Squaring the circle: Thukral and Tagra designs Rado’s True Square ‘Over the Abyss’

Artist duo Thukral and Tagra bring pop colours and their interpretation of time zones and travel to the first Indian-designed Rado watch

The watch face has always been where heritage brands tout their credentials. Pilot watches have bold, easy to see displays while diving watches have chronographs and timers to ensure dives are timed precisely.

Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra’s design for Rado, True Square ‘Over the Abyss’, eschews all of that. Instead, the dial showcases firework-like hands — 18 spokes for the hour hand and 19 for the minutes. Taken together, the 37 spokes represent the number of time zones in the world, and, according to the New Delhi-based artists, is a way to depict human interconnectedness. “Communities cannot operate in isolation, and we empathise with this valuable insight. We wanted to connect the wearer with others,” says Tagra. A goal that takes on new urgency in the throes of a global pandemic.

Artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra 

Tech to last

The watch has been in the works for two years and, in the meantime, the world changed. “This comes at a time when we are all experiencing isolation, and a representation of the reunions with loved ones that we all fervently hope may soon be possible.” As the ability to move about became constrained, the duo embodied time zones, travel and migration in an object. The unique world-timer inspired display superimposes local time over the different time zones.

Before the pandemic, Thukral and Tagra — who work with a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video, and performance — had made a trip to Lengnau, Switzerland, to the Rado atelier. “It’s quite high tech, as one can imagine. Each material is tested to last for life. So the inks [and everything we used] had to be durable enough to be approved by the Rado standard,” says Tagra. For ‘Over the Abyss’, that meant achieving a new matte blue colour for the monobloc ceramic case and using cutting-edge robotics and nanotechnology to apply the vivid pink and blue gradient paint on to the delicate multi-spoke arms.

A digital painting on the titanium caseback 

Time as a teacher

The first Indians to design a timepiece for the Master of Materials, as the Swiss watchmaker has anointed itself, the artists are aware that their watch is an emissary for the country’s art and design sector. “We are Indians and have been working over two decades to develop ideas and narratives about stories that are deeply rooted in our country. There is a gap that needs to be filled about educating people on design in India.”

So, while the watch is rooted in Rado’s material innovation and capabilities — an in-house R763 automatic movement, with an 80-hour power reserve — it features the artists’ visual trademarks, like their use of pop colours. They’ve also incorporated a digital painting on the titanium caseback — an artwork from their ongoing Dominus Aeries series of paintings.

Their own definition and relationship with time is interesting to note. During the virtual press conference, when asked about their work and inspiration, Tagra said, “The time owns the idea, we are only the hands that make it happen.” And when I pressed further, he explained, “Time is extremely powerful. There can be many ways to define it. For us, it is a measure, but also a teacher. It heals and it hurts at the same time. Whichever way one wants to see it, like a beating heartbeat, or melting ice, it stays as a marker of our lives.”

True Square Over the Abyss is priced at ₹2,15,000 and is available at select Rado stores.

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