How it all began
In 1917, brothers Fritz, Ernst and Werner Schlup made a decision that would change their lives and those of future generations: they became watchmakers. Their humble atelier was located in a converted part of their parents’ home in the village of Lengnau, Switzerland. Through their relentless energy and uncanny ability to spot new opportunities, Schlup & Co. got off to a promising start, signing agreements with a wide array of importers around the world.
By the end of World War II, the factory was among the largest producers of watch movements, its name synonymous with Swiss-made quality. This laid the ground for the brothers’ next big adventure – the launch of their own watch brand. Enter Rado.
If we can imagine it, we can make it. And if we can make it, we will.’ This inspiring motto accompanied the launch of the Rado Green Horse in 1957. The groundbreaking timepiece marked a new chapter for the Schlup family. After forty years of successes, the brothers embarked on their own watch brand, Rado, a word meaning ‘wheel’ in Esperanto.
Having swapped their family atelier for a purpose-built factory, the brothers never looked back. In 1962, they released the world’s first scratchproof watch, the Rado DiaStar. It was crafted from ultra-resistant hard metal – an impressive technical innovation – and boasted a futuristic design approach that was becoming a crucial strand of the brand's DNA. Turning visionary ideas into bestselling phenomena was a formula that Rado made its own.
That same year, it debuted its first diving watch, the Captain Cook, aimed at 'doctors, engineers, athletes, deep sea divers, racing car drivers.' Its signature was a pivoting anchor that indicated when the watch needed to be serviced. The Captain Cook captured the public's imagination and would prove to be one of Rado's most enduring designs. The anchor became Rado’s logo and in some markets was more important than the brand name itself.
The Elegance was similarly square and chunky but featured a larger, eight-sided aperture. Both models were ahead of their time technically and captured the zeitgeist with their contemporary silhouettes.
In the decade of the Concorde jet and the personal computer, the 1970s saw Rado establish itself as the watch for people ahead of their time. Experimenting with futuristic materials and cutting-edge technology, Rado’s research and development team created the blueprints for highly original timepieces. Two of the Rado design team’s most experimental models during this era were the Elegance and Glissière. The eye-catching Glissière, launched in 1976, was a square timepiece, with boldly slanted edges and the time displayed on a black dial through a rounded aperture. Its edge-to-edge sapphire crystal and metallization are two elements that became synonymous with Rado design.
Rado's reputation as Master of Materials was consolidated in the 1980s with some of the world’s most durable and luxurious timepieces.
1983 saw the arrival of the Rado Anatom, a watch said to 'mould itself to the wrist for optimal wearer-comfort'. Its cylindrical sapphire was also a watchmaking first. The success was instantaneous. To celebrate Rado Anatom’s launch in New York, Andy Warhol produced a 1 x 1-metre painting, which would turn out to be one of the last works he ever produced.
1986 arrived with a bang and with it the Rado Integral, revolutionising the watch industry with its use of scratch-resistant high-tech ceramic, a material more commonly used for ultra-high-speed aircraft. This paved the way for the iconic Rado Ceramica, possibly the first watch in the world with bracelet, crown and case made entirely of this high-tech material. 1986 was a landmark year for another reason too. Rado joined SMH (renamed the Swatch Group in 1998), helping the brand fuel its next phase of innovation, driven by even more pioneering materials.
Enter the new millennium and Rado accelerated its product development. In 2002, the Swiss factory unveiled the Rado V10K. Made of high-tech diamond, with an unfathomable strength of 10,000 Vickers, it entered the Guinness World Records as the world's hardest watch. Another landmark in Swiss engineering was achieved with the ultra-slim ceramic masterpiece, the True Thinline. Measuring just 4.9mm, the injected high-tech ceramic monobloc case gave the True Thinline its extreme lightness and minimalist lines. The technique enabled another wave of design breakthroughs, notably the Rado HyperChrome.
R5.5 In 2011, the physicists and engineers in Lengnau unveiled Ceramos™, a high-tech material originally introduced in 1993 for the Rado Sintra, offering the sheen of metal and the hardness of high-tech ceramic. Rado’s revolutionary ceramics set the stage for collaborations with a long list of global design superstars, such as the r5.5 by British product designer Jasper Morrison.
Le Corbusier The True Thinline Les CouleursTM in association with Le Corbusier, a collection of timepieces in nine vivid colours, only confirmed Rado’s place at the forefront of watch design. Bringing things full circle, the Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic in 2021 has taken a design icon and redefined it for the 21st century. The future for the watchmaker from Lengnau looks brighter than ever. As the Schlup brothers used to say, 'If we can imagine it, we can make it. And if we can make it, we will!.