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By Steve Lundin, Watch Culture Editor

There is a crucial moment that every watch collector faces in those fast seconds before a multi-day excursion: picking the watches to wear. My personal go-to for changing time zones includes a GMT for tracking home time and a rugged dive watch for everyday wear. Fate, in the form of a press release from Rado, showed up two days before I was scheduled to leave for Tamarindo, Costa Rica, with an offer to review the new Captain Cook dive watch.

I told their very responsive rep if he could get me the watch before I left, it would become my travelling companion on the trip for a hard-core review. Literally hours before departure I was unboxing their bronze beauty and tossing it in the carry-on bag. Welcome to the manifest, Captain.

The Rado with my usual traveling companions.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and its counterpart the Rolex Submariner have collectively set the standards by which all other dive watches should be measured. Like the Eames chair, they sport all the elements, on functional and aesthetic levels, that serve to define the breed. Virtually every other dive watch developed in the past seventy years has drawn from the feature sets of these two watches.         

                                  Rado side-by-side with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.

Rado’s reissue of its original 1960’s Captain Cook diver teases elements of these classics, with updates that tastefully reflect popular contemporary treatments and materials.

Let’s get into it…

The Rado delivers a rich wrist statement, utilizing the green and gold of the old Marshall Field’s logo (not John Deere, thank you), and is a striking take on the traditional dive treatment.

The Captain’s green dial is surrounded by a matching ceramic bezel and lives in a bronze case with a titanium back. While I would have preferred a matching color scheme on the bezel indices, the silver is subtle enough to work with the theme.

Its dial is called “green sunray” in the press materials and is slightly domed, giving the high gloss face a three-dimensional glean reminiscent of a highly polished fender on a British racing green Jaguar XK-120. Par for the vintage theme, the hands and markers are a cream-colored Super LumiNova.

The dial also sports a swiveling gold anchor at 12 o’clock, a neat, very, very subtle touch that gives users and excuse to twirl the watch around and wonder “why is my anchor spinning? What does it mean?” Tres 60’s!

The Movement

The Captain is waterproof to 1,000 feet and powered by an automatic ETA C07, 25-jewel, three- hand movement with a date at 3 o’clock and up to eighty hours power reserve. This is the ‘Powermatic 80’ movement with silicon balance spring, found in many models of Tissot, Certina and Mido watches.

The movement is a no-nonsense performer, offering an impressive power reserve and anti-magnetic properties through the use of a silicon escapement. For those interested in a deep dive into this movement, check out this article in Monochrome and complete technical specifications, including use in other watches, here on Watchbase.

The Bronze Case

The payoff for owners of the Good Captain is found in the bronze case, with a material that has been showing up in increased usage over the years. Unlike stainless steel or gold, that simply scratch and get dirty, bronze develops a unique patina as it’s worn.

The result of the oxidation of the copper component of the bronze can appear as brown, black, red, blue or green. Costa Rica provided the perfect environment to see if the Captain could live up to its name as a sea going adventurer and emerge as a newly colored denizen of the not so deep seas.

Wearing experience

The Captain looks and feels solid. The bezel has a nice loud ratchet sound that indicates things are properly aligned. It’s a medium-weight timepiece with a nicely unobtrusive 12.5mm x 42mm case.

While I prefer a horned watch crown and more aggressive ridges on the bezel, the coin-edged style has a more subdued look and feel than, say, the Rado Hyperchrome Captain Cook 2017, with its Fifty Fathoms-esque treatment.

The watch is incredibly easy to read and maintains a night’s worth of luminescence. I’m a personal fan the Captain’s titanium case back because of weight savings and hypoallergenic properties. 

The sample I received had a single-piece leather band, and would be better served with a lined Horween, but that’s strictly a personal preference. If anyone was actually going to use this as a dive watch (probably one tenth of one percent of the buyers), the strap and shallow ridges of the bezel would prove a problem underwater. However, for the moisture-averse who will more than likely purchase this product, that won’t be an issue.

Getting it wet                                                                     Rado in the pool.   

Given the Rado’s pedigree as a dive watch, ala the original 60s iteration, I intended to get the Captain wet and dirty, covered with sunscreen and oil, and then hang it out in the sun to dry. To this end the watch accompanied me in the surf, by the pool, up and down daily ten-mile walks through dusty hills and was worn while sweating and spilling margaritas and tequila shots.

Any dive watch that remains neat and clean and dry should be forcibly taken from its owner and that misguided individual barred from ever owning another watch with a water-resistant rating over one meter. But I digress.

The watch swum through the week of abuse with no undue scratching, scarring or unwanted mutating. The bronze case picked up a dull finish with some blackish highlights, answering the question of how it would tarnish. While the user’s manual states that the watch can be returned to Rado for cleaning (really), I found using metal polish worked just fine – see the before and after photos with minimal elbow grease.

Rado case before polishing.
And after polishing.

Would I buy this watch?

Absolutely – and for many several reasons. It’s great looking, in a non-blingy way, and punches well above its class for the price. Unlike stainless or gold watches, it feels organic.

The bronze changes and reflects the activity level of the user. It features a whopping four anchor logos between the case and strap, and three starfish on the case back (It would have been nice to see a mermaid as well), but who knows what the future may hold! It has a domed crystal and a groovy domed dial – a double dose of domage – awesome! And, finally, it holds its value: check out the used prices on eBay against the street price on this watch (as a comparison look at Romain Jerome as well – a cringe-worthy value dropper!).  

As a daily wear in dry conditions, the watch as configured with a leather strap will serve most users well. For those who actually wear dive watches for diving I’d suggest investing in a metal bracelet model. The Captain was a great travelling companion, and kudos to Rado for delivering exceptional quality at a realistic price point. Price: $2,600

   

With its pennant-shaped markers and distinctive case shape, Corum’s Admiral Cup is as identifiable on the wrist – even when seen across a room – as the Corum Bubble. This in part explains why the relatively young Swiss watchmaker (founded in 1955) frequently turns to the popular nautical-themed collection when introducing new materials or enhanced functions.

Corum is again tapping the Admiral’s Cup collection (here dubbed the Admiral 42) to sport a relatively rare feature for Corum: a bronze case.  And while the first such model, an Admiral 45 Chronograph seen several years ago, showed us a dark ‘pre-patinated’ bronze alloy, this latest example starts with a brighter satin-finished bronze case.

The newer bronze alloy will patina over time evenly, according to Corum, imbuing the entire satin-finished 42mm by 10mm twelve-sided case and bezel with a nautically appropriate vintage look that Corum says will “pay tribute to the beauty and strength of the brass material used in old ships.”

Subtler markers  

As seen throughout the Admiral collection, the new bronze model features twelve 5N gold-coated, pennant-shaped hour markers on the dial. But unlike many other Admiral’s Cup models, these marker are subtly marked with one color (to match the dial) rather than touched in multiple hues.  

Apparently to underscore the watch’s eventual vintage bronze case color, Corum has also added an interesting vintage-looking Admiral logo at the top of the running seconds subdial just above the 6 o’clock position. Nice.  

Blue or green dial

Corum offers the watch in either a navy blue or maritime green dial, each fit with a matching alligator strap. Skeletonized gold Dauphine hands are filled with either green or blue SuperLuminova that will glow to match the dial color.

Inside the watch Corum places the ETA-based CO 395
 automatic movement, which it makes visible through the sapphire case back. Price to be determined.

 

Focusing on its vintage-styled 1858 collection, Montblanc in 2020 is adding artisanal blue dials to its 1858 Split Second Chronograph and one 1858 Geosphere world timer watch while also introducing an all-new one-hand, 24-hour watch and a bronze-cased 1858 Monopusher Chronograph.  

Montblanc’s new 1858 Automatic 24H.

The Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H is the newest design among the four debuts and displays the time using one hand to indicate time on a 24-hour scale. As one of the few Montblanc 24-hour watches available, the new 1858 Automatic 24H also serves another function: compass. (You may recall the 2018 Montblanc 1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100, which also features a single 24-hour hand but includes additional chronograph timing hands – and a compass on its back.) Here, Montblanc has printed a compass scale in a beige ring on the outside of the dial, with markers for approximately every five degrees, and includes the cardinal points in red.

Up close on the dial of the new Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H.

To use the hand as a compass (in the northern hemisphere) simply ensure the watch is correctly set and then hold it horizontal to the ground. Then rotate it until the tip of the hour hand is pointing towards the sun. In this position, all the cardinal points on the dial will be correctly aligned. North is located at ‘24h’ and South at ‘12h’.

As one of Montblanc’s ‘adventure’ themed models, the new watch is carefully color coded and heavy with SuperLuminova. Not only is the red-tipped single hand colored red, it is luminescent, as is the map of the Northern Hemisphere and twenty-four meridians on the black dial.

The 42mm automatic watch is cased in a new stainless steel case with a bronze bezel, creating the vintage look that marks the 1858 collection. On the back you will find a “Spirit of Mountain Exploration” engraving. At its $3,030 price, we expect the Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H to compete directly with the other relatively few one-hand watches currently on the market.

The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere, with new titanium case and gradient blue dial.

1858 Geosphere

Montblanc’s 1858 Geosphere, the brand’s worldtimer with quite distinctive turning, slightly domed globes at the top (Northern Hemisphere) and bottom (Southern Hemisphere) of its dial has been among the most impressive world time watches in its price range since its debut just a few years ago. Previously available with a steel case and in a bronze case, the 1858 Geosphere is now available with a lighter grade-5 titanium case, here combined with a blue dial and ‘icy’ white accents.

Still at 42mm in diameter, the 1858 Geosphere’s titanium case is topped with a fluted, bi-directional stainless steel bezel that Montblanc then further decorates with shiny blue ceramic bezel and four engraved luminescent directional markers.

The nicely illuminated dial of the new Montblanc 1858 Geosphere.

On the new 1858 Geosphere, the two domed globes are each surrounded by a fixed 24-timezone scale that includes a day/night blue indicator. A second time zone is indicated at nine o’clock and a date, linked to the local time, is at three o’clock.

For added ‘adventure’ effect, Montblanc marks the world’s Seven Summits and Mont Blanc on the turning globes with blue dots. They are also engraved on the caseback along with a drawing of Mont Blanc, a compass, and two crossed ice pick-axes. Price: With blue dial: $5,800 (on leather) and $6,200. Black dial with bracelet: $5,800.

Two Chronographs

Also for 2020, Montblanc adds two new versions of existing chronographs, both with unusual, high-end features and vintage designs.

One, the 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 100, is the latest of Montblanc’s stunning reinterpretations of historical 44mm Minerva military monopusher chronographs from the 1930s with its distinctive snail tachymeter scale dial. This newest edition comes cased in (44mm) titanium and with a new, vibrant blue grand feu enamel gold dial.

The new Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 100.

Inside Montblanc places its own manufacture monopusher chronograph caliber MB M16.31 that features two column wheels, horizontal coupling and a power reserve of fifty hours. The movement is beautifully designed to echo the original 1930s Minerva caliber 17.29. From the back you’ll see the same V- shape bridge as the original, along with a large balance wheel beating at the traditional frequency of 18,000 bph.

The new model continues the vintage aesthetic Montblanc nailed when this collection debuted in 2015. Echoing the collection, this new blue-dialed limited edition features a satin-finished case, polished lugs with beveled edges, a fluted crown and a domed sapphire crystal. Price: $36,000

1858 Monopusher Chronograph

Finally, Montblanc in 2020 adds to its 1858 Monopusher Chronograph collection with a new Limited Edition 1858 in a 42mm bronze case. Formerly only available in steel (and additionally within the Montblanc Heritage collection), the 1858 version of this monopusher chronograph adds a bit of adventure to the truly useful, vintage-inspired function by surrounding the black dial with a beige-railway track and a telemeter scale.   

The Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition, with bronze case.

 

Echoing Minerva chronographs from the 1930s, the entire 1858 Chronograph line, including its two-pusher and mono-pusher models, is one of the brand’s highest-value designs.

Montblanc’s newest 1858 Monopusher Chronograph in a steel case with calfskin strap.

Here, Montblanc creates an in-house module that it pairs with a Sellita caliber to ensure that the monopusher function is available at an affordable price. As a monopusher, the watch’s start, stop and reset can be activated through a single pusher integrated into the crown.

The three newest Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronographs with bronze (left) and steel cases.

You’ll see beige-SuperLuminova numerals and rose-gold-coated, cathedral-shaped luminescent hands on the bronze and steel-cased 1858 Monopusher Chronographs. The bronze watch ($5,600) is available with an interesting new beige NATO strap. Two other unlimited models are available in stainless steel ($5,200), one of which comes with a new stainless steel bracelet made of a mix of link shapes, and a third set with an aged, cognac-colored calfskin strap.