It was about 2012 when Rado first released the HyperChrome collection of watches which, in my opinion, represents an interesting character and dimension to the brand. Rado’s self identity has been in flux over the last few years as the brand seeks to position itself appropriately in today’s market. The Swatch Group-owned brand has had considerable historic success with timepieces ranging from sport models to distinctive formal watches in ceramic. The Rado HyperChrome Automatic Chronograph continues the brand’s strength in ceramic, an honor it earned long ago, for a new generation of mechanical watch lovers. So let’s check out this easy-to-wear and -enjoy ceramic sports watch and discuss where I think it fits into the overall picture of modern timepieces.
On various occasions over the last few years I’ve had opportunities to discuss Rado’s history and ceramic watches. It was in the early 1980s, I believe, that Rado began to produce watches with zirconium oxide cases and bracelets. Zirconium oxide is the particular type of ceramic which most ceramic watches are made of. Oftentimes in watchmaking this is known as “high-tech ceramic.” Rado was the innovator in ceramic watches, which is a fact lost on many people today given that ceramic as a luxury watch material has been used prolifically.
Credit probably goes to Chanel for making ceramic a popular material for modern watches. In the early 2000s the Chanel J12 collection brought both black and white ceramic to the masses, which made the material a real phenomenon. Ceramic is a useful material in watchmaking for a range of reasons. Principle among them is that ceramic is very difficult to scratch, meaning that ceramic-cased watches do not appear to age, really. The color is permanent, in that it won’t fade or blemish over time, and that the material is both non-magnetic and hypoallergenic. The downside of ceramic is that because it is more rigid than metal, it can crack if subject to enough force. I’ve never personally cracked a ceramic watch, but it has been known to happen.
In my opinion, the drawbacks of ceramic watches are far outweighed by the positives which include the wear-resistance, as well as the colors. Looking on Rado’s website right now, I can count at least eight different color styles of the HyperChrome chronograph. These include the ceramic case material rendered as three shades of gray, brown, white, black, yellow gold tone, and rose gold tone. Few brands have the sophistication of Rado when it comes to using ceramic materials for cases and bracelets. The brand definitely deserves a lot more credit for its innovation in ceramic as a case material, which is credit the brand no doubt wants to have more of. A close inspection of the way their cases are made reveals a level of technical ingenuity really not found in most other ceramic-cased watches – especially at these prices.
The Rado HyperChrome Chronograph watch cases are monobloc, meaning they are produced from a single piece of ceramic. These models have interesting designs which include PVD-coated rose gold-toned steel flanks and combination of both the brand’s “plasma high-tech ceramic” as well as “Ceramos” ceramic parts for the case and bracelet components. This results in both a range of colors as well as finishes, as the ceramic parts of the watch are offered in both high-polish and matte surfaces.
At 45mm wide, the Rado HyperChrome Automatic Chronograph wears more comfortably than you might assume. It isn’t a small watch, but it doesn’t feel massive either. I see it as an intentionally bold “statement watch” which is exactly how Rado sees its appeal. Wearing this watch, I thought to myself, “at what point in my life would I have most appreciated it?” The answer (for me) was in my early 20s given what I feel is a very youthful appeal to the design. At its heart, you have a conservative profile, functional layout, and wearing experience. The watch is not at all offensive or divisive, but it does have a traditional look with attention grabbing materials, finishes, and a modern, architectural design which I think is absolutely ideal for young people with an artistic heart who have something they want to communicate about themselves.
It isn’t as though you can’t wear the Rado HyperChrome Automatic Chronograph if you are more mature and the design appeals to you. It is rather that I think a timepiece like this makes a great item for people just entering the world of “serious watches,” and who want something “different” from an otherwise established brand. Part of the youthful appeal comes from the way the design tends to exaggerate the proportions of a classic chronograph layout. The chronograph subdials – which are made three-dimensional by applied frames – overlap one another a bit, creating an interesting sense of “artistic tension” which adds character.