Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Matthias Breschan, CEO of innovative Swiss watch brand, Rado, to talk about the past, present and future of one of the industry’s most design-forward manufactures.
First, you need to understand that Rado is a very young brand in the industry. We brought out our first collection in 1957, while most of the other Swiss brands had their emergence in the 18th and early 19th century. One thing we did correctly from the very beginning was to concentrate on materials rather than going into a competition with movements and complications, hence we truly became a “master of materials” for bringing innovative designs to the watch industry. For example, our ceramic manufacturing process in Switzerland is unbelievable in terms of technology. The substance of this super high-tech material that is in each Rado watch is really amazing. I would say that the ratio of price and substance is unmatched in the watch industry.
You’ve been at the helm of Rado for almost a decade now… How has the brand evolved since you first took the reins?
I must say that 7-8 years ago we were in a difficult situation, one that somewhat ironically was rooted in our strengths. As I said earlier, what distinguished Rado for many years was our concentration on the materials message: first hardened metals, and then, beginning in 1986, ceramic, which was a far superior technology. However, at this time to create our cases we used a centerpiece of steel and then built a ceramic skin around it. Because of the limitations inherent in this process, we could only do the machining in straight lines, so by definition the watches were black, shiny and square. On the one hand, this was fantastic because it was unique, different and extremely recognizable. For example, if you were sitting in a restaurant and someone far away was wearing a Rado watch you immediately were able to recognize it as such. But between 2000 and 2010, as our customers became older, we tried to find new ways to attract a younger clientele, i.e. bringing out something that wasn’t black, shiny and square, but our retailers said we don’t want this because it’s not Rado. Somehow “black, shiny and square” became a synonym for an older generation and the younger ones didn’t want to buy into this.
There were two revolutionary technologies that really helped us to turn this around. First and foremost is “monobloc” construction, and the other is color. Thanks to monobloc construction, we can now do any case geometry that we want. This has allowed us to review our iconic collections from the ’60s and ’70s – for sport watches, the Captain Cook; and for classic watches, the Golden Horse – which were phased out because they couldn’t be rendered in hardened metals or ceramic due to issues arising from weight with respect to the former, or case shapes, with respect to the latter. But now we are bringing them back. In fact, later in the year we’re bringing out a Captain Cook in a full ceramic case.
Can you speak to your ceramic manufacturing and, in particular your revolutionary Rado True Thinline Les Couleurs Le Corbusier collection?
First of all, making colors in ceramic is extremely complex. This is truly state-of-the-art technology. When approaching this collection, we asked ourselves what is the most relevant color theory? And after much research we settled on the color theory established by Le Corbusier. In his time, he defined 63 colors as relevant, and then organized them into nine groups. Our challenge was to create nine colors in ceramic that would accurately represent each of the nine groups. Not only was the challenge to render the correct color, but then to do so uniformly throughout the case and the bracelet, which has more than 30 links. This was a great achievement and it points to the way Rado wants to go in the future.
Can you talk a bit about the just-released Captain Cook 42 “Ghost Captain” collaboration Rado did with Revolution?
Vintage watches have became more and more popular, but more than a trend it’s something that corresponds to the spirit of the watch industry. The Captain Cook is a perfect example of this. When we first started talking with Revolution we were using green, blue, brown and black ceramic as our base color assortment for the collection, but Revolution wanted something different, something that stood out more and eventually they settled on gray, which we now call the “Ghost Captain”. We developed the bezel, and then created a complete package that included a gray leather strap, a gray NATO strap and a new “EasyClip” system that makes it simple to switch between them. Originally this piece was done in 37mm, and there was so much demand for it that we now have an agreement that the new 42mm version will be exclusive to Revolution for a certain period of time, after which, it will be offered to select retailers.
What do you feel is Rado’s defining piece?
I think that it is still the Rado Original. We’re bringing it back this year in a skeleton version because there is now a huge demand for it worldwide. There is maybe no other watch in the industry that is quite so recognizable.
What is your favorite Rado?
The Captain Cook.
That was quick!
Of course now I’m desperately waiting for the launch of the full ceramic version!