Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Written in the Stars: Rado DiaStar

Celebrating its big 6-0, the Rado DiaStar is hardier, cooler and even more urban.

Feb 02, 2023 | By Karishma Tulsidas

A powerful marketing slogan can change the very trajectory of a brand, imbuing it with purpose and meaning that guides its every endeavour. This has been the case for Rado, whose nomenclature “Master of Materials” is more than just a slogan — it has been its north star since the 1960s, guiding it in discovering and pioneering some of the most innovative materials used in watchmaking.

The aim has been to constantly up the horological ante with materials that enhance comfort, practicality and efficiency. This quest was inked in the very foundation of the brand, which was set up in 1917 by three brothers, Fritz, Ernst and Werner Schlup, under the name Schlup & Co. They manufactured watch components, and eventually, in 1953, they would shift gears to produce entire watches under the name Rado. The purpose, from the get-go, was to build reputable and hardy timepieces that would bear the beatings of daily life. In 1958, Rado released the water-resistant Green Horse, which featured the first-ever red anchor on the dial — today, this red anchor is a symbol of the Maison, a subtle indication about whether the watch is an automatic or not.

But in 1962, the brand was up for another challenge: This time, it wanted build the first scratch-proof watch. Rado’s watchmaking peers had slowly started inculcating sapphire glass to their repertoire of watches, but the obstacle lay in the case material.

Common materials of that era, gold, steel and brass, would simply not cut it. The brand opted for a completely new material, unheard of before in watchmaking — called hardmetal, it was a carbide tungsten alloy, boasting a hardness of 1,400 to 2,000 vickers. A case of form following function, the unique design of the case was due to the fact that the metal was incredibly hard to manipulate; the shape was purely coincidental, and stuck thanks to the ingenious foresight of the designers, who recognised its value. The timepiece, which looked like a spaceship thanks to its extended bezel and oval shape, fit right into the eclectic style of the 1960s, but was slow to gain traction.

In fact, it was in the Far East that the DiaStar would first find recognition, its fame slowly growing and earning Rado a reputation for building design-centric, function-first watches. In the ensuing 60 years, Rado would sell more than 5 million models of the various iterations of the DiaStar; some of the highlights include the DiaStar Original from 1990, which was treated with titanium nitride CVD for a golden finish.

While in recent years the watch has not enjoyed the popularity of Rado contemporaries such as the Captain Cook or the True Square, it made a long-awaited comeback in a completely new avatar. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Rado has enlisted the design expertise of Argentinian designer Alfredo Häberli, a product designer who has worked with the likes of BMW, Camper and Vitra.

Sharing that he had always wanted to design a watch since receiving his first timepiece at the age of 18 from his father, he took on the challenge to redesign the icon, while paying tribute to the core design elements of the DiaStar. There are four versions of the watch, one of which, the DiaStar Original Anniversary Edition, is limited to 250 pieces. This silver-grey version is a direct descendant of the original, but differs in several aspects: For one, it has shed its hardmetal casing, in favour of Ceramos, Rado’s in-house ceramic material. Scratch-resistant and even hardier than hardmetal, Ceramos comes with a satin-brushed effect that enhances the conical effect of the bezel.

Häberli also redesigned the case to make it slightly slimmer, so there is better integration between case and strap. The sapphire crystal plays a starring role in the anniversary edition, as it features six facets, each representing the six decades of the DiaStar’s existence. The analogy lends itself well in terms of aesthetics too, as the watch glistens as one moves one’s wrist. It catches the light at different angles, perhaps seeking to emulate the brilliance of a star or a diamond.

The strap, too, has been reimagined — the Milanese strap adds a touch of elegance to the eclectic timepiece, while a grey fabric strap is perfect for those who want a sportier look. The timepiece comes equipped with a gold-plated automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve.

If you cannot get your hands on the limited edition anniversary model, you can choose between the non-limited versions with blue, green or grey dials.

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