Following up on the 37mm Captain Cook vintage diver collection from 2017 (along with a contemporary 45mm version), Rado has released a 2019 limited edition that pushes the retro vibe even further. Most of what made the 2017 models so appealing returns, but the brand found inspiration from a vintage Captain Cook piece that had developed an eye-catching patina on the dial. The previous 2017 models had either a dark brown dial or one tailored to women featuring a silver dial with diamonds marking the hours (and a white ceramic bezel). This year only one model debuted and it’s as close to an original as Mido could get without sacrificing modern expectations. Whether you prefer the slightly newer look of the 2017 release or aged aesthetic for 2019, if you want the closest thing to a 1962 original, this new model is the one to get. Let’s take a closer look.
Rado was founded in 1917 as Schlup & Co. in Lengnau, Switzerland by brothers Fritz, Ernst and Werner Schlup. The humble atelier started in a small area of their parents’ house but grew into one of the world’s largest producers of watch movements by the mid-1940s. Rado-branded watches didn’t appear until the 1950s with the Golden Horse and Green Horse collections, starting in 1957. By 1960, the brand had a presence in over 61 countries. The 1960s was an important decade for consumer dive watches as brands like Omega, Rolex, Oris, Blancpain, Seiko and many others pushed hard for new innovations as the segment heated up. Rado released its 37mm Captain Cook diver in 1962. Named after the British explorer, the diver had a simple time and date setup and a depth rating of 220 metres. It was a competitive piece, but ultimately overshadowed by larger brands and production stopped in 1968 (only 8,000 watches were produced).
A vintage example of the Rado Captain Cook – photo: Michael Stockton, Fratello Watches
Although the Captain Cook models held a relatively small place in the company’s overall portfolio, vintage-inspired designs are all the rage these days and Rado has wisely capitalized on the trend.
CASE AND DESIGN
For this 2019 Rado Captain Cook Limited Edition, the brand opts for a stainless steel case that is 37mm in diameter and 11.1mm in height. Small by today’s standards, especially for a dive watch, but faithful to the original MK1 model. It doesn’t wear particularly small, however (although I admittedly have a small wrist) and is a welcome change from the glut of oversized models saturating the market.
The 120-click, non-luminescent bezel rotates counterclockwise and slopes inward (closely mirroring the 1962 original), but a modern ceramic insert is employed. A domed sapphire crystal replaces the original’s acrylic and also removes the Rolex-like cyclops lens over the original’s date window. The crown is signed with Rado’s anchor logo and doesn’t screw down, with a water-resistance of 100 metres. It’s a bit surprising that the 2019 edition has less than half of the original’s depth rating, but I suspect most will buy this for nostalgia over serious diving.
The sides of the case are polished with a solid caseback featuring an engraving of three seahorses and stars on a matte surface, similar but not identical to the original back (two seahorses). Given the inspiration of the piece, I prefer this to a contemporary exhibition window. The case is very faithful to the 1962 model with minor differences overall, and I don’t mind the modern touches.
DIAL AND HANDS
The sunburst dial differentiates this model from the 2017 release with a bronze-ish, patinated aesthetic. If you’re lucky enough to find an original piece in nice condition, the dial could very well resemble this one. The wide indices closely mimic the 1962 model with a greenish Super-LumiNova sporting a faux patina. A sloping minute track spans the outermost perimeter and a date window sits at 3 o’clock, printed in the same red-on-white like the original.
The hands may look faithful at first glance, but Rado made a curious change to the design. The 1962 model has a large triangular tip on the minute hand with a sword-shaped hour hand. The new model’s hour hand has the triangle with a sword-shaped minute hand. Why the swap? I have no idea, but the overall vibe remains intact. The seconds hand is unchanged and all have lume inserts similar to the original. As mentioned earlier, the cyclops window has been removed from the crystal and that, coupled with the modified hands, mark the noticeable differences. Rado’s logo, an anchor within a red circle, actually rotates as the watch is moved. A cool touch that could easily be missed (it took me a full day to notice). The printing on the dial is the same size and font as the original.
The heart of the new model is an ETA C07.611 (2824-2 base) automatic with 25 jewels, 21,600vph (3Hz) and an 80-hour power reserve. The beat rate is reduced from 4Hz on the 2824-2 base to achieve the much longer reserve (along with an improved mainspring). Functions include central hours, minutes, hacking seconds and date, and it can be hand-wound. The original model featured an A Schild AS1701 automatic, but Rado is now part of the Swatch Group with access to its wide portfolio of ETA movements, which is tightly controlled for non-members.
The 19mm lug width is a somewhat unconventional size, but Rado includes multiple straps to help offset this minor inconvenience. It comes fitted with a comfortable brown leather strap with off-white stitching, but a stainless steel Milanese bracelet and green NATO strap are also included, along with a leather travel pouch and tool for the spring bars. An impressive package, but it comes at an increased price over the 2017 version.
I’m a big fan of the retro craze today, especially with dive watches like the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, Longines Legend Diver and Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017. Rado hits all the right notes with the 2019 Captain Cook Limited Edition, keeping it faithful while simultaneously providing necessary modern touches. I’ll always choose a sapphire crystal over acrylic, despite the warmth and character the latter material can bring, and a proven ETA automatic with an 80-hour power reserve is a winner in this price range. A couple of design decisions are a little strange, such as the swapping of the hands and reduced water-resistance, but at the end of the day, the new Captain Cook has all the ingredients of a proper classic reissue. The size may be too small for some, but it’s historically accurate and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 2019 Rado Captain Cook Limited Edition sells for CHF 2,110, EUR 2,130 or USD 2,100 and is limited to 1,962 watches (matching the year of the original). That’s a slight increase from the 2017 model that sells for CHF 1,820, but the new model includes extra straps and accessories.
More details at rado.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.