When it comes to classical watches with complications, Rado is probably not your first port of call. However, if you are in the market for a trendy design-led watch, made of cutting-edge materials, Rado is an attractive option. Couple that with famous designer names, and you might well be looking at a contemporary piece of wristwear art. Renowned for its innovative use of high-tech ceramic and minimalist, contemporary design, Rado is no stranger to collaborations. Judging by the long and illustrious list of artists and designers the brand has attracted – Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Johnson, Leslie Chan, Ayako Suko, Bethan Grey, etc. – it might well be the brand with the most prolific input from external designers. Since 2020, the emblematic True Square model has also received the ‘international designer treatment’.
The latest model to join the True Square family is the “Over the Abyss” watch made in collaboration with New Delhi artist duo Jiten Thurkal and Sumir Tagra. In June 2021, Rado enlisted Yuan Youmin, a Chinese graphic designer, to incorporate traditional elements of his culture to create the True Square True Heart. Last year, the True Square was reinterpreted by three leading contemporary design proponents: the Italian-Dutch design duo Formafantasma, the Japanese design duo YOY and British industrial designer Tej Chauhan.
Genesis of the True Square
The Rado Ceramica of 1990 was the brand’s first square watch made from high-tech ceramic. Its sleek geometry and minimalism established the aesthetic we have come to associate with Rado’s ceramic watches. In 1988, the Ceramica was treated to another derivation of ceramic known as high-tech plasma ceramic. In 2016, industrial designer Konstantin Grcic re-imagined the Ceramica in stark matte grey and black ceramic. As a sibling of the Ceramica, the True Square is obviously square but attenuates the rigid geometry of the square case with gently rounded corners for a softer, smoother, more sensuous look and feel.
Unlike prior Rado collections that used pressed high-tech ceramics, the True Square models have a monobloc case made from injection-moulding technology. Measuring a restrained 38mm across and a slim 9.6mm height (in most cases), it is a perfect unisex dress watch candidate. The liquid effect that seems to flow from the case to the integrated bracelet is achieved by polishing the high-tech ceramic to an almost mirror finish. However, in the editions we are reviewing today, there are several matte finishings. Apart from its smooth, silky surface, high-tech ceramic is extremely scratch-resistant, hypoallergenic and wonderfully light. All the models covered in this review are fitted with Swiss automatic movements (ETA C07.611) with an 80-hour power reserve.
True Square “Over The Abyss”
Although the name of this watch might sound somewhat gloomy, the Indian design duo wanted to evoke the importance of a connected global community that will eventually overcome the difficult situation (abyss) we are facing today. To highlight this international communal vision, Thurkal and Tagra created a unique time display that superimposes the local time of the wearer with several time zones of the world. The different time zones are represented by 37 hands (18 hour and 19 minute hands) painted in a gradation of colours ranging from pink to blue.
Although it is not a world timer or a GMT watch, the 37 rays emanating from the centre are designed to evoke our global community. So, how do you read the time with so many colourful rays? Nestled among the 37 colourful beams are two beams picked out with luminescent tips that indicate the current hour and minutes. The 38mm matte blue high-tech ceramic case and bracelet feature a blue PVD-coated titanium caseback with a special engraving created by the Indian designers called Dominus Aeries.
True Square True Heart
Chinese graphic designer and professor at the China Academy of Art, Yuan Youmin, drew inspiration from a utilitarian but vital piece of weighing equipment used for over 2,000 years in China: the steelyard. In essence, a steelyard scale (gănchèng or stick weight) is a portable instrument for weighing things and is composed of a horizontal balance beam suspended from a fulcrum with a plate attached to the shorter end and a sliding bronze counterweight that can be moved along the beam until both arms are balanced at the pivot.
To incorporate certain key features of the steelyard on the watch, Youmin represented the weighing tray in the centre of the watch. Slightly recessed, the central disc is enhanced with a delicate snailed pattern. The slender golden-tipped hour and minute hands interpret the balance beam or arm of the steelyard, while the yellow golden colour for the hexadecimal dot hour markings symbolises the pure heart and honesty of the tradesman working with the steelyard. The raised area framing the central disc is made from polished black lacquer, another classic Chinese technique. The caseback reveals the image of a phoenix, the famous symbol of eternal rebirth.
Like many other Rado watches, glossy black high-tech ceramic is used for the case and bracelet, although the folding clasp is titanium. The diameter of 38mm and height of 9.6mm make it an ideal unisex watch. Powered by a Swiss-made automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve, the True Square x Yuan Youmin is a seamless marriage of ancient Eastern motifs and Western technology.
True Square Formafantasma
If you thought Rado’s designs were minimalist, wait until you see this interpretation of the True Square by Italian-Dutch design duo Formafantasma! Faithful to their name (ghostly shape), the watch is housed in a matte light grey high-tech ceramic case. Although the watch might look radically modern, the concept behind the watch was inspired by the closed pocket watches of yesteryear. To protect the dial from harm, closed pocket watches featured a protective shield and revealed the time through a small aperture.
The True Square Formafantasma incorporates an extra layer of matte grey high-tech ceramic over the dial with a circular aperture to read the time. However, instead of indicating the time with digits or jumping hours, the hours and minutes are indicated by the position of the shiny black hands that appear beneath the circular aperture. Original, intuitive and the minimalist expression of minimalism, design fans will get a kick out of this Formafantasma creation.
True Square Undigital
This rendition of the True Square was entrusted to Japanese design duo YOY (Naoki Ono and Yuki Yamamoto). Made entirely of matte black high-tech ceramic, the True Square Unidigital uses the angular bars of digital displays but transforms them into an analogue time display. A volte-face of sorts, in which our ubiquitous digital environment is deconstructed and rebuilt to form a classic analogue dial, YOY play with conventions established in the 1980s. The prominent hands, with their wide swathes of white and black Super-LumiNova blocks, stand out boldly against the matte black background.
True Square Tej Chauhan
Award-winning British industrial designer, Tej Chauhan, is the name behind this interpretation of the True Square. Using a vivacious colour scheme inspired by Pop Art tenets, the case is made of matte yellow high-tech ceramic combined with a bracelet made of spongy yellow cushion-shaped leather links held in place by high-tech ceramic connectors. The Pop Art colour scheme meets Op Art kinetic groove on the concave matte black dial with silver concentric circles in the recessed centre countered by a diagonal minute track picked out in silver and blue on the flange. The white hour and minute hands contrast with the seconds hand in bright red, and Tej Chauhan specifically designed the typography of the orange date.
For more information, please consult Rado since prices vary according to your location.