A watch doesn’t become a classic if designers keep radically altering the way that it looks. A classic design needs consistency and slow, gradual tweaks if it’s to make its mark in the history books. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the Rado Captain Cook. But even a classic design can do with a bold intervention every now and then, just to see where the limits of its original intention can be pushed.
When it was first relaunched in 2017, the Captain Cook was a head-turning watch in the halls of Baselworld as Rado took a brief pause from their constant pursuit of the future to acknowledge the depth of their own archives. The variations on this piece have proved highly successful for Rado with a number of different case sizes, dial colours and bracelet types to offer something for everyone. But none have been quite as bold as that first 37mm release, until this year…
In 2021, Rado have taken the Captain Cook into a totally new place, fusing their past and their present in a watch that takes a classic dive watch design and executes it in the material Rado is so well known for – ceramic. With an aesthetic that nods to both the past and the future, we are met in the present moment by the new Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic collection.
For this review we focused on three references from the collection that all feature the same 43mm high-tech ceramic cases, but have slightly different finishes, bezel materials and colours. The first of which (reference R32127152) has a full black ceramic and steel bezel, the next (reference R32127162) with rose-gold tone steel highlights and the third (reference R32127162) that has matte plasma finishing and blue highlights.
All of the cases and bracelets are finished with a matt texture apart from the centre row of bracelet links that are polished and attractively reflective. The 43mm case wears quite light on the wrist thanks to the ceramic material it’s made from and stands around 15mm tall off the wrist. It isn’t a small watch by any means, but wears comfortably in part thanks to the lugs that actually extend downwards past the caseback, really wrapping around your wrist.
All three references feature ceramic bezel inserts that are held in stainless steel supports that allow for the knurled outer edge of the bezel for easy turning. Just as it was with the original Captain Cook from the 1960s, the bezel isn’t flat and slopes inwards slightly towards the dial, meeting the heavily domed crystal that covers the dial. The rear of the case is closed with a exhibition caseback that guarantees the watch to 300m of water resistance.
While the movement is a core part of every Rado watch, the caliber within the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic has additional importance as you are able to view it through both the dial side and caseback of the watch. The visible caliber is the Rado 734, which features Nivachron components, 80 hours of power reserve and does not have a date function to allow for a clearer dial.
The ceramic cases of these new references are a critical change in what they offer compared to the rest of the Captain Cook collection, but the dials are also a major departure from the typical design. The dial is actually constructed of one layer of tinted sapphire crystal that the applied hour markers sit on, which presents a mysteriously smoky lens through which you can see the bridges of the movement beneath.
The spinning Rado logo can be found in pride of place at 12 o’clock, while all of the dial text is printed onto the tinted sapphire crystal dial, adding even more visual depth to the watch. The bridges of the movement below are finely finished with perlage which nicely compliments the striping of the rotor visible at the rear of the watch.
If you’ve ever held a ceramic Rado bracelet before, you’ll know how well machined each of the links are and how wonderfully they conform to the curve of your wrist. There is an almost liquid lightness to them that steel bracelets really can’t compare to, making them extremely comfortable to wear.
The bracelets on all three references here are no exception. As previously mentioned, the centre links are highly polished, contrasting very nicely against the matte finishing of the outer links. This contrast, combined with the monochromatic palate of the bracelets makes for a really interesting play of light and shadow as you wear them.
All of the bracelets are closed with a double folding butterfly clasp that is secure and simple to operate, and is opened with a double button at the centre of the clasp.
This collection isn’t just a incremental update to an existing classic. It is a totally new experiment with the design, pushing the Captain Cook to places it has never been before. It’s a bold step and one that is admirable in its desire to continue to move the design forward, despite first originating nearly six decades ago.
The Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic is also admirable not just for trying something totally new (that is also totally Rado), but for executing the new look well. It’s a hard thing to do, but the design has managed to remain coherent despite being so visually different to what we might expect to see when we hear the words “Captain Cook”. Only time will tell to see if this collection will be as successful as the Rado Captain Cook expressions of the past, however, I imagine that it will be quite popular as a genuinely good looking meeting of the past and the future.
Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic collection price and availability:
The Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic collection is $5,750AUD in black, $5,925AUD with rose gold highlights and $6,075AUD in blue with matte plasma finishing. For more details, visit Rado right here.
Made in partnership with Rado. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.