When our good friend Justin Mastine-Frost was assembling his lists of last year’s best watches at various budgets, one entry in the 3-4k category sprung out – the Hyperchrome 1616. And no, not just because of how huge it is. The reason it stood out is because it challenges many of the stereotypes and preconceptions about Rado watches. When I think Rado, I immediately visualise sleek, thin cases, instantly recognisable thanks to the opalescent sheen of ceramic. Well, the 1616 is none of those things, but that doesn’t mean it’s not Rado to the core.
You don’t have to be an expert to realise that the 1616 is inspired by the ’70s, an era where the prevailing attitude to watch design was the bigger and bolder, the better. Its muse is a watch called the Cape Horn, which had a distinctive shape with the same sort of rounded-off square case that we see here. Rado has taken this silhouette and run with it, bumping up the size to a highly polished 46mm that will not go unnoticed on your wrist. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s polished steel but in fact it’s a specially treated titanium which makes it almost as scratch-resistant as ceramic. So even on this ostensibly heritage-styled piece, Rado have managed to work some of the hi-tech material magic they’re famous for.
Of course, the swinging style cues extend well beyond the case. The dial is also very of-the-times, with applied indices that are as wide and high as any bell bottoms, and just as resplendent in glittering gold. The stylised, chunky hands are a perfect match, but for me it’s the uncommon day/date layout at six that ensures this watch nails it on the historical accuracy front. While it’s their pioneering work with ceramic in the ’80s and ’90s for which they’re most famous, their archive is full of some fabulously funky designs, such as the DiaStar with its shield-like bezel, so the authenticity factor is there.
Despite its out-there looks, this is a very wearable watch for everyday life. It’s large, but because it’s titanium it’s fairly light on the wrist, and looks great on the distressed leather strap. The movement is a little interesting too – it’s the ETA C.07.621, an evolution of the trusty ETA 2824, which has been tweaked to give an impressive 80 hours of power reserve. So, if you like your shirts loud and your rock progressive, we suspect the Rado HyperChrome 1616 will look right at home on your wrist.
Rado HyperChrome 1616 Australian pricing
Rado HyperChrome 1616, titanium on leather, $4050