Rado, though very established and well-known, is a surprisingly young brand. Founded in the 1950s, Rado has in a short time established itself as an industry leader in design and material innovation.
Rado was a brand of watches offered by the Schlup & Co. watchmaking factory, which was founded in 1917. At one time, Schlup & Co. was among the largest producers of watch movements in the world. In the 1950s, Schlup & Co. began selling completed watches using the Rado brand name, and the iconic Golden Horse collection debuted in 1957, the year of Schlup & Co.’s 40th anniversary. The Green Horse collection followed the next year and by the end of the 1950s, Rado was sold in over 60 countries and was an international brand.
In 1962, Rado introduced the model that would really differentiate the brand and define its DNA: the DiaStar 1. Called “the world’s first scratchproof watch,” the DiaStar 1 established Rado as a leader in material innovation and cutting-edge design.
Rado continued to push the limits of materials and design with additional iconic and ground-breaking timepieces: the gold-colored DiaStar in 1972, the Dia 67 in 1976 with an edge-to-edge sapphire crystal, the Integral in 1986 using high-tech ceramic in the bracelet and more.
Throughout the ’90s, Rado continued to use high-tech ceramic, still one of the brand’s signature materials today. The Ceramica was introduced in 1990, followed by the Sintra in 1993. In 1998, the Ceramica became the first Rado watch to use plasma high-tech ceramic.
In the 2000s, Rado introduced the eSenza, the first Rado watch designed without a crown. A real breakthrough occurred in 2002, when the Rado V10K debuted, a watch made of high-tech diamond with the hardness of real diamonds, the hardest material found in nature.
Recently, Rado has been focusing on slimming its collection down, introducing the ultra-slim ceramic True Thinline and the Hyperchrome, featuring a monobloc ceramic case. Rado has innovated with colors of ceramic and most recently has been mining its heritage for vintage-inspired pieces like the Captain Cook.
Rado is a brand committed to continuing its heritage of innovation and design leadership. To find out what is happening with Rado today, Revolution caught up with CEO Matthias Breschan.
What sets Rado apart from its competitors?
Materials. Rado is a very young brand in the Swiss watch industry. It brought out its first collection in 1957, while most others are much older. Rather than starting a competition with the other hundreds of watch brands, focusing on movements, Rado concentrates on the housing of the watch. When you talk about the case, you talk about the design and the materials. This is what we specialize in, bringing innovative design and materials to the watch industry.
What do you think your company does particularly well?
I think Rado has an exceptional ratio of price and substance. When you look at technology, the know-how that is in each Rado watch and then you look at our prices, it is something extremely remarkable.
What is your favorite watch in the Rado collection?
I love the Hyperchrome Autochrono Match Point, the limited edition in plasma ceramic with a blue dial. I think it combines everything Rado is about, it’s state of the art technology, it uses all the expertise that we have in the Swatch Group (from the movement to the bracelet, casing, dial and hands), and for the price we are selling the watch, $4,800, it’s an outstanding value for the technology you have.
Why do you think Rado has been successful?
I think Rado did something that was very rare in the watch industry. Rado concentrated not only on Europe and the US, but they were very early in all of Asia and the Middle East. In these countries, gifting watches is extremely important and popular. Having a material that makes sure your watch looks the same after 20 or 30 years as it did on the first day is a strong emotional message. I also think Rado was not afraid of entering into very innovative and unique concepts. In India, Rado is the No.1 watch brand — Rado entered in ’60s, despite the fact that import duties were so high. Rado started setting up customer service points, so for Indians who went abroad, they knew they could get their watch serviced.
Why do you love Rado?
I love Rado’s unique positioning in the watch industry. It is the brand that is focusing in a totally different manner on materials and designs from any other brand. We have brought huge innovations to the watch industry. We are moving away from the square, black, shiny watches, using monobloc construction and a whole different palette of ceramic colors, and we can really now do almost anything we want.
We can bring back the older designs and now we have a collection that is more attractive for the younger generation.
What is one thing you wish people knew about Rado?
The exceptional ratio of value for money.
What is the biggest challenge your company is facing?
We have to make sure we don’t fall too much in love with ourselves. We have to keep innovating and pushing ourselves. That is why we are working with designers outside of the watch industry every year, challenging ourselves to realize innovative concepts. We did a watch with a fashion industry person from Japan (paintings that appear on your clothing, because the fabric only reacts to UV). We took this idea and designed a watch using a photochromic glass. When you are inside, you can see through the crystal, but when you go outside the glass becomes dark, then you can only see the hands. These types of innovations that are in other industries, we try to find a way to realize them in the watch industry. It’s often risky, and some projects we can’t realize, but we have to make sure that we are ground breaking and innovating. When you stop taking risks, you start killing the brand.
The Hyperchrome that used bronze was interesting from a material standpoint. The black ceramic will never change, but the bronze is a material that really ages. It will change and get darker, so one part of a watch is evolving and one remains unchanged. It’s a bit like our personality, where some areas change and others don’t.
How do you decide which watches to do next?
This is a team approach. We work together on a road map for the next two years. We always have questionable projects, the ones that are bringing new technologies, we don’t know when they will be able to be brought to the market. We work together to do a road map that respects the DNA of Rado and the continuity of the brand, but we also have to bring out new things for new clients.
We are working on 2020 and beyond this now. It’s almost double the time to bring a new ceramic watch to market compared to a stainless steel watch, so we have to work far ahead for our road map. We are already three or four years ahead from now.
Rado has begun working in heritage pieces; the Captain Cook was especially impressive. How important is the heritage angle for Rado? Will it become more important given the appeal of vintage?
It’s important for Rado like it is for the whole Swiss watch industry. It very much recalls the whole reason why Swiss watches are so strong, because people who buy watches know that the watch never loses its value, and sometimes increases. I don’t think vintage is a short-term trend, it goes along with the mission of the Swiss watch industry. It works very well for Rado, because our materials last for generations and keep their beauty after many years. For the future, we will definitely take these vintage pieces as part of the current collection.
Where do you see Rado five years from now?
I think that a challenge we clearly had a few years back was that with these black and square watches, Rado had a very loyal clientele that never bought anything else but Rado. This clientele got older and older, so we had to develop new products for the younger generations. We were able to develop the monobloc construction and our experience in developing new ceramic colors. We now have super slim and extremely attractive offerings for the new generations.
I strongly believe that the trend for quality and durability in watches will continue. Many people are interested in buying less but buying better and they are investing in quality and keeping things for longer. That means that watches with enduring style and using durable materials will continue to make headlines.
People want watches that will work harder and smarter for them, as well as being a personal style statement. I think we’ll also start to see more watches with a choice of different bracelets or straps. They offer a range of looks in one and have the element of personalization.
What do you enjoy about what you do? Are you having fun?
I think something that is super nice is that the possibilities in Rado in design and materials are unlimited, and that is super interesting. When I think about the partnerships we have with designers coming from other industries, we learn a lot from them and it’s very challenging to bring innovative things to a traditional industry.