Just when you want to tip the brakes on your Porsche 911 Turbo S Convertible to steer into that hairpin, your Vertu starts ringing. What this has to do with watches? Well, the ceramic brakes of your Porsche, as well as the ceramic housing of your Vertu are made of the exact same material that a watch brand uses for its high tech ceramic cases and bracelets; Rado. Among watch brands Rado may be a youngster, since the brand only appeared for the very first time on a dial of a watch in 1957. Not that there hasn’t been any prior experience, the brand did come forth out of the Schlup & Co. Clockwork factory, which was founded by the the three brothers Schlup in Lengau, Switzerland in 1917. Yet what set them apart from all those other brands was not their age but their approach to watches.
As with for example the aforementioned Porsche, the first scratch hurts badly, and we often only accept the second and third scratch because of that first scratch. The same goes for your watch, and therefore Rado has made it part of their DNA to take extreme measures to not let this happen. In 1962 they did this with the first DiaStar by crafting a large portion of the case out of, what Rado refers to as, Hardmetal. You got to like that name, especially since there is truth to it. Hardmetal is in fact Tungsten Carbide, and scores between 1400 and 1700 on the Vickers hardness scale, compared to 150 to 190 for common 316L steel, which is widely used to make watches out of. Already a great improvement, yet not enough for the people at Rado, and that is why they ventured off into a field that turned out to be their destiny; high tech ceramics. Their first creation incorporating this technology was introduced in 1986, and their ability in this field has expanded ever since.
Crafting high tech ceramic parts is not an easy task and has for sure some elements of alchemy in it. Although the exact process is a highly regarded secret it all starts with ceramic granulate that is melted and moulded into the shape of cases, bracelet links and other watch parts. After that they will be baked at very high temperatures. This is a critical step, since this ensures that all the air escapes from the ceramic composition and obtaining the qualities it is so well known for. One of the biggest challenges with this is that there is also about 20% shrinkage as a result of the baking. When you realize how precise watch part needs to be, controlling this process is very important, despite being very difficult to achieve.
Despite Rado’s considerable expertise in the field, do they still discard around 40% of the produced cases and bracelet parts because they do not meet their strict quality criteria. High tech ceramic is not only extremely scratch resistant, it is also very light, and warms up very quickly to body temperature. These are abilities that make it a very pleasant material to wear, and to ensure the greatest wearing comfort Rado pays particular care to the fit and feel of each watch and bracelet. These are not assembled by a machine, as is customary with most watch bracelets, but by hand, so that the perfect fit can be ensured, which translates into higher wearing comfort.
Creating high tech ceramic is one thing, but playing with it is a whole other ball game. Rado can create it’s high tech ceramic either in a matte or in a glossy finish, and even in different colors. They have also developed plasma high tech ceramic. Here the high tech ceramic gets a platinum like metallic shine without the use of any metal. The secret is the use of special gasses that are heated up to 20,000˚C, so that they change the look of the high tech ceramics but not its characteristics. Unique also is that the emerging color and gloss is there to stay, it will not fade and of course not scratch. If only they made entire Porsche’s out of high tech ceramic’s, as they do watches…
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics