RADO Watches

Rado Golden Horse Chronometer HyperChrome
A modern watch for the vintage watch lover

By C. Bradley Jacobs
Originally published in WristWatch Magazine  Winter 2013

Late in 2012, Rado introduced the addition of a commemorative Golden Horse chronometer to their HyperChrome family of automatic watches. This limited-edition timepiece celebrates the inauguration in 1957 of the venerable Rado Horse Collection—a line of watches whose subtle evolution spans more than five decades. Fans of Rado, including aficionados of vintage timepieces, took note and on-line response for the design has largely been quite positive. The Golden Horse was once Rado’s top-of-the-range automatic model and many elements of the classic Rado lineage were retained; the shape of the hands and case, plus both the rotating anchor and the applied twin seahorse emblem are installed on the dial. Although this piece hearkens to a bygone age, Rado has not forsaken the forward-thinking use of new materials which is their hallmark today. As with many Rado watches produced since the introduction of the Diastar in 1962 (though quite rare on a Horse model), Rado employs sapphire for the crystals, but the significant new feature of this model is the combination of Ceramos (for center bracelet links, case inserts and bezel) and steel with Rado’s proprietary hardening treatment. A composite of metal and high-tech ceramics, Ceramos is lightweight, quickly adjusts to skin temperature, and is visually appealing; the Golden Horse’s polished Ceramos is slightly darker than the stainless steel, but under different lighting it is mercurial, resembling variously steel, platinum or even polished titanium.

Intrigued by Rado’s foray into homage to its past, I contacted the company and requested to take one of the new models for a test drive. Production of the piece was underway but finished Golden Horse Chronometers were not available yet, so I was provided one of the rare treats of watch collecting—access to a factory prototype. Therefore, the photos and descriptions published here are a mix of official Rado images and information (regarding the GH itself) and my photos and impressions of the particular prototype (#3) I was able to examine.

The Golden Horse chronometer (Rado Ref. 658.0978.3.011) is based upon the 40-millimeter “L” size HyperChrome automatics, rather than the “XL” size (42 mm). By eschewing the largest available size for this celebratory piece, Rado has tipped its cap to the standard middle-sized cases of the original horse models; most Rado Horses made from the 1950s to the 1980s are no more than 36 mm wide, with some ‘King Size’ models spanning 38 mm. At 40 mm, the size of the present watch is more likely to transcend the recent Big Watch Trend and remain almost universally appealing regardless of future changes in fashion toward or away from extremes. The overall proportions of the watch—40 mm wide with 31 mm of dial, 11.5 mm thick, 20 mm lug spacing—are very pleasing and also mean that owners of this watch have many options for use of straps, without being required to buy custom sizes or fiddle with proprietary shapes or methods of attachment.

Upon donning the watch (even for this larger-than-average wrist, removal of a few links was required) the pleasing proportions translated almost immediately into an awareness of comfort and balance. The initial impression of “rightness” was a combination of sensory elements. First, the distribution of weight is unusually appropriate—though of a good size the watch head isn’t terribly heavy and, though the bracelet is quite sturdy and massive, it is not ungainly. Clearly, the use Ceramos reduces weight from components that could affect the balance, and the elements of stainless steel retain heft where it is needed. The Ceramos center links of the bracelet add to the comfort both in the reduction of weight and in their ability to quickly adapt to the wearer’s skin temperature. I've worn some bracelets of various composite materials and ceramics prior to experiencing this combination of steel and Ceramos, and cannot recall any single bracelet that felt so right. It seems an excellent combination of materials to please those who seek retro visual appeal with modern durability and comfort.

The Golden Horse’s power is provided by chronometer-certified ETA 2836-2, a proven caliber used in Rado chronometers for many years now. My experience, confirmed frequently by the Rado collectors on various on-line fora, is that modern examples of the ETA 2824 family often run quite close to chronometer standards. Thus, owners of other HyperChrome automatics may reasonably expect quite accurate timekeeping, despite the absence of COSC certification. In fact, the prototype Golden Horse pictured here was not fitted with a chronometer-tested movement and it showed excellent accuracy in multiple positions on my digital timing machine.

Although Rado has ranked among the top 20 producers of certified chronometers over the past decade--COSC data indicates they were 18th in 2010, with 3095 certificates issued, down from 11th (5,807) in 2008-- most of their watches are either quartz-regulated or are standard automatics. Therefore, any limited edition Rado chronometer is immediately of interest to the Rado collector and many other watch aficionados. Having offered their first chronometer models, known as 56-H, in the late 1950s (in cases very similar in shape to the present Golden Horse), Rado has maintained a long tradition of issuing chronometers as special editions, whether to celebrate a milestone, or to introduce new shapes and materials. Pictured with the HyperChrome prototype are two such Rado chronometers: a mid-1960s 56-H (the first Rado chronometer model in stainless steel) and a model with bezel of tungsten-carbide issued in 2002 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Diastar line. Of note is that this model of Golden Horse is the first modern example to be offered in the USA (MSRP $3100). In 2007, a 50th anniversary Golden Horse was offered in Japan (traditionally one of Rado’s strongest markets for the Horse line) in steel and gold-plated versions featuring acrylic crystal, solid case back and a classically-styled case that featured only minor updates to the original. In 2008, a chronometer-certified version was offered, also only in Japan. As described herein, the current HyperChrome model offers many improvements on the classic design.

As described above, there are differences between the Golden Horse prototype pictured here and the production chronometer version. The prototype was fitted with the standard automatic model’s 2-color stick hands whereas the Horse will feature classic Dauphine hands quite like those used on Rado watches of the 1950s. The prototype includes the swinging Rado anchor, pivoting on a ruby jewel inset on the dial, just as found on the HyperChrome automatic model. However, the anchor on the Golden Horse chronometer is the slightly larger one used on nearly all Rado automatics from the early 1960s through the 1990s. Another outward difference involves the dial printing—text and minute/second chapter delineation—which differs between the standard an COSC-certified variants. Additionally, the prototype shown does not include any chronometer markings on the dial, caseback or movement; the production chronometer will feature appropriate wording on the dial and the movement will be numbered, as is required for chronometer certification. Production models will include edition numbering (of 1957 pieces) on the rear bezel and are expected to bear chronometer labeling on the movement rotor.

More details on the Golden Horse and its HyperChrome brethren are available at the website Rado has dedicated to this line: https://www.rado.com/en_us/collections/discover/hyperchrome. The variety of sizes, functions, and color schemes is more than ample—from black-cased 45mm automatic chronograph to the 31.5mm ladies’ quartz 3-hand model in steel and rose gold-colored Ceramos. Additional materials such as high-tech ceramics, rubber, and steel with PVD coating are widely distributed throughout the line.

Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com except image #1, courtesy Rado Watch Company.


To read the impressions of an owner of the actual production Golden Horse Chronometer, click here for an informative post by EquationOfTime.com Rado Forum Moderator Henry Krinkle.

Brand: Rado


Ref.#: n/a

Issued: 1970

Case: Stainless steel with screw-back (marked with model name)

Bracelet: stainless steel with fitted end links

Movement: A. Schild Cal. 1858 automatic with date, 25 jewels, gilt, signed rotor and plate (marked Rado 002; Feb 1970)

Description: Another of Rado's "space-age" futuristic models coincident with the race to put a man on the moon. This watch features a very unusual hard crystal (probably thick glass) from which are suspended hour markers of blue translucent plastic. When the movement and dial are removed, the markers remain in place where they are cemented beneath the crystal. The dial features only the Rado name, rotating anchor, and a stylized STRATOJET logo; there is no indication of being SWISS made or otherwise. Case features a radially brushed finish on the top, polished sides. Crown is signed with anchor logo. Original signed bracelet (pictured) has fitted end-pieces and brushed links with polished hinges.

The case shows minor wear, commensurate with its age, but overall the watch is very presentable and is keeping accurate time. No reference number is present on the case, only the model name, which is visible in images below. Service history is unknown; the movement, though clean, requires service for a skipping hand-winding/setting mechanism; date functions properly at midnight.

Photos: Click for larger images

StratoJet dial StratoJet logo detail StratoJet on vintage Rado box StratoJet dial & markers

StratoJet dial Stratojet on original signed bracelet Stratojet case back and movement Stratojet movement – AS 1858

This watch has been sold.

Text & images © C. Bradley Jacobs and WatchCarefully.com, unless otherwise noted.


Brand: Rado
Model: Silverlepor
Ref.: n/a
Issued: Ca. 1975
Case: Sterling silver, snap-back, no Rado markings on case or crown
Crystal: Sapphire or mineral, flat with slight bevel
Bracelet: n/a
Movement:  Hand-wound Rado 847 (Longines cal. L847), 17 jewels, 10.5''', 2.5 mm


Description: This is a thin and elegant unisex dress watch made by Rado around the mid-1970s, according to Japanese catalogue images from 1975, one of which is reproduced below. This Silverlepor model boasts an uncommon array of features not found on many Rado watches. First of these is a very thin case made of sterling silver. The second interesting feature is the elegant white dial with printed Roman numerals. At the time this watch was made, Rado watches commonly used stainless steel cases—many with scratchproof tungsten-carbide bezels—and bold, funky dials with 3-D markers. Relatively few mechanical Rado watches were produced with simple dials and cases made of precious metal.

Rado 847 (Longines cal. L847)The third interesting feature of this watch is the 2.5mm-thick hand-wound movement supplied by Longines. Longines caliber L847 is a very thin and high quality movement. Rado had also used Peseux (now ETA) caliber 7001 in some of their hand-wound dress watches of this period; the reason this high-grade Longines movement was chosen for this model is unknown. No official documentation of cooperative efforts between the two companies at the time is available, though there is speculation among the Rado collector community that a partnership existed, if only as a result of the consolidation of various watchmaking houses into what would eventually become the Swatch Group (including Longines, Certina, Rado, ETA and others). The present example of Rado/Longines cal. L847 is numbered, something only seen previously on chronometer-certified Rado movements. It is assumed that this movement was not submitted for chronometer certification as there are no indications of such on the dial or case and because it was common practice for Longines to number their movements.

Photos: Click for larger images

Rado Silverlepor Silver case of Rado Silverlepor Case back removed to expose Rado cal. 847 by Longines

Profile of Silver case Silver hallmark on case back Rado strap buckle

An excerpt from a June 1975 Japanese Rado communication is reprinted here:

1975 Silverlepore ad














This watch has been sold.

Note: More specific information pertaining to the manufacture/issue date of this watch is welcome.  
Please feel free to e-mail WatchCarefully directly.

Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com


Brand: Rado
Model: n.a
Ref.: n/a
Issued: Ca. 1958
Case: Gold-plated bezel, stainless steel bayonet back
Crystal: Acrylic
Bracelet: n/a
Movement: Fontainemelon Cal. 72-4, 25 jewels, 5 adjustments

Description: This is a quite rare gold-plated dress watch from the 1950s. At the time this watch was produced Rado generally used movements by Felsa and A. Schild. Relatively few FHF-powered Rado watches of this vintage are seen today and thin-lugged dress watches are not nearly so common as the case shape used on the Horse and President models of the era. Making this a potentially even more rare watch is the distinctly high-grade movement. Hand-wound watches of the time were usually 17- or 21-jewel affairs, though Rado used a 23-jewel variant of the FHF 72 in some DeLuxe models. That the present watch contains an elaborately branded 25-jewel movement of chronometer quality is quite unusual. The overall condition of the movement and dial is also very good.

The case shows almost no wear and the back has minor scratches. The movement is running smoothly but its service history is unknown--it appears never to have been touched since leaving the factory. Overall condition of this watch is 90% or better.

Photos: Click for larger images

1950s dress watch with 25j hand-wound movementDial detail of 1950s dress watchCrown uses mid-1950s 'R' typeface

bayonet-type case back indicates patent numberFHF Caliber 72-4 has 25 jewels, date function, and eleborate markings


Brand: Rado

Model: EIGER

Ref. unknown

Issued: 1972

Case: Tungsten-Carbide bezel with Stainless steel screw-back (inset with gold-tone medallion)

Bracelet: n/a

Movement: ETA Cal. 2783 automatic with date, 25 jewels, gilt, signed 'pineapple' rotor and plate (marked Rado, 2797, 211)

Description: This is another of the Diastar/Balboa-like watches with shaped tungsten-carbide bezel and faceted sapphire crystal. Along with many other vintage Rado models such as Matterhorn and Rothhorn, this is intended to celebrate the eponymous alpine peak. This EIGER has a sunburst dial that appears variously silver, gold and brown from center to its edges. Bold wedge markers are used for the hours; date window is at 3:00. Crown is signed with Rado anchor logo; case back features inset gold-tone medallion typical of watches seen in the Japanese market. The crystal features facets unlike many other models I've seen before--a diagram of the facets is provided below.

The bezel shows no wear, but the underside of the 6:00 lugs have chipped where the spring bars attach--some care must be taken when changing straps and/or choosing spring bars. Some very minor chipping is evident at the edges of the crystal. The watch is very presentable and is keeping accurate time. Service history is unknown; date functions properly at midnight.

Photos: Click for larger images

Copyright WatchCarefully.comCopyright WatchCarefully.com

This watch has been sold.

Text & images © C. Bradley Jacobs and WatchCarefully.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brand: Rado

Model: Diastar 8/1

Ref.: 8/1

Issued 1973

Case: Tungsten-Carbide bezel, stainless steel back

Crystal: Sapphire with longitudinal facets

Bracelet: Stainless steel NSA with expandable clasp

Movement: Rado Cal. 2798 (ETA 2789) 25j, gilt

Description: This is an uncommon Diastar 8/1 model with tungsten-carbide case and a dial made of Lapis Lazuli. It is similar to most Diastars of the 1970s, with a faceted sapphire crystal, day/date display at 6:00 and an NSA bracelet, but the dial sets this model apart from most. With a printed anchor logo (as opposed to the in-set rotating anchor found on most Rado automatics) and the white printing and marker elements setting off the stone dial material, this is a very distinctive piece. Elements of blue and grey are scattered throughout the material giving the impression of clouds in the sky. Click the links for information about a Diastar 13G with Tiger-Eye dial and a Diastar 8/1 with black goldstone dial . A 1972 Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement for a stone-dial watch, with pricing information, can be viewed by clicking here.

This watch exhibits two sets of markings which are possibly explained by theories proposed on the Rado Forum at EOT. First, the model name includes the /1 which is believed to indicate it is an ETA-powered continuation of the Diastar 8, which originally was powered by a movement from A. Schild. Second, the movement is marked with the 3-digit number 311, suggesting it was built in the 11th month of 1973. Such movement markings have been seen between the years of 1969 and 1974, or thereabouts.

Photos: Click for larger images

Photo by the author Photo by the author Rado Diastar 8/1 with Lapis Lazuli dialDiastar 8/1: detail of Lapis Lazuli dial Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author

This watch has been sold.

Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com


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