It's a Rad Rad world

R Pallavi        Print Edition: May 13, 2012

Time is an eternal alternation of conflict and consensus, and the history of timepieces bears testimony to this. If an influx of cheap digital watches from Hong Kong and Japan left Switzerland's generations-old watch industry finding its feet in the 70s, it also heralded a new dawn and reinvented horology as we know it today.

In the early 80s, when watch companies were collapsing like concrete structures around him, Swiss-Lebanese entrepreneur Nicholas Hayek chose not to get muddled up in its smoky debris, and broke right through the labyrinth. At the outset, he noticed the seemingly rapid descent of the manufacturing giants Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) and Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASU).

Matthais Breschan, CEO, Rado
Matthais Breschan, CEO, Rado, explains the workings of the HyperChrome collection at its Dubai launch
The former held the heritage brands Omega and Tissot and reacted to the crises by slashing prices, thus dissipating their trademark value. The latter took pride in its know how of the Ebauches S.A (ETA) movement and supplied components to the world's watch market, but found it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the dynamics of the digital revolution.

The now-famous Hayek report, piled on the gloom for Switzerland's watchmakers. With 500 million units produced each year, 450 million watches fell in the lowest cost bracket, priced at about $75; 42 million were relatively high-end at about $400. Only eight million cost more than $1,000. In other words, with the smallest slice on its plate, Switzerland was left to starve. In 1983, Hayek merged SSIH and ASU to form the Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd (SMH), more commonly known as the Swatch Group.

Rado watch
Rado's strength lies in giving each watch a sturdy, yet stunning housing
At Swatch, Hayek decided to fight the meaningless commodification of watches by adopting his country's famous middle-of-the-road stance. He engaged his marketing maturity in perfecting brands which struck a chord between substance and affordability, and in a matter of days, the Swatch cult was born.

Since then, the group has built watch brands that shuttle between a wide price range and remain distinct. From the artistic intricacies of Breguet to the Grande complications of Jaquet Droz, time has found new meanings. Another player that emerged strong from this third wave unleashed by the Swatch Group was Rado. Even though the brand uses carefully treated high-quality metals and stones, it remains within the wide price range of 1,000 to 4,000 and attracts a global audience. The name that brings to mind images of polished ceramic bezels and symmetric cuts on metallic straps is hailed for introducing sophistication to everyday fashion.

The saga began in 1963 when Rado introduced the world's first scratch-proof watch. One innovation after another, Rado has kept watch aficionados in thrall ever since. If 1986 saw the making of skin friendly ceramic, 2004's nanocrystalline diamond watch with the strength of 10,000 Vickers (a unit derived from a test of metal hardness) proved hardest at the Guinness Book of World Records. A clever use of materials, along with a keen eye for design, has taken the brand from one celebrated landmark to another. To this, CEO Matthais Breschan adds "Our brand is a relatively new entrant in an industry that dates back to 1800s. So, we can constantly innovate without the pressure of conforming to a set style".

Two models which stand out for an inventive use of resources are the Lantano and Dia Star. The former was set in the soft, ductile and robust metal thanum, mined in Brazil, Western Australia and Central Africa. The latter comprised of Ceramos™, a platinum finished hard metal that's surprisingly lightweight and adjusts to skin temperature easily.

Rado watch
The anchor symbol on the crown and water resistance of up to ten hours, lend the Men in Black its nautical feel.
The alchemists at Rado have now concocted the HyperChrome collection. A scientific injection moulding has enabled the creation of a monocoque or single piece ceramic case, which covers not just the dial, but also the lugs and surrounding brackets. This time, Rado has chosen to express its thoughts in black and white. The Men in Black encases its automatic movement and a 42-hour power reserve within a black metallic veneer. Its lustrous black dial is imposed with 12 rhodium applied indexes with white luminous reflectors and is complete with a three-row bracelet clasped by a threefold titanium buckle.

The White Wedding stays true to its feminine etymology with a gold shimmer and an ashen glow. The crown moulded in steel and white rubber is illuminated by gold hands and the 25 jewels that are encrusted in its movement.

A trait unique to Rado is its ability to connect new collections to old ones, and still ensure each piece has a character of its own. For instance, the Rado Integral (1986) was the first to feature a scratch- proof sapphire crystal, and its successor Rado Coupole (1987) had an elegant dome shaped one which deflected sunlight. Here, Breschan notes 'Rado's collections are modelled on prior ones, and this helps in interpreting old technology in new ways'. Even the HyperChrome remains suspended between the past and the future. If the finely cut diamonds bring to mind a certain Sintra Jubile (2003), the ceramic's shimmering finish replicates the Ceramica (1993).

In an age where books are judged by covers, brand image determines sales. This has driven Rado's association with events and personalities around the world. At the Australian Open in 2001, Rado launched the Sintra Chrono Australian Open limited edition and the tremendous visibility among sports fans that followed, prompted them to take on the official sponsorship at Abu Dhabi's Mubadala World Tennis Championship in 2011. Today, the brand is on its way to building a stronghold in the emerging markets of Asia. This comes through in its choice of Asian faces as global brand ambassadors like Bollywood actor and youth icon Hrithik Roshan and Taiwanese singer Rene Liu.

An association with Asian culture is also built by organising launches and events in popular Asian cities. If the world's thinnest ceramic Thin Line series was unveiled in Hong Kong's commercial hub, the metallic D Star found fame in the Indian capital.

The latest HyperChrome collection also made a grand entry at Dubai's beachfront in February. With Dubai's landmark hotel property, the yacht shaped Burj Al Arab in the backdrop, the event aimed at drawing analogies between the brand and the city, especially their common passion for constructing and breaking records. Rado employs a scientific understanding of precious metals and curates pieces that aren't engineered, but 'imagineered' for success.

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