Watch vs Wild – Epic photo essay of the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic on the wrist in rugged TasmaniaAndrew McUtchen
There was a moment during the all-action Tasmanian launch of the Rado Captain Cook in high-tech ceramic that neatly summed up how this launch was different to others. It was an awkward one if I’m completely honest. Because after diving into the six-degree temperature water of a lake at Derby, in the north east of the Australian island state of Tasmania, where we lay our scene, we all climbed out and retreated to the scorching heat of a wood-fired floating sauna. (Stay with me, I know this is all a bit much for what is essentially still a watch review).
Once inside, I looked down at the watch I had been lent. It was the very same model I wore in the video first introducing the new collection; in grey matte ceramic with a blue ceramic bezel on ceramic bracelet. There was a dreaded discovery.
The sapphire-crystal glass was fogged with condensation. Oddly though, despite the suffocating dry heat that gave all of us a sharp intake of break upon heaving open the heavy wooden door, the case and bracelet remained cool on the wrist – with ceramic resistant to heat, one of the many reasons it’s so comfortable on wrist.
But condensation on the glass, any kind, is worrying. I wiped at the sapphire glass instinctively. To quickly end the suspense here, all was well. The condensation came away in a smear. It was on the outside of the glass, with no breach of the internals of the watch whatsoever. By either of the frigid water, or the extreme heat, or the quick shock of one to the other. Meanwhile, on the ceramic, there were the tiniest microbeads of condensation. It was all quite fascinating, the way the watch responded to the extenuating physical conditions.
The group had been joking earlier in the day about the fact that the itinerary proved to be a not entirely pleasurable-for-the-watch experience. Not quite a torture test, but a very different kind of experience to how watch launches go down. You see, “robustness” may be championed as a quality of far too many watches these days – and testing that fact is something brands are utterly skittish about. But not Rado, this was a hectic few days – for both the wearer and the watch. So let’s get into it, what happened when we finally got back to work after three lockdowns (with a fourth to commence as soon as I returned to Melbourne), properly reviewing and rating watches in the wild?
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First thoughts – inside vs outside, turns out this watch is born for the latter
When I first spent time with this watch, it was very much in the context of the great indoors. The struggles we faced, the way the review unfolded, and my first impressions of the watch were very much a product of our environment. For example, trying to capture the dial on video and in a photoshoot. The smoked sapphire crystal material Rado used did our heads in. It’s quite uncooperative when you shine a flash, or an LED light on it, in terms of presenting either as a solid dial, or a transparent one. The degree of the tinting is more towards the less opaque, than a clear window – so you can catch glimpses of the movement, particularly the escapement at 12 (which is SUCH a nice touch in terms of movement engineering and symmetry).
However, it turns out the answer was just a few metres away, outside the front door. This watch, with its contrasting high polished and matte elements and curious dial, totally comes to life in natural light. Suddenly the opacity of the smoked sapphire decreases and you can clearly see what’s going on. So the great outdoors is the right place for a comprehensive review of this watch.
Watch vs Wild Part 1 – Mountain biking and plenty of wrist scratching on world class MTB trails
The first action activity that we tackled with watch on wrist was mountain biking. The outfit for this was a t-shirt, jacket (it’s bloody cold in Tassie in May, let me tell you!), shorts and runners. Being a hopeless watch obsessive, my first thought was that the velcro clips on the cuffs of the warm, weatherproof jacket, suited the look of the watch well.
I’m aware very few people think these thoughts, but if you’re on Time+Tide, I know you do, so, you’re welcome. The watch wears well with outdoor gear. Tick. For full effect, I velcroed the sleeves quite tightly to expose the watch to the elements, the twigs, the mud, the water that was soon to come rushing at me.
Despite having zero experience on mountain trails, I’m not going to lie – I fancy myself as a BMX bandit from way back. While we warmed up for the first beginner trail, I was soon throwing out the back wheel in skids and bunny hopping like a champ.
The confidence, however, quickly evaporated when we hit the narrow trails, and were negotiating sharp uphill hairpin turns and tight berms that require actual technical skill. I had practically none of this.
Therefore, as I realised I was up against it here, the adrenaline levels skyrocketed, and the battering my hands – and watch – took as I cannonballed through the bush (we call a forest “the bush” in Aus in case that term is unfamiliar) were not felt. I was surprised to see at the first break, plenty of scratch marks on my wrists, some right over the watch. There was, of course, no injury to bracelet or case from this battering. I was bleeding. The watch was fine.
As for the landscapes, and the experience? Blue Derby have crafted an experience that will test your engine, push your skill level, and give you a natural high that will take hours to wear off. That is, if you don’t come off, which is not guaranteed.
The trails run the gamut from beginner – green – right up to death wish: double diamond black. A group of us felt suitably adrenaline-drunk to graduate ourselves from a green to blue trail on the day, and we did not regret it. Why would I do this after discovering I have no talent for the sport? Ego. Pure and total ego. Our Contributing Editor Luke Benedictus was riding, so I had to be riding. True story.
After a gruelling 15-minute uphill section of heartbreaking uphill hairpins in the lowest gear possible, there was a five-minute downhill to die for. The smooth half-pipe style berms, the many actual airtime drops and the undulating camel humps that you could either pump the bike over or jump the bike over. It was incredible. One of the best action adventures I could imagine. All of this is through some pristine Tasmanian old growth forest that changes from lush ferny, foliage and brackish streams at the base, to thinned out taller trees at altitude. Stunning.
Watch vs Wild Part 2 – Swimming in icy water and then jumping into a floating sauna
Extreme temperature variations are a sure way to separate the tough from the timid when it comes to watches. I have many childhood memories of that sinking feeling when a new watch gets water in it. Which is why I started the story where I did. It was such a flashback, to jump into the water (instinctively checking that the crown was in, which is a new twitch I’ve developed since posting a picture of one of my watches on the wrist in a resort pool: a witty Instagram commenter said, “Your crown’s out!” Since then, I’ve developed a nervous twitch. Thanks commenter) and then to see it fog straight after.
Like I said, the watch was absolutely fine. We all jumped in and out multiple times to make certain it could take the shock – with a good dose of Wim Hof hyperventilation thrown in to make the experience as lightheaded as possible.
And after an absolutely brutal, and amazing, day out in the woods, we retired to what is called ‘The hub’ of the ‘Blue Derby Pods’ which are architecturally designed buildings set in the heart of Cascade Valley.
We were immediately handed a “Little Rivers” local beer, and could quickly get down to war stories of close calls and heroic moments. The watch though, for sheer lack of damage (we were all thoroughly broken from the experience, either saddle sore beyond belief or with legs, hamstrings and glutes blown out) was the hero of the day – we all searched our watches for scratches or dents over lunch, and found none. Ceramic. Magic like that.
Lastly, how to bring the day home with a little more luxe for those moments you need your watch to rise to the occasion? The answer should be spoken in an Austrian, not Australian, accent.
Get to the chopper.
We rode down the mountain, alighted a few mini-buses and travelled a short distance to what appeared to be a paddock. But there were no cows.
Minutes later, the sky was suddenly full of choppers, and we were greeted with our airborne whips for the last leg, back to Barnbougle, our home base. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here. Thanks to Rado Australia for crafting two things of high value – a legitimate test of strength for a watch that was made for ambitious outdoor adventures. And secondly, for letting us back into the wild after what seems like a decade indoors. It was so good to have this watch on the wrist, and to wear it in such a memorable place.