Concierge chats to Rado CEO Matthias Preschern about the Middle East, the emotion gifting of watches, and the designer-inspired collection that looks beyond the world of horology
When it comes to innovation in the world of horology, few brands can compete with Rado. After all, it was Rado who pioneered the very first scratch resistant watch in the world, the DiaStar 1. Released in 1962, the innovative model brought a then-unheard of combination of hardmetal and sapphire crystal into the industry. The same model is still sold today although, as Preschern notes, the now iconic design has been updated to reflect new innovations in technology, reborn as 2011’s D-Star.
“The design has moved on from hardmetal to ceramics, because the latter has so many design advantages,” he notes. “As well as being scratch-resistant, the material is also hypoallergenic, extremely light and very comfortable to wear. The temperature adaps to the temperature of your skin. Perhaps most importantly, it keeps its beauty for many years.”
Rado CEO Matthias Preschern
This last point, about durability and timelessness, is also imperative to Rado’s philosophy, and its place in the industry. Preschern is passionate about the emotional power of watches. To him, a watch is much more than a merely functional object, and one much greater than the sum of its parts. “Our watches keep their beauty, from the first day to the first decade and beyond. They are built to last and endure. That’s why when you give someone a watch, you’re offering them a very strong emotional message.”
It’s a fact that also goes some way in explaining the resilient popularity of Rado in the Middle East. Rado was one of the first luxury watch brands to focus on having a presence in the region. This was partly due to the same pioneering spirit that produced the DiaStar1, a desire to boldly go where few others have ventured. Then there is the fact that culturally, there is a strong gift-giving culture, particularly in the GCC.
“The region always has been, and continues to be, very important to Rado. We are one of the leading watch brands in the Middle East and I truly think this is linked to the strong emotional value that our watches have as gifts,” Preschern added.
This connection has manifested itself in a stunning timepiece collection being unveiled exclusively in the UAE at Dubai Design Week last year. The Rado True Designer’s Collection features limited edition timepieces created in collaboration with a handful of carefully chosen designers. What’s arguably most interesting about this collection is the fact that, as Preschern points out, none of the designers have any know-how or experience when it comes to watches.
“We wanted to work with creatives from different industries that had nothing to do with the world of horology, people with a completely fresh perspective. In this way, they were able to bring us new ideas that made them strong in their own worlds, helping us to create something truly innovative.”
Among those collaborators was Kunihiko Morinaga, an avante-garde fashion designer known for his work with photochromic fabrics, materials that change colour according to light exposure. The renowned designer co-created the Rado True Shadow, which uses photochromic glass to magical effect.
The surfaces of the True Shadow are crafted from Rado’s signature high-tech ceramic. When you’re in bright sunlight, the watch appears dark, with only the hands visible – everything appears black. But once you step back inside, in the absence of UV light the shadow darkening the dial disappears, revealing a skeleton watch with its inner craftsmanship on display.
If the True Shadow is distinguished by its chameleon-like ability to fade into the background and appear less complex than it is, the glittering True Blaze is all about standing out. Another limited edition piece from the collection, it was created in collaboration with the American interior designer and former model Sam Amoia, who’s known for an innovative approach to designing furniture.
“He came up with the idea to integrate the watch dial with diamond powder. Unfortunately, if we’d actually produced the idea, it would have retailed for about US$40,000,” Preschern laughs. “So our challenge was to create the technology that could reproduce the Amoia effect, but at a lower price point.”
The answer was a galvanic treatment used to recreate the finely textured surface that mimics the diamond powder effect. On closer examination, you can also see that the gold hour markers and signature have been placed on the underside of the sapphire crystal so as not to disturb the dial. According to Preschern, the galvanic treatment was a technique that was created specifically for this watch.
While the True Line Designers’ Collection looks ahead, Preschern also notes that Rado has recently seen a rise in the popularity of its revamped vintage watch designs, a trend he attributes to the politics of the time.
“In times of upheaval and uncertainty, we want objects that make them feel more at home and more grounded. A vintage watch is one of those things that make people feel confident and secure.” The Rado HyperChrome Captain Cook Limited Edition is a great example of this, a limited edition, vintage inspired timepiece based on a piece that Rado made in the 1960s, arguably the golden era for diving watches, this time with a sleek leather strap (rather than ceramic) and an updated movement.
At the same time however, the brand’s sights are still firmly set on the future. Among the areas of the business looking to grow is the realm of smartwatches. While Rado dipped its toe into the market with the release of 2013’s Esenza Ceramic Touch, Rado’s first ceramic watch to use touch technology, Preschern notes that the R&D team is busy at work to expand further into this innovative market. “With its emphasis on materials and design, touch technology is a natural fit for Rado. Interestingly however, we’ve noticed that the ride in smartwatch popularity hasn’t impacted our sales of traditional luxury watches. People want timepieces that are more than merely functional.”