Dhe watch lover of today is spoiled, after all, he has so much to choose from. About the housings. Depending on your taste, they are round, rectangular, cushion-shaped or octagonal, made of stainless steel, titanium, carbon, bronze or a wide variety of precious metals. It was very different in the 1960s. Clocks were mostly round. The finer pieces came in gold cases, while the manufacturers chose brass for utility watches, which was then either chrome-plated or plated with finer materials. The dials were usually protected by three-dimensional Plexiglas. Flat mineral glasses were a bit higher quality and harder, but they are still far from being scratch-resistant.
That didn’t seem good enough to Rado, the watch brand of Schlup & Co, founded in 1917. Completely scratch-resistant and therefore practically built to last, that’s how the new product should be. So the Swiss developed a tungsten carbide alloy, a hard metal that was patented at the end of November 1961 as a material for manufacturing watch cases. Combined with a sapphire crystal, the world’s first scratch-resistant watch was created, which was actively advertised as a Diastar at the Basel sample fair in 1962 – and also later. The Rado salespeople handed interested jewelers and watch dealers knives and nail files, with which they were allowed to abuse the new watches in order to convince themselves.
What was pure joy for the customer was the plague for production. Multi-axis CNC processing systems with diamond and laser tools, which are commonplace in industry today, were not known at the time. Milling a round case with four filigree band horns out of a hard metal blank did not seem opportune. So the characteristic oval shape of the case is due more to the production technique than to the designer’s idea.
Sapphire glass causes optical illusions
One was then sought to adequately celebrate the 60th birthday of the Rado icon. Rado hired the Swiss Alfredo Häberli, who asked himself the legitimate question: “What and how much can I change without watering down the basic idea?” In terms of dimensions, he only changed fractions of a millimeter, the basic shape remained the same. We took a closer look at the “Anniversary Edition” designed by Häberli, which is cheap for 2050 euros. At its widest point, the case measures 38 millimeters. When screwed in, the crown largely disappears into a recess and is hardly noticeable.
The length is 45 millimeters. While the middle part is made of stainless steel, the glass rim is made of Ceramos, a ceramic that is manufactured by the sister company Comadur, which supplies the glass. This scratch-resistant material continues the tradition of the first Diastar. The strap is integrated into the case and is inserted from below. Thanks to a tool-free changing system, straps can be easily changed. A Milanese strap made of fine steel mesh and a textile strap are included, the wearing comfort was perfect with both straps.
Reading is sometimes difficult
An optical highlight is the hexagonal faceted sapphire glass, which causes optical illusions. The flat, silver dial has a three-dimensional effect with a raised center that shimmers slightly golden from certain angles. The date appears in a circular window at the six o’clock position, but we could only read it with reading glasses. The day of the week display positioned above it cannot be read at all because it is only designed in two colors and not printed, which we consider a design gimmick. The series model, which is available with the dial colors grey, blue and green at a price of 1520 euros, is more pragmatic and easy to read.
In the upper half of the dial, a small anchor rotates when the watch is moved, which Rado stands for an automatic winding movement. Such is also the case in the Diastar service. This is a mutation of the Powermatik 80 movement from sister company ETA, which offers 80 hours of autonomy and enables high gear precision. In fact, the watch ran between plus four and plus six seconds a day on different wearers. This is absolutely worthy of the successor to a technical trendsetter.