When you think of Rado – if you’re familiar with them – you know to expect a high-tech ceramic being used in some form or fashion. You might also expect some bold (even crazy) colors used to highlight and draw attention to the material. What you might not be expecting from the brand is something that looks more restrained or like a steel case. Well, that’s what we’ve got in the form of the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde.
Prior to this review, I had actually never handled a Rado in person. While I may have dealt with plenty of other watches coming from the Swatch Group, and written about Rado from press releases, for some reason, I never quite had one grace my wrist. Obviously, that changed with the arrival of the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde.
Now, given that Rado is a part of the Swatch Group, you’d be right to point the arrow in the direction of an ETA movement showing up in the case. Here, it’s an ETA C07.881 which is – at least for me – not one that is familiar at all (I’m more accustomed to the 4-digit varieties). What’s critical to note here is hiding away in the spec sheet.
This particular movement brings along COSC certification (something that only 6% of Swiss watches can achieve, apparently), an 80-hour power reserve (for those rare moments you’re not wearing the watch), and the always-welcome silicon hairspring (reducing susceptibility to magnetism is a good thing in my book). In other words, you’ve got a rather nice engine driving this watch.
If you’re going to have a good movement, you might as well protect it, yeah? Well, on the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde, that protection comes in the form of their plasma ceramic case, which has a monobloc construction. I want to spend some time talking about this case because it even confused me at first. I expected ceramic from Rado, and when I opened up the box, I thought I was looking at a polished steel case, albeit one with a darker finish to it.
That may not seem like much, but I think it speaks volumes to the brand’s finishing capabilities. What you’ve got with the case is a material (in the ceramic) that is highly durable and scratch-resistant, but flies under the radar by looking like “just” a steel case. I also want to note that I found the case to be very, very smudge resistant. For me, I tend to avoid high-polish cases, as they show every single smudge and fingerprint from handling. On the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde, though, I was not able to leave any discernible marks on the watch. So, yeah, this one stays clean.
I was rather keen on how clean the dial of the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde was as well. You’ve got those narrow (but just the right length) Rhodium hands paired with the long, polished, Rhodium stick indices. It’s a classic look, and the high polish stands out almost like they have their own light source against the dark blue of the dial. It’s not quite a matte finish, and the blue here is a very lovely shade that pairs nicely with the dark argent color tone of the case.
Those are the smaller (but critical) details on the dial of the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde, but the eye is quickly drawn to the small seconds. Sure, the name of the watch calls it Petite, but that subdial is anything but petite. This brings some dimensionality to the table (as the subdial is concave to the surface of the dial), and you’ve got that same light-catching polish on the second hand and numerals. Perhaps not nearly something you’d consider “necessary” for a dressier piece like this, but it marks it as something other than just another three-hander.
Now, if you’ve noticed, I’ve been very positive about how Rado has made use of high-polish surfaces on the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde as a whole. There is one spot on the watch, though, that could do without the sheen. Any guesses? Yes, that’s right – it’s on the date window. Here, we’ve got that bright white date disc which stands out – and not what I consider in a good way. Then, on top of that, you’ve got a polished outline surrounding the date cutout. For as well-sorted as the rest of the watch is, this just has me scratching my head. I personally find date complications immensely valuable, but here, it is a distraction to the design, and I, for one, would not be heartbroken to see a dateless Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde released into the market.
On the flip side, there is a fun bit of nonsense on the dial that I hope never goes away. That, of course, is the little anchor at the 12 o’clock position, just above the Rado logo. This serves no purpose other than to let you know that the watch has an automatic movement inside. That said, I love it. It’s so much more subtle than printing the word “automatic” on the dial, and I really, really dig the whimsical kinetics it puts on the dial side.
As long as we’re flipping things, let’s flip our wrists and have a look at the strap of the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde. Okay, a croc-embossed leather strap, we’ve seen that before, nothing new there. Where this Rado shines is with the clasp. You see, this is unlike anything I’ve seen from another brand, though it apparently shows up on a few different Rado models. The feature is subtle, but it’s a sliding extension that hides in the clasp. At first, I didn’t even realize what it was doing – I just thought the leather was slipping somehow in the clasp as I put the watch on (one never quite knows what to expect from watches that live on the review circuit).
It was so much more than that, though. By having the single-sided deployant (rather than, say, a butterfly clasp) you’ve got something that is more compact on the underside of your wrist. There are other brands that have these single-sided sorts of clasps, but then you’re trying to split the difference between what you can fit your hand through and getting a good fit on the wrist when you close the clasp. Given that I like a tighter fit, this is a fight I normally lose. With this Rado clasp, though, it expands to let you slide your hand through, and then it collapses back down to get that fit that is just right.
As you can probably surmise from what I’ve written here, I rather enjoyed my time with the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde. The 43mm case wears just like you’d expect – not too big, not too small – but the use of ceramic (and then titanium for the caseback) keeps the weight down to a rather svelte 90g, which means it’s not a nuisance at all.
Frankly, if this was in steel, you’d probably expect at least another third in the weight, so the ceramic once again brings another positive to the table. For it being my first intro to the brand, I’m afraid that the Rado DiaMaster Petite Seconde may have spoiled me, but I guess I’ll have to get another one in from the brand to know that for sure. Stay tuned for that, and we’ll see what we think up. For now, though, it’s safe to say that how Rado is using ceramic here is unlike anything else you’re seeing from other brands