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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

   

Text and images by Ken Nichols

 The big, titanium HyperChrome Captain Cook is Rado’s recent interpretation of a dive watch with the bling and brawn for an underwater fashionista. If this Captain were a living, breathing sailor, he’d be a burly, broad-shoulder guy standing on a titanium peg-leg grinning with a polished, silver tooth.

Rado got some attention a few years ago when it reimagined the Captain Cook after its original model from the 1960s. Rado timed the vintage-like release perfectly, and it was the 37mm little brother that took the spotlight.  This watch’s namesake was the British Captain Cook, who explored the Pacific in the 1700s.

Design and Finish

Rado often goes unnoticed among Swatch Group’s other brands, but this watch refuses to get lost and is unapologetically bold. The HyperChrome Captain Cook comes in two distinct sizes. I got my hands on this large-and-in-charge 45mm model and was surprised by its slight weight of 147 grams on the metal bracelet.

The chunk of metal feels like a tool or a weapon on my wrist, but with the refined edges and smoothness of a surgical instrument. The massive lugs are brushed with a finely integrated bracelet with alternating polish. The case is predominately a titanium alloy, which highlights Rado’s niche-work with alloys and ceramic composite materials.

The 120-click ratcheting bezel is polished on its coin edge and mirrors the polished links on the center of the bracelet.

Titanium is found in more and more watches – and for good reasons. It represents a lightweight alternative to heavier stainless steel. The downside of the metal is that it tends to be easily scratched.

The Captain Cook’s case is predominately a titanium alloy, which highlights Rado’s niche-work with alloys and ceramic composite materials.

 The lugs on this case jut out like the bow of a ship and remind me of  design elements in vintage Omega Flightmasters or Seiko Bullheads. The bezel is a black, high-tech ceramic insert engraved and enclosed in a carbon-diffused steel unidirectional ring.

The lugs on this case jut out like the bow of a ship and remind me of design elements in vintage Omega Flightmasters or Seiko Bullheads.

The ring slopes toward the curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. The bezel and crystal create a bowl shape that highlights the bezel’s triangle at 12, and Arabic numerals at 15, 30 and 45-minute marks. The 120-click ratcheting bezel is polished on its coin edge and mirrors the polished links on the center of the bracelet.

I am a guy who loves steel bracelets but have never liked mixed-metal finishes. It might offer versatility in matching your attire, but I think the mixed titanium and polished steel draws more attention to the bracelet and less to the case even though the case stands nearly 14mm high.

The bezel and crystal create a bowl shape that highlights the Captain Cook’s bezel triangle at 12, and Arabic numerals at 15, 30 and 45-minute marks.

The bezel functions with some firmness, so there’s no casual bump or slight push with a finger to move it off its mark. You have to really grab it to turn and the coin-edge provides the traction. Once it’s set, however, there’s some mechanical play in it and this made me do a double-take and make sure its triangle of SuperLuminova was aimed at the right minute marker on the chapter ring.

The signed and polished grade-5 titanium screw-down crown has been given a hardening treatment.

The signed and polished grade-5 titanium screw-down crown has been given a hardening treatment to stand up to wear, but it still feels small compared to the rest of the case. Rado’s anchor on the crown is a nice visual element, but its size and placement on the case make it hard to unscrew. Sure, this screw-down feature helps give it the 200m water resistance, but it might be improved with a larger crown or better placement on the case.

 Innovation

The company launched in 1917 and the Rado name ascended in the market in the 1950s. The name means “wheel,” which seems appropriate for the many parts in the mechanical movements, but Rado’s niche has been finding innovative elements to make watches stronger and more resilient. They have a history of using innovative ceramics and carbide-based composites and watch-case coatings.

Inside all the innovative case materials is a tried and true automatic ETA movement that boasts an 80-hour power reserve.

Legibility

Form is important. Function is essential. This watch blends these two elements on the dial by providing exceptional contrast between the deep black dial and the applied indexes with white SuperLuminova. Rado floats a gold anchor rotating on a red disk at 12 o’clock above its name along with a subtle Captain Cook at 6. The date display has a black base that hides at 3 o’clock. If your watch needs a date, this is the way to show it on the dial.

The arrow hour-hand makes no mistake pointing the way and the second-hand has enough contrast in the day and luminescence at night to give you the details.

Rarity and value

The Rado brand is aimed at the “high range” market, which is Swatch Group’s second-shelf below the prestige and luxury range audience. This watch is in good company with Longines and Union Glashutte and has the legacy and support that comes with Swatch Group. It’s this stability and innovative history that has allowed Hyperchrome Captain Cook to be a unique, modern-day sport watch for a fashion-conscious diver. Price: $2,600.

Ken Nichols is a writer and photographer living in the South with his wife, three girls, vintage Airstream and humble watch collection. https://about.me/ken.nichols

 

Specifications: Rado HyperChrome Captain Cook

  • Reference number: 01.763.0501.3.015
  • Movement: 11 ½ ETA C07.611, automatic, 25 jewels, 3 hands, date at 3 o’clock, up to 80 hours power reserve
  • Case & Bezel: High-tech ceramic insert engraved and coated and inserted in a carbon diffused steel unidirectional bezel
  • Case Back: Screw-down titanium case back with 3 seahorses stamped
  • Crown: Polished grade 5 titanium screwed crown with hardening treatment
  • Crystal: curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides
  • Water resistance: 20 bar (200m)
  • Dial: Blue sunbrushed, applied indexes with white Super-LumiNova® and large white moving anchor symbol with red background, white printed Captain Cook, Rado and Automatic logos
  • Hands: White SuperLuminova
  • Bracelet: satin brushed stainless steel cover with hardening treatment
  • Dimensions: 45mm wide x 54 long x 13.8mm high
  • Price: $2,600