How do I Identify a Vintage Rado Swiss Watch?

By Rob Wagner

The Rado Swiss watch is a luxury timepiece known for its elaborate styling. Vintage Rados feature unusually shaped cases, colored dials and unique model names like Cape Horn, Captain Cook, Golden Horse and Green Horse among others. Their popularity make them attractive to counterfeiters, who often cobble together look-alikes from different watch sources to produce a working timepiece, but these watches have no value.

Inspect the vintage Rado watch dial with a jeweler’s loupe. At the top of the dial under 12 o’clock, the name “RADO” is embossed in raised capital letters. Models from the 1950s have "RADO" painted. The letters are grouped tightly but evenly spaced.

Examine the red and silver anchor symbol on 1960s and later models. The anchor should rotate. If it’s fixed, the Rado may be a fake.

Examine the acrylic crystal on pre-1980s models. A tiny anchor logo should be in the center. A missing anchor may indicate a watchmaker replaced a damaged crystal at some time.

Examine with the loupe the model designation. A Purple Horse model is accompanied with a horse emblem. However, some counterfeits may use a Gazelle emblem from the Gazelle model on a Purple Horse model.

Inspect the crown, which is the slotted twisting knob on the case edge at 3 o’clock. A raised letter “R” is featured on all models manufactured until about 1958. A raised anchor symbol is used on post-1958 models. Keep in mind that it took Rado a couple of years to make a full transition from an “R” crown to an anchor crown. It’s also common to replace crowns over the years. Finding a generic crown on an older Rado is common.

Use a case blade to pry open a Rado with a snap case back. Use a rubber jar opener to rotate counterclockwise a screw case back. Remove the case back and inspect with a jeweler’s loupe the movement. The movement is a small engine that regulates the timing of the watch. All post-1957 Rado movements are clearly stamped with the “RADO” logo. All movement parts on the movement should have the same discolored aging on older models.

Examine the stainless steel bracelet. Original Rado bracelets have the “Novavit SA” triangle logo stamped on the inside. Replacement bracelets have no such logo.

Things Needed

  • Jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass
  • Case blade or rubber jar opener

Tip

Vintage Rado movements are clearly marked with a serial number. The number can help pinpoint the production year and model of the watch. For example, a movement stamped "AS 1806" is an automatic Green Horse Daymaster manufactured in 1963.

Warning

Online auction websites are notorious for selling fake Rados. These Rados are produced using many different model Rado parts to produce one watch. These watches are worthless. Consider conducting your own inspection in person at a watch shop specializing in vintage timepieces.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.