In the modern watch enthusiast landscape, few topics generate more conversation than high-tech ceramic case materials and integrated-bracelet sports watches. In some circles, these categories become checklist items for any “serious watch collection,” but by and large, the discourse surrounding these types of watches centers around a small group of popular models. That said, there’s a world of exciting options outside of the established frontrunners. Swatch Group’s perpetual dark horse Rado has a catalog brimming with these sorts of watches, offering unique takes on popular themes with its own distinctive flair. The True Square collection, first introduced in 2020, is one of the finest examples of this dark horse design philosophy in action, combining a sleek and streamlined integrated square case with its proprietary plasma ceramic case material at an impressively moderate price point. Perhaps the best showcase of the brand’s capabilities in this collection is the Rado True Square Automatic Open Heart, which offers an assortment of some of the most sought-after elements in modern watchmaking in a handsomely refined package that maintains its own intriguingly distinctive identity.
Measuring in at 38mm-wide and 9.7mm thick, the Rado True Square Automatic Open Heart’s case feels balanced and handsomely restrained on the wrist. Without taking its proprietary material into account, the integrated shape here is simple and ultra-modern, with an unchamfered rounded-square lower case accented by a flowing, stylized raised bezel that follows the general case silhouette and continues directly into the center links of the bracelet. While it may be a geometric design like so many other integrated-bracelet cases, there’s a very different, smoother form of geometry at play here, with less sporting aggression and a clean modern architecture-esque feel. Of course, the brand’s unique plasma ceramic material heavily influences the wearing experience in a number of ways. The first and most immediately obvious of these is weight. The True Square Automatic Open Heart is impressively light for an automatic watch on a bracelet, slightly lighter than an equivalent titanium piece but with a markedly different appearance and texture. For a start, the injection-molded plasma ceramic here is almost impossibly glossy. In person, it gives off a liquid metal sheen, as if the entire case is made of mercury. This also applies to the color of the material, a deep metallic hue somewhere between titanium and gunmetal gray. Altogether, it’s both eye-catching and tastefully subdued, although the ultra-glossy look may put off some enthusiasts used to a more conventional polished-metal style. Rado finishes the case with a titanium caseback and sapphire display window and rates the watch at an underwhelming 50-meter water resistance.
Contrary to what the name suggests, the Rado True Square Automatic Open Heart offers a full-blown skeleton dial layout. Unlike so many full skeleton dials, however, Rado places a premium on easy legibility. Each hour (except 2 o’clock and 12 o’clock) has its own dedicated bridge arm to help differentiate the dial surface from the complex mechanical backdrop of the movement, and Rado preserves a full outer minutes scale with angled applied indices to further aid visibility. Despite this focus on legibility, Rado packs a stunning range of variety and texture into this layout. At the top of this layered construction, of course, is the skeleton dial itself. Finished in a medium royal blue with prominent vertical brushing, this surface, coupled with the simple baton handset, lends a more retro character to the otherwise ultra-contemporary design, while the polished anglage around the edges of each bridge gives the dial a series of dynamic highlights. Heading downward, the brand adds a frame to surround the circular movement, topped with crisp Côtes de Genève. The skeletonization of the movement itself prioritizes visually framing components, with the balance wheel, mainspring, and key gear train elements all highlighted in their own exposed spaces. Between these showcase pieces, the brand adds small-scale perlage to the cutaway upper movement bridges to complete the dial’s ornate look. Rado wisely opts to omit a date display for this model, which would likely clutter an already visually busy layout.
Rado equips the True Square Automatic Open Heart with the ETA-based Rado C07 automatic movement. This is Rado’s variant of parent company Swatch Group’s ubiquitous Powermatic 80 movement, and it sports the same hefty 80-hour power reserve and 21,600 bph beat rate as its counterparts from Hamilton or Tissot. The Rado C07 proved reasonably accurate as well through our testing period, averaging a solid if unspectacular +7 seconds per day. What does differentiate it from its Swatch Group stablemates, though, is features and finishing. The Rado C07 fitted to this particular watch is a no-date variant of the base movement, removing the hassle of a “phantom date” position for the crown. In terms of finishing, though, the view through the caseback is far less spectacular than on the dial side. Outside of some scant perlage on the uppermost surfaces of the bridges, the only real finishing visible here is the light Côtes de Genève on the cutout rotor.
To complete the sleek, integrated look, Rado pairs the True Square Automatic Open Heart with a case-matching three-link bracelet in plasma ceramic. Like the case, this bracelet is remarkably rich, glossy, and lightweight on the wrist, and the silky feel of the material itself coupled with the excellent individual articulation of each link makes for an impressively comfortable wearing experience. However, without any form of micro-adjustment on the butterfly clasp, finding the right fit can be a tedious, time-consuming affair.
By conventional logic, an integrated-bracelet, full ceramic watch with a finely decorated skeleton dial should be a checklist-seeking enthusiast’s dream and the topic of relentless conversation among collectors. However, despite offering all these things in an attractive, well-designed, and surprisingly affordable package, the Rado True Square Automatic Open Heart remains a dark horse in the fervent modern luxury watch market. To some, this outsider appeal makes up part of its charm, but the True Square Automatic Open Heart is an impressive piece that deserves more attention than it currently receives. The Rado True Square Automatic Open Heart is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for this watch stands at $2,600 USD as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: True Square Automatic Open Heart
>Price: $2,600 USD
>Size: 38mm wide, 9.7mm thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a fun, unorthodox daily wear, or as an eye-catching date night watch.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Enthusiasts searching for a mid-price alternative to the standard integrated bracelet options, or fans of innovative materials looking to take the plunge into a fully ceramic design.
>Best characteristic of watch: Ultra-light, comfortable wearing experience; handsomely balanced proportions; genuinely impressive movement finishing for this price range.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Somewhat simple case design; ceramic case and bracelet material is a smudge magnet.