At Baselworld 2017, Rado surprised the audience with a very appealing diver’s model named ‘Captain Cook’. While the brand has gained its modern notoriety by mastering high-tech materials, mostly by using coloured ceramics, Rado has a rich history of interesting vintage models. Based on a watch released in 1962 with a distinctive case/bezel design, the brand reintroduced the Captain Cook and now enlarges the collection with different sizes and materials. And today, we take a closer look at what’s probably the hottest version, the Captain Cook Bronze – in its three different iterations.
The 1960s is known as the golden age of sports watches with a spate of instrument chronographs, pilot’s models and, of course, dive watches meant for professional use or for the earliest days of recreational diving, appearing on the market. While some of the heavyweight brands entered the dive watch market in the mid-1950s (Blancpain, Rolex or Omega), Rado waited for a few more years to come up with its own vision of an aquatic-oriented piece.
Rado introduced its diver’s model in 1962 with a 37mm watch named after the British explorer, Captain Cook. While the specifications were quite classic – automatic movement, time-and-date display, 220-metre water-resistance – the design is what set this watch apart. This was mainly due to the original combination of curved shapes, with a bowl-shaped, concave inward-sloping bezel with a domed crystal and a domed dial – all together giving depth and presence to this piece. The dial stood out with its brushed grey surface, large painted indexes and arrow-shaped minute hand. Finally, a small detail of importance, there was a rotating anchor logo positioned at 12 o’clock – a sort of pendulum to animate the dial.
Fast forward to Baselworld 2017 when Rado made an unexpected move and reintroduced this watch very quietly. This came as a surprise since the brand wasn’t active in the diving field and was mostly known for its ceramic watches. Still, the result was convincing and attractive. Since then, the collection has been enlarged with multiple colours, different materials and several diameters – including the cool 37mm version reviewed here.
The Rado Captain Cook Bronze
For 2020, the brand has decided to play with materials, not in the traditional high-tech ceramic Rado way but more in line with what we expect from a dive watch. Which explains why these three new bronze models are available with blue, green or grey/brown dials.
Compared to the previous stainless steel editions of the 42mm Captain Cook, these new models come with material and colour updates, as the entire design and concept of the collection remain intact – and we’re not complaining. Starting by the central case, the Captain Cook plays on traditional shapes with sharp lugs and straight casebands. The lugs are dynamically shaped, with nice facets and are sloped enough to sit well on the wrist. The case itself is brushed, while the crown and the bezel are polished. The case measures 42mm in diameter and 12.5mm in height. The watch has some presence, however, its profile is thin enough to be perfectly wearable as a casual watch and not only as an instrument.
The whole point of this edition is the bronze case. However, there are multiple sorts of bronze alloys and Rado opted for CuAl, which comprises copper and aluminium. While traditional bronze (copper and tin alloy) tends to quickly gain green patina – resulting sometimes in toxic-looking watches – this specific alloy has better resistance to corrosion and will only develop a light surface patina from the oxidation of aluminium. While the case will lose its golden hue pretty fast, the oxidation process will remain relatively controlled and the case will retain its distinctive look.
Rado Captain Cook Bronze has a screwed titanium caseback with three stamped seahorses – a signature element of the collection, and of the vintage model. Combined to the screw-down crown, this guarantees a very respectable water-resistance of 300 metres.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the distinctive bowl-shaped bezel that surrounds the dial – an element that almost entirely defines this watch and gives its own, unique appeal. As you would expect from Rado, the bezel is made of high-tech ceramic, with laser engraved/metallised numbers and markers. The insert is clean and retains the style of the vintage model, without a luminous dot at the 12 o’clock mark – confirming its more casual vocation.
The bezel, just like the dial, is available in three nicely executed colours: grey/brown, dark blue and a handsome green model (the hero product). The domed dial, as the past model, is historically relevant and also plays on curves and shapes. Combined with the sunray brushed surface, this results in playful colours that change according to the ambient light. The dial is framed by a satin flange with minute track and is punctuated by applied, gold-coloured indexes filled with cream Super-LumiNova – for a pleasant vintage touch. The hands, including the signature arrow hand (but now for the hours), follow the same design and finishing.
Last but not least, the cool factor comes from the rotating ‘pendulum’ anchor symbol, which moves according to the wearer’s wrist movements… If not entirely necessary, it is a nice touch that recalls the past model and adds a joyful detail to the watch. It is made of a synthetic ruby backplate with a gold-coloured logo applied.
These three Rado Captain Cook Bronze are worn on vintage-inspired leather straps, with colours matching the dial and bezel. They’re closed by a bronze pin buckle and feature quick-release spring bars.
Under the screwed titanium caseback is a well-known automatic movement, the calibre ETA C07, also known as Powermatic in other Swatch Group brands. This evolution of the ETA 2824-2 is meant to become the new standard engine of the group and to bring a serious competitive advantage in this highly-challenged price range. This is done by adding more power to the movement, thanks to a reworked kinetic chain and a lower frequency of 3Hz, resulting in 80 hours of energy – over 3 days, when most watches in this range boast less than 40 hours of power reserve.
Thoughts, Price and availability
I’ve always been pleased by the Rado Captain Cook collection and its beautiful design. No doubt concerning the overall quality of the watch either – as most products from the Swatch Group, this is serious watchmaking, even in the reasonably-priced category. The addition of a bronze case is working perfectly in the Captain Cook context and adds an undeniable charm to an already successful model. Now I can only wish for a 37mm bronze version, just to have an additional option for those preferring a smaller watch.
The three Rado Captain Cook Bronze 42mm models are now available from retailers and, depending on your country, from Rado’s online boutique (for the US, UK, Switzerland, Germany and Austria). The watches are priced at CHF 2,600 and you can find more information here.