Posted on June 11 2021
You'll see it time and time again. A Swiss brand will list its watchmaking firsts. They know that we love innovation and the iconic watches that debuted a new feature.
Rado runs with this as its tagline. "If we can imagine it, we can make it".
And they have.
They've used unusual ceramics for their cases and released a model that they marketed as the world's first scratch-proof watch.
But do you know which unique Rado feature that I like the best?
The anchor on the Rado logo. It spins when your wrist moves. How good is that?
The History of Rado Watches
I don't want to get bogged down in the history of Rado. But I do want to tell you about that anchor. It gives you an insight into the brand.
Rado's history is fairly typical of a Swiss luxury brand. The company was founded during World War 1 by three brothers working in a home workshop. By the end of World War 2 they were producing movements on a massive scale.
They didn't use the Rado brand name until the 1950s when they released the Golden Horse collection. This was the first model to feature the rotating anchor.
So, what was the point of that spinning anchor logo?
There is a reason for it, and it demonstrates the brand's thirst for innovation. The anchor is mounted on an oiled ruby. When it stops spinning? It's time to get your watch serviced as it's low on oil.
That's a great feature that I've only come across with Rado. They also created and debuted a bunch of materials for watch manufacturing. Materials like hardmetal, high-tech diamonds, Ceramos and Plasma high-tech ceramic.
They're much more than the fashion brand that you've likely seen on the highstreet.
Where are Rado Watches Made?
Rado is a Swiss company, now owned by Swatch Group. That means that its watches are Swiss-made. They use Swiss-made movements.
As you can see, Rado watches boast the Swiss-Made wording at the foot of the dial.
The Rado headquarters are in Lengnau, Switzerland.
Are Rado Watches Any Good?
Rado prides itself on producing innovative, high-quality watches.
In practice, that means that Rado watches are Swiss-made and use the components and materials that you'd expect at this price-point. In addition, they use materials that they've developed.
If we take their Captain Cook model as an example. The automatic movement used in the watch is Swiss and based on an ETA movement. It has an impressive 80-hour power reserve.
The watch also has a ceramic bezel and 200M of water resistance.
Rado watches are well-made and have a good reputation among the watch collecting community.
The 6 Best Rado Watches
Rado has a strong brand identity. They're known for making slim, ceramic watches. These models are fashionable and marketed to the fashion-conscious.
They aren't an obvious brand for watch enthusiasts.
That was until they released their Captain Cook reissue models. Then we all started to take more notice of the brand. These vintage divers forced many of us to reassess what we thought we knew about Rado.
So I hope that some of the watches are a pleasant surprise for you. I've steered clear of their fashion watches and concentrated on the watches that best represent the brand's heritage.
The Captain Cook watch was a diver that Rado produced in the 1960s. In 2017 the brand brought it back and won a legion of new fans.
This version is 37mm. It's small by today's standards, but an authentic recreation of the original watch. It has a Swiss automatic movement, a box sapphire crystal and a ceramic dial.
It's a beauty. It's full of vintage charm and that is reflected in the sunburst dial, oversized hands and bold indices.
There are a couple of nice touches that may not be obvious. The date window is red and the case back is decorated with three seahorses - just like the original.
And of course, the anchor on the logo spins.
For me, this is Rado's best watch. Ironically, it's not typical of the brand. But as a vintage-inspired dive watch? The execution is brilliant.
If you're new to Rado. Start here.
Rado Captain Cook R32500153
This is where the Rado brand began. The Golden Horse was the first collection to be marketed under the Rado name.
Like the Captain Cook, this modern watch is inspired by the original. Rado describes their Golden Horse watches as 'new vintage’. It has modern design features built on a vintage base.
This is a cracking watch.
The first release of this model was a limited edition version, then this next model was produced. It's larger than the limited edition and comes in at just over 41mm.
So it's a compromise between the strong vintage aesthetics and the modern trend for larger watches. That works for me.
It's another automatic and again, uses the ETA Powermatic 80 movement. That makes sense as both Rado and ETA are part of the Swatch Group.
Stylistically, the Golden Horse is a beautiful piece. The dial is eye-catching and has slim applied indices. There's the sea-horse logo and a bezel fashioned from Rado's own plasma high-tech ceramic.
This is a very distinctive dress watch, that harks back to the very beginning of the Rado brand.
Rado Golden Horse R33101203
This watch is reminiscent of Omega's moon watch, the Speedmaster.
It's an attractive quartz chronograph that again challenges your assumptions of the brand. Rather than being slim, dressy and ceramic, it's a masculine and sporty watch.
There's no getting away from the Speedmaster comparisons, but this isn't a homage model. It ticks the same boxes. It's versatile and restrained.
But this is a quartz model and quite large. It's a touch under 45mm wide.
The dial is busy, but not cluttered, and there are nice red accents that give the design a little colour.
Despite the Speedmaster being released in the same year as the Golden Horse, this doesn't feel as vintage. If you'd prefer something with a more contemporary style, take a closer look at this chronograph.
Rado HyperChrome R32259153
Coupole means dome in French. And that's a great name for this watch. It has elegant curves and a beautifully textured dial.
There have been smaller versions of this watch, but this new model comes in at 41mm. I wouldn't like to see it any bigger as this model works so well because it is a slim and refined watch.
The textured dial is complimented by blue hands, similar to a JLC Master Control. It's a nice touch and adds a little flair to what is quite a conservative watch.
Again, it's Swiss-made and uses the ETA automatic movement with 80-hour power reserve.
It approaches the vintage aesthetic from a different angle to the Captain Cook and Golden Horse. It recreates an era rather than a specific model.
If you want your watch to be subtle and slim-line, the Couple Classic could be a good choice.
Rado Coupole Classic R22876015
It's only right that I include a ceramic case model in this list. It's what the brand is known for.
This model, the Daimaster, is built from Plasma high-tech. It gives the watch a dulled finish, similar to gun mental.
That works well alongside the olive green dial and gives the watch an understated look. It's a dress watch that looks almost military-styled.
I think that is why I like this watch so much. It's a dress watch that doesn't look dressy. I'm not normally a fan of Roman numerals, but it works here. They're neat and don't dominate the dial. Instead, they blend in with the green dial.
By tucking the date window in at 6 o'clock the watch maintains a nice symmetry. It's a substantial dress watch that has unexpected versatility.
Rado Diamaster R14805112
This is the picture that I have in my head when someone mentions Rado watches. The DiaStar is the classic Rado watch. The design that the company has been associated with for decades.
The importance is in the name. This is the Original. The world's first scratch-proof watch, the first watch to use a hardmetal case and one of the earliest watches to use a sapphire crystal.
There's a continuity to the design and it's great to see the brand still manufacturing a watch with such a strong retro look.
It's not for everyone. I get that.
This appeals to a very particular niche, but if that is you, then you'll love the DiaStar Original.
Why? Because it was an innovative model that used new materials and the design is so distinctive.
As mentioned, the case is hardmetal. It's marketed as scratch-proof and was developed by Rado's own metallurgy department for the 1962 release of this watch. It has the sapphire crystal of the original and a Swiss ETA automatic movement.
The dial is unashamedly retro and quite busy. It has attractive vertical stripes and a prominent date window. It looks like a piece of watchmaking history. As it should.
It's a strong look and not for everyone. But if you love retro styling, take a closer look at this stunner.
Rado DiaStar Original R12408623
Rado is a little different to the watches that I normally write about. Only at a push can they be considered an affordable watch brand.
But there are a couple of good reasons for doing this article. Rado is an innovative company - I hope I made that clear. They use watch materials that other companies don't.
And they have that cool rotating anchor on the logo.
It's a small detail, but it's important.
Rado offer watches unlike most of their competitors. And they do something that I love - they reissue the best of their back catalogue.
The DiaStar Original is a great example. It's a recreation of a classic design. And what was once a cutting edge watch is now a piece of history.
Not many companies have a story like that to tell.
So dig in. Have a look at the brands. You may find that you don't agree with my choice of the best Rado watches. If you don't? Tell me why in the comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.