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Is This the Vintage-Styled Dress Watch to Rule Them All?

We review the Rado Golden Horse 1957: a near exact reproduction of a vintage watch that hits all the right modern notes.

rado golden horse
Zen Love

Vintage watch remakes don't get much better than this.

In the 1950s when the Rado Golden Horse was introduced, it might have looked big and a little funky. Faithfully recreated for the 21st century, however, its 37mm case and throwback vibe offer a compelling combination for modern tastes. Even as reissues proliferate from almost every watch brand, the Golden Horse 1957 stands out for its authentic feel and stellar execution.

Key Specs:
Case Diameter: 37mm
Case Depth: 10.8MM
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: ETA C07 automatic
Price: $1,800

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Notable: Dense with fine details and Rado's obligatory dash of flair (it's definitely not one of those quiet dress watches), the Rado Golden Horse 1957 is quite simply a modern rendering of 1950s watch design done right, complete with a high level of fit and finish, thin-wearing proportions and a captivating dial. And though a striking beads-of-rice bracelet doesn't make the Golden Horse cool all by itself, it sure makes it cooler and adds significant interest and value.

Who It's For: Really, who doesn't want a shot of midcentury panache in their life? There should be broad appeal to the Golden Horse, but elements like its 37mm diameter help give a bit more focus to its target audience. Slim-wristed individuals will be well-served, but even those accustomed to larger watches won't be put off. It's perfectly appropriate for adding some bling to your everyday wear — there' a lot of polished metal here — and though retail price just south of $2k means this is an investment in a luxury experience, it's one that's not unattainable for many people.

Alternatives: Not just any vintage-styled dress watch qualifies as an alternative to the Golden Horse: it's got to have some pizzazz.

Existing laterally to Rado in the Swatch Group with respect to price, sister brand Longines offers a slightly more formal look but evokes the same era with its Flagship Heritage ($1,675), and for nearly the same price as the Golden Horse. Those digging the vibe but not so concerned with price might try something like, say, the Rolex Datejust 36 ($7,300) in steel on a Jubilee bracelet with a blue dial.

If you're looking for a style reminiscent of that of the Golden Horse but on a tight budget, certain models in Seiko subsidiary Orient's Tristar collection ($120+) might scratch that itch — but, of course, not with comparable quality.

rado golden horse
Zen Love

Review

If 2020 watch trends could be represented in a single product, it would be a vintage remake with a green dial and "reduced" diameter. The Rado Golden Horse is on-trend in all of those ways, and yet it doesn't feel obvious — it feels like an actual piece of the '50s, presented in vivid technicolor.

Founded in 1917, watchmaker Schlup & Co. rebranded to "Rado" in the late 1950s, and the Golden Horse was the first collection under its new name. The exact model that Rado chose to reproduce in the 21st century is from 1957, and you can still find vintage examples online that are virtually identical to the reissue in most ways.

We call this a dress watch from a modern perspective because it's moderately sized, functionally simple, shiny and, well, obviously not a sport watch. From a 1950s perspective, however, it's safe to postulate that it would have been viewed a bit differently. A stylistically more formal time in general, a dedicated "dress watch" would have probably been significantly more low-key, thinner (on account of being manually wound) and likely in a precious metal like gold.

rado golden horse
Zen Love

The Golden Horse was produced in steel, and watches from the era with the same 37mm diameter were, in fact, sometimes even dubbed "Jumbo." This was right around the time that sport and tool watches such as divers began to be available to the public, but they weren't yet popular like they are today. The late '50s were starting to show some of the stylistic funkiness that the following decades would bring, and the Golden Horse probably felt casual and forward-looking for the relatively buttoned-up conventions of the time.

The size, the steel case, the midcentury eccentricity... it all makes for a supremely satisfying retro watch experience for the modern wrist. There are a lot of homages and even one-to-one recreations of vintage watches around today, but what separates a "good" reissue from the rest lies in its execution. This is where Rado shines, with loving attention to detail and a thoroughly modern, luxurious feel.

Of course, the movement inside is a new one, and it's produced by Rado's sister company under the Swatch Group, ETA. It's an upgrade to the popular ETA 2824 automatic movement with an extended 80-hour power reserve and proven reliability. As was true of vintage models, the solid case back is decorated with a cool seahorses-and-stars motif in relief. The sapphire crystal is also thoroughly modern but mimics closely the box-shaped Hesalite crystals of the 1950s right down to wavy distortions around the edge — which definitely feels like a genuine vintage quirk but doesn't impede legibility.

Shiny hands against a dark dial — which feature on every current version of the Golden Horse — are less than ideal for legibility in certain circumstances, such as when the hands reflect anything that's dark in low-light situations. (Subtle lume strips on the hands would remedy this but wouldn't be 100% faithful to the original.) The faceted hands help, however, and this small issue doesn't negate the Golden Horse's suitability as a great everyday watch.

rado golden horse
Zen Love

The four current versions of the Golden Horse have dials in green (as shown here), blue, black and red. Each (except the black) has what's referred to as a "smoked" effect in which the dial color fades to a darker tone toward its periphery like a vignette. This alone is eye-catching, but touches of red in the anchor logo (which actually swings around) and numerals in the date display — as well as the gold-colored seahorse logo — make the whole thing downright colorful. The green dial version in particular evokes an almost Christmasy motif to me with these colors.

The red-dial version comes on a leather strap, but the other three have one of the most pleasing beads-of-rice bracelets in recent memory. Just like the rest of the watch, it's a classic design but crafted here ever so nicely. And then there's the clasp: Normally, a watch bracelet's clasp doesn't even deserve much of a mention in watch reviews (unless there's something to complain about), but this one merits attention with its slim shape, lined texture, polished bevels and relief seahorses. The bracelet elevates the Golden Horse's refinement and cool factor several degrees.

From the bracelet to the lugs to the bezel and hour markers, almost every element of the watch is polished and shiny, and this is attractive (or not) depending on your tastes. It almost has to be this way to properly capture that '50s feel, but an excellent detail is the vertically brushed case sides, which highlight its curvature in the most elegant way. The dial itself plays with light but has a matte texture against which the hands contrast.

Verdict: Wearing the Rado Golden Horse 1957 extensively over the last couple months has provided the opportunity to know it well. Its initial "Wow, that's cool" reaction hasn't worn off even having been on my wrist almost daily, and that's impressive for a smallish, "dressy" watch. As polarizing as vintage reissues might be, it's hard to argue with one done so well.

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