Sunday, September 16, 2007

Review: Rado Original DiaStar XL Automatic

Rado Original DiaStar XL Automatic

Summary:
  • Updated version of the original 1962 "Scratch-Proof" watch
  • 39 mm wide (across the 3 and 9)
  • 46 mm long (across the 12 and 6)
  • 11 mm thick
  • 20mm wide X 3mm thick solid link stainless steel band
  • 180 grams
  • ETA 2836-2 25 jewel 28,800 bph auto movement
  • Titanium carbide outer case
  • Stainless steel inner case, crown and back
  • Sapphire faceted crystal
  • Signed outer case, crown and band clasp
  • Rotating anchor logo on dial
  • Lume stripes on hands and subtly embedded in indices
Rado was founded in 1917 as the Schlup & Co. in Lengnau, Switzerland. They began by producing only watch movements. Longines merged with them in 1931 to form ASUAG, and they became Switzerland's largest movement maker. In 1983, ASUAG with its Rado and Longines brands merged with SSIH, which held the Omega and Tissot brands, to form the ASUAG-SSIH Holding Company. In 1986 it was renamed SMH, and was renamed again in 1998 as The Swatch Group. Within The Swatch Group, Rado and Longines are considered "High Range" brands, between "Prestige Range" brands such as Blancpain and Omega, and "Middle Range" brands such as Tissot and Mido.

The Rado DiaStar Original made its debut in 1962 as the world's first "scratch-proof" watch. Since then, Rado has distinctively differentiated itself from the rest of the watch industry by using unique and unusual high technology materials for equally unique and "scratch-proof" dress watch designs. The Rado Original DiaStar and its sister collection, the Original, continue the general case, dial and crystal design of the 1962 DiaStar Original, making it their classic.

While details have changed over the years, the general concept has remained true in design concept as well as appearance. The Original DiaStar comes in four sizes:
  • Small; women's size (21 x 25 mm quartz)
  • Medium; womens' size (27 x 30 mm automatic)
  • Large; a men's mid-size (35 x 42 mm)
  • Extra-Large; a men's large size (39 x 46 mm)
The one depicted here is the "XL" or Extra-Large, a size that's difficult to find. The vast majority of the men's found are the "Large" size. Difference between the two sizes is essntially that, their size. The "scratch-proof" hard-metal case shell is made of titanium or tungsten carbide, molded under extremely high heat and pressure, and polished to a mirror finish. The shell is permanently fitted over a traditional 316L stainless inner casing to house the movement, is signed with the Rado name on the side opposite the crown, and has the watch's serial number finely etched into the side below the "6" instead of the traditional location on the back.

The crystal is of thick, multi-faceted man-made sapphire (aka corundum), harder and more "scratch-proof" than the case shell. The faceting is subtle; normally when looking at the watch one sees vertical bands on the dial that at a glance appear to be part of the dial finish itself. In reality, it's the subtle facets and how they cast light on the dial, which has a subtle, very fine metallic flake finish. While the location of the logos, day/date and and trademark rotating anchor have changed, the general dial and hands style hasn't changed in at least 30 years.

Most of the vintage seen on the market have bands that were made by "NSA" for Rado. This is not the National Security Agency, but a Swiss company that made stainless steel bands for not only Rado, but quite a few other high end watch companies. These were unique bands that had a traditional folding clasp with a unique feature that would allow it to stretch some using internal springs and a metal tab. Links were of heavy stainless steel sheet metal rolled around thick pins. They were high quality bands in their era. Unfortunately, NSA is no longer in business. These have been replaced on at least the "XL" size with a band that looks similar but is noticeably thicker and heavier with solid stainless steel links that are highly polished to a mirror finish. The clasp is a unique butterfly with one side of the butterfly shorter than the other. The signed closure has side buttons to open it, and the thick butterfly mechanism under it is made of Titanium (the only titanium part of the watch).

The signed crown is partially recessed into the case to reduce its prominence, but can still be wound without undue difficulty. The faceted sapphire crystal is relatively thick compared to a flat one, but the thin vertical facets are subtle giving a shallow rise from the sides toward a wider flat portion in the middle. Unlike prominently faceted crystals that are more like prisms, the dial is read easily through this one under all lighting conditions. The dial has the trademark rotating anchor just below the 12, which is slightly weighted and pivots as the watch is turned. The applied "Rado" and "DiaStar" logos provide horizontal visual balance at the 9 and 3 positions; the anchor is visually balanced vertically by the 6-eater day/date window. This gives a horizontal and vertical symmetry. Indices are medium width applied batons that stand proud from the dial along with all the logos. These provide good visibility for reading time without clutter or distracting from the logos or day/date, and there is visual dimension and depth. Many dress watches do not have any lume on the dial or hands, and this is a "deal breaker" for some that like the rest of the design. Not so with the DiaStar. Rado put thin stripes of lume down the centers of the hour and minute hands, and down the centers of the hour indices. One might not notice the hour marker lume as it's subtle. At first glance it can appear that it's simply a groove down the middle and part of the design, until it gets dark and one sees the nice lume.

Prior to formation of The Swatch Group, Rado used A.Schild movements, which were considered excellent workhorses, and were used by numerous mid-range and high-range watch brands. A number of movement manufacturers, including A.Schild, were consolidated into ETA, another very excellent movement maker, when The Swatch group was formed. ETA makes the movements for current Rados. The movement inside the Men's Original DiaStar is a 28,800 bph, 25 jewel ETA 2836-2 day/date automatic. This is a classic, exceptionally reliable workhorse that comes in several grades. The grade used by Rado is the second highest, an elaboree just below the extremely expensive "Chronometer" grade that have COSC certification and are intended for certified chronometers. Instead of the traditional 3-eater horizontal day/date, the day abbreviation is displayed vertically.

Fit, finish and workmanship is impeccable, which is to be expected of a "High Range" watch. It's a classic design dating to the early 1960's that carries Rado's heritage of unique designs using unique materials that can withstand normal use and still look brand new 10, 20 and even 30 years later. The "scratch-proof-ness" and durability of the high-tech materials Rado uses is across all its collections, not just the Original DiaStar, is unrivaled in the industry.

Summary:
  • Updated version of the original 1962 "Scratch-Proof" watch
  • 39 mm wide (across the 3 and 9)
  • 46 mm long (across the 12 and 6)
  • 11 mm thick
  • 20mm wide X 3mm thick solid link stainless steel band
  • 180 grams
  • ETA 2836-2 25 jewel 28,800 bph auto movement
  • Titanium carbide outer case
  • Stainless steel inner case, crown and back
  • Sapphire faceted crystal
  • Signed outer case, crown and band clasp
  • Rotating anchor logo on dial
  • Lume stripes on hands and subtly embedded in indices
MSRP for the Original DiaStar XL Automatic is currently $695. They can be found with discounted prices, sometimes significantly discounted in spite of Rado's efforts to eliminate discounting, but due to their relative rarity compared to its Large sized smaller brother, it requires significant searching and patience.

Note: I do not have any association with The Swatch Group, Rado or their dealers other than having bought a Rado from an authorized dealer.

8 comments:

  1. It is amazing to me that you can buy a 46 mm. Rado Swiss automatic with a tungsten scatch resistant case and sapphire crystal for such a low price. This is especially true since most Rados are light weight, small ceramic watches with quartz movements and sell for twice the price. Doesn't make sense, especially since most high end Swiss automatics also sell for $2500 and up. This watch is a steal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi,
    This watch is discontinued in the UK,can you recommend a dealer in the US ?.

    Thank You

    M

    ReplyDelete
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