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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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