Introducing the Rado True Square collection, crafted in partnership with a number of renowned designers.
Known for revolutionising the watch industry with its high-tech materials and contemporary designs, Rado has a long-standing tradition of partnering with design corporations and individuals and, along with it, a long list of international accolades. Every year, it releases special designer watches within a specific Rado collection and this year is no different.
For its latest designer series, the watchmaker from Lengnau, Switzerland, has chosen to collaborate with designers including the Italian duo of FormaFantasma, British designer Tej Chauhuan and the founders of Tokyo-based studio YOY, with the newly launched Rado True Square as the focus of attention. The special collaborations combining Rado’s modern design approach and the designers’ individual interpretations were presented over the four days of Rado Design Week, held virtually from 30 November to 4 December, 2020.
Designed in collaboration with the award- winning Italian-Dutch design duo Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Studio Formafantasma, this special designer edition of the True Square draws on the historic idea of a closed watch to create a bold and impactful style statement that is designed to stand the test of time.
The idea of the closed watch refers back to historical pocket watches. The housing of the watch was made to protect the delicate dial and mechanism inside. Only a small opening gave a glimpse of the time – the true function of the watch. The True Square Formafantasma uses an extra layer of high-tech ceramic as the ultimate scratch-resistant protective layer in which a small window for the dial has been made. The window itself is protected by sapphire crystal, yet another super scratch- resistant layer.
As is typical for Rado, the “Master of Materials,” multiple materials are integrated into this watch. The bracelet is also matt light grey high-tech ceramic titanium with a comfortable 3-fold clasp, and the titanium case-back is hypoallergenic. They were all chosen for their tactility. The design comes not only from the inspiration of pocket watches, but also from the name of the design duo. The ghostly appearance comes from both the monochromatic light grey construction and the ‘floating’ presence of the dial through the small aperture.
What is your perception of time and watches?
We are extremely fascinated by the idea of time and in particular the difference between how humans perceive the passing of time and time on a more geological or even planetary level. We previously designed timepieces reflecting on these ideas. In one project, we used sand from the Etna Volcano while in another we used the natural patterns of marble to indicate the passing of time.
What role do materials play in your work as designers?
Extremely important. We often start with exploring different materials because we believe it can open up plenty of possibilities, much more than when, for instance, starting with form. Many of our best work come from in-depth material research.
What was the inspiration behind the True Square Formafantasma?
The idea came from the material itself, ceramic. We wanted to make a watch that emphasised the qualities of the material and its application in watchmaking. We tried as much as possible to develop a language that could emphasise ceramic and use it for what it is. We did not want ceramic to look like metal or any other material but to use it almost naked. The watch also references pocket watches with a lid that feature a small opening for a quick peek at the time.
What is your design philosophy and how is it reflected in your designs?
We always want to challenge clichés. Cambio, our exhibition at Serpentine Gallery in London, for example, was a collaborative effort that joined the works of scientists, designers, activists, philosophers and researchers, in the attempt to critically look at wood consumption and the ecological implications of design. Ore Streams is also similarly ambitious. There, we looked into the problematics of e-waste recycling and what solutions design can eventually offer. In the case of the True Square, we were interested in the watch as a tool not as a status or a symbol of luxury. The watch we designed is
very sober, almost looking naked. We tried to do something radical in its simplicity.
An award-winning British industrial designer, Tej Chauhan is known for his “emotive industrial design” and strategic use of shape, colour and material to create objects that bring joy. The designer cited the Colombo Two telephone as a key example of his designs that brought together his core values of emotion, function, connection and accessibility in one piece.
Inspired by retrofuturism themes, Chauhan reinterpreted the Rado True Square with flowing curves and graphic lines, innovative high-tech ceramic and bold colours. The basis was the new, ground-breaking True Square – the first square watch made from solid high-tech ceramic, whose fluid silhouettes are created using injection moulding. The matt yellow high-tech ceramic case highlights the unique texture of the high-performance material and is combined with a case-back in polished dark grey PVD-coated stainless steel with sapphire crystal and special engraving. It is complemented by a bracelet made from yellow cushion-shaped leather elements held by high-tech ceramic connectors.
On the matt black dial with silver-coloured concentric circles, the hands provide strong contrasts from the centre: the minute and hour hands are painted in white, the second hand in neon red, all of which are powered by a modern automatic calibre. In an opening at 3 o’clock, the date is displayed in a typography specially designed by Tej Chauhan. Blue indexes between 9 and 12 o’clock refer to the time of day (day/night). Faceted sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside provides the best insights and impresses as an independent design element.
What role do materials play in your work as a designer?
As an industrial designer, materials play a core role in our approach. They influence form, feel and the direction in which the project moves.
What was the inspiration behind the True Square Tej Chauhan?
I was inspired by enduring futurist visions from popular culture, from movies to typography to colour theory. Kubrick, Syd Mead, Herb Lubalin; many of my references are over 50 years old but still feel fresh to me today and surely tomorrow.
How long did it take to develop the True Square Tej Chauhan?
The initial concepts took a couple of months. When we presented Rado with the different options last February, they zeroed in on the one that happened to be our favourite. There was a good synergy from the outset, so we were able to begin development very smoothly – we received the first assembled watch-head prototype in September.
Since then, we were working on various refinements, some inevitable delay for everybody due to the pandemic, but finally the watch is ready.
What were the challenges involved?
We are used to working at different scales, including very small, within fractional increments of a millimeter, but here we were working with microns. For example, we had to change our original design of the hands because of the thicknesses of different paint pigments, and also had to adapt some of our surfacing techniques.
What is your design philosophy and how does the True Square reflect that?
We call our approach “emotive industrial design.” It combines our visual language with an optimised functional experience; the way we use form, colour and material to elicit joy in broad audiences. It’s specifically designed to engage people, and to invite interaction. For our collaboration, I wanted to highlight Rado’s innovation with materials, and to draw attention to high-tech ceramic. This was achieved using a pure execution of our “emotive industrial design” approach.
The colour initially draws the eye, the matt finish of the case emphasises the ceramic feel. The strap is unique, made of small leather pillows, emulating links but soft and tactile – it’s designed to make you want to try it on, and also emphasises the traditional craft that goes into Rado timepieces. The dial strikes a balance between classic and contemporary; I wanted it to have the feel of a traditional watch, but with a contemporary slant. The date indicator uses our own bespoke typeface, dynamic and ever- changing. The sapphire features a unique 3D surface “slice,” and the rear case is designed to feel soft on the wrist, using a mirror-like polish and curvature continuous surface.
Founded by Naoki Ono and Yuki Yamamoto, YOY focuses on the design of furniture, lighting and interior decoration, with the motto “between space and object.” Awarded numerous international prizes from around the world, the design studio has given the True Square an update that is as contemporary as it is analogue. Called Undigital, YOY’s rendition of the True Square combines two iconic features – the digital display and Rado’s signature square ceramic watch, both of which are the epitome of 1980s’ futuristic designs. But not everything is as it seems at first glance; this watch is truly smart, and absolutely undigital.
The Undigital plays with the distinctive shapes of the seven-segment display – the classic face of a digital watch – and transfers them to the analogue time display with hands. Luminous white Super-LumiNova clearly stands out, both during the day and in the dark, from the matt black dial, which has a completely puristic appearance.
The unique high-tech ceramic case of the True Square provides the appropriate setting and, thanks to its innovative monobloc construction, is ultra-flat at only 9.6 mm high. The matt black PVD-coated titanium back and the smooth, matt black high-tech ceramic bracelet also contribute to the low weight of the watch. The watch is driven by a modern mechanical movement whose automatic winding is itself not only a work of art but also a role model in terms of sustainability – in other words, completely undigital.
What role do materials play in your work as designers?
At YOY, we think of ideas and designs separately. First comes the idea = you think of making something. Next is the design = you think of how to bring that idea to life, and then you put it into practice. We can use materials to bring an idea to life in the purest form possible.
What was the inspiration behind the True Square Undigital?
A variety of things in our modern world have become digital, including watches, and we thought we could find a new form of expression in this context by bringing digital items into the analogue world.
What were the challenges involved?
The size. It was our first time designing something this small and precise. The idea is very simple, but we finalised the design looking at dimensions of 0.1mm or less.
What is your design philosophy and how is it reflected in the True Square Undigital?
In 2018, we held a solo exhibition in Milan entitled Fictionality. The theme was bringing fiction into the real world. Our designs have the opposite approach to novels, which bring reality into the fictional world.
What was it like working with Rado?
We value the presence of humour in our designs, and the people at Rado understood our intentions right away. They worked with us down to the finest detail. I am grateful that we were able to bring our idea to life in the purest form possible.
Here’s a closer look at the masterpieces in the Rado True Square collection:
Click here for all the specifications on the Rado True Square Designer collection.