variations in ceramic with consistent depth and impact. As the True Thinline watches benefit from ceramic’s color advantages, our more traditional DiaMaster Ceramos watches deliver the material’s weight and durability benefits in a classic metal-looking ceramic execution.
I think our new tribute editions of the Captain Cook dive watch and the Golden Horse timepiece are proof positive that design modernity has always been in our DNA. While we updated the movements and case sizes to be more modern, in addition to using some new materials, the limited-edition pieces in these collections, in terms of design and appearance, are a faithful reproduction of the original versions of the 1960s and ’70s. Yet the dials and overall look is as modern today as it was 40 or 50 years ago. We have included cutting-edge ceramic bezels, and we use full sapphire crystals. ere are ceramic case versions of both watches coming as well. We have always focused on design that stands the test of time, but, now, with new materials extending the life of a timepiece to go on forever, we feel that timeless design is even more important.