Design has always been a cornerstone of great watchmaking. As technology marches on and mechanical timekeeping becomes less of a cutting edge science than an expression of traditional craftsmanship in a world of perfectly accurate clocks in everything from phones to dishwashers, the mechanical wristwatch has increasingly become a vehicle for personal expression, a reflection of the wearer’s character, and a showcase for artistic design. Rado has fully embraced this trend with its latest collection, working alongside a trio of world renowned designers to interpret the ceramic True Square series in wildly different ways. With contributions from British industrial designer Tej Chauhan, Dutch/Italian design studio Formafantasma, and Japanese design consortium YOY, the True Square takes on an international spectrum of influences in three distinct models. Comprised of the Rado True Square x Tej Chauhan, the Rado True Square Formafantasma, and the Rado True Square Undigital, the Rado True Square Designer Collection adds playful variety to one of the brand’s core product lines.
All three models in the Rado True Square Designer Collection use the same 38mm integrated bracelet square case in high tech ceramic. Like the standard True Square, these cases are a streamlined, rounded take on the square shape, with softened corners and a pronounced raised character line that flows from the integrated lugs directly into the bracelet and flares outward to form the bezel. The largest departure between each of these three models in terms of case design comes in terms of color use. The Rado True Square x Tej Chauhan is undoubtedly the most vibrant of the three, with a matte ceramic finish in a very late ‘60s style mustard yellow tone accented by a sandblasted stainless steel crown. The Rado True Square Undigital takes a more stealthy approach in monochrome matte black ceramic, for a more minimal and modernist feel. Perhaps the most interesting case interpretation of the three, however, is the Rado True Square Formafantasma. Rendered in a clean light matte gray, the streamlined ceramic case takes inspiration from demi-hunter pocket watch cases by extending the bezel over nearly the entire top surface of the case. Instead of a wide sapphire crystal and a dial beneath, the True Square Formafantasma offers only a narrow circular sapphire window onto the dial surface below. All three models provide a slightly underwhelming 50 meters of water resistance.
Even more so than the case designs, each model in the Rado True Square Designer Collection dramatically reshapes the traditional True Square dial to make its own distinct interpretation. The Rado True Square x Tej Chauhan continues its late ‘60s/early ‘70s stylistic inspiration through its dial design, which in initial images calls to mind equal parts early Porsche 911 VDO gauges, vintage record players, and Mod-inspired interior design. The main black dial surface is dominated by concentric silver rings, while the handset is somewhat gauge-inspired with a fluorescent orange needle seconds hand, a simple white baton minutes hand and a distinctive skeleton triangle in white for the hours. The sloping rehaut and long curving applied hours indices help to add a sense of visual depth, while the electric blue segment of the minutes track reinforces the feel of a “redline” like an automotive tachometer. As an added visual touch, the font used for the bright orange date wheel is of Tej Chauhan’s own design.
The Rado True Square Undigital, as the name suggests, opts for a playful interpretation of classic digital watch iconography in a traditional analog mechanical setting. To this end, the entire dial surface is minimal black, with only a glossy Rado emblem at 6 o’clock to disrupt the landscape. The handset actually uses two identical black hands for both hours and minutes, but differentiates them with diamond shaped white markings evoking the form of a vintage seven segment LCD display.
Naturally, with such a small space to work with designing a visually cohesive dial for the Rado True Square Formafantasma is something of a challenge. Its solution is elegantly simple, with a minimal set of stick hands differentiated only by line weight. While initial images are unclear whether the small size of this dial will make it difficult to read during day to day wear, the use of basic black lines helps to reinforce the clean design-forward atmosphere of the piece.
All three models in the Rado True Square Designer Collection share the ETA C07.611 automatic movement. A Swatch Group-exclusive evolution of the classic ETA 2824-2, the C07.611 offers comparable accuracy but a massive 80 hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate.
With an integrated case design such as the Rado True Square Designer Collection, bracelet and strap pairings can be crucial in maintaining the streamlined look of the overall package. Both the Rado True Square Undigital and the Rado True Square Formafantasma are paired with case matching variants of the standard True Square ceramic three link bracelet. The Rado True Square x Tej Chauhan, on the other hand, purposely disrupts this visual flow with a new leather strap option. Finished in a matching mustard yellow tone, the heavily padded leather strap looks in initial images to reinforce the funky late ‘60s feel of the watch while setting it apart substantially from the rest of the line.
With three wildly different interpretations of the core design, the Rado True Square Designer Collection helps to highlight the versatility and potential of this classic Rado series while injecting the line with some unique flair. All three models in the Rado True Square Designer Collection are available now through authorized dealers. The Rado True Square x Tej Chauhan carries an MSRP of $1,800, while the Rado True Square Undigital and Rado True Square Formafantasma are priced at $2,350 and $2,550, respectively. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.