Hard time: Konstantin Grcic redesigns the radical Rado Ceramica

The growing desire to reimagine industrial fabrics as precious ones signals a promising period of invention in fine-watch design
Right, price on request; trousers, €335, by Courreges. Ceramica Limited Edition (701 pieces) watch, £1,390, by Konstantin Grcic, for Rado.
(Image credit: Sophie Tajan)

The growing desire to reimagine industrial fabrics as precious ones signals a promising period of invention in fine-watch design. And as the name that pioneered this approach three decades ago, it’s a good time for Swiss brand Rado to underline that it was ahead of the game.

An early advocate of its scratch-resistant, ultra-light, hypo-allergenic qualities, Rado has been designing in ceramic since the 1980s and has continually researched and developed its potential in watch design. As such, Rado has created successful design responses to ceramic’s inherent manufacturing difficulties, including developing new colours.

This year, the Swiss marque has collaborated with Konstantin Grcic, tasking him with reimagining the Rado Ceramica. Launched in 1990, the unisex Ceramica, made entirely of ceramic and sapphire crystal, chimed with 1990s notions of futurism in fashion and design. Its uniform link ‘bangle’ bracelet was integrated into the dial, while its high-gloss black ceramic looks added glamour and a jewel-like feel.

‘The original watch design was radical, so redeeming that means being respectful of the legacy,’ says Grcic. He made subtle changes, including opting for matt-black ceramic – not a choice 30 years ago. The bracelet also dictated design details. ‘It’s the key characteristic so it was something we knew we would keep. The original bracelet and case is one geometry so, even though it was not my first intention, we made a distinction between them.’ Grcic decided to pare down the material so that the bracelet is now tapered. ‘It’s more elegant; the case almost becomes the first link.’

He also focused on the dial graphics and hands. The new Ceramica is launched in four variations, with differing levels of dial detail. Grcic’s design is set apart by a graphic simplicity that announces the industrial designer’s distinctive touch. Details such as the long white tips on the hands, the typeface, and the decision to replace the 12 o’clock position with a white triangle give the new Ceramica ‘an instrument quality; a Ramslike character,’ says Grcic.

However, even Grcic was confounded by the ‘mindblowing difference in scale’ demanded by watch design. Though his studio worked to magnified computer images much of the time, they regularly had to come out of computer reality and create models. Hence, there was a lot of ‘Sellotaping paper around your wrist’.

Whether this will be Grcic’s only watch design remains to be seen. But his now-honed eye suggests future promise for an horological career.

As originally featured in the January 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*214)

Caragh McKay is a contributing editor at Wallpaper* and was watches & jewellery director at the magazine between 2011 and 2019. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese Martin film revived a forgotten Osage art.