October 27, 2017
by Bilal Khan
This year at Baselworld 2017, the vintage reissue/vintage inspired craze hit its nadir, with most watches landing in the decent yet forgettable category. However, two standout vintage reissues were the first Seiko Diver Prospex watches and this, the Rado Captain Cook. A “vintage replica” of a watch from the 1960s, the Captain Cook stays true to the original 37mm watch but also introduced the size I opted for – a 45mm wide on the fabric strap. While I initially found the 37mm and 45mm sizing to be a little odd, I am actually glad Rado avoided the predictable Goldilocks “just right” sizing by offering it in something like 40 or 42mm and offered the original vintage size and a size that really appeals to those with bigger wrists.
Note that the technical name here involves the “HyperChrome” designation from Rado. I don’t see any need to call it the Rado HyperChrome Captain Cook watch, but I think this naming decision was made to ensure that people are aware that the new “vintage replica” watches are done partly in ceramic. Of course, the watch is named after the legendary British Explorer Captain James Cook who met an…unfortunate end that reminds me of a story I’d hear on the tv show Parks & Recreation when they discuss their many murals.
The 45mm Captain Cook watches have a ceramic bezel and a case done in hardened titanium which, according to Rado, offers scratch resistance over standard titanium. So, while not a full ceramic case, you still get a scratch resistant case that’s also very lightweight. In fact, the weight kind of took me off guard at first since you really do expect it to be heavier by looking at it. Again, on my wrist the 45mm size is not an issue at all and I found it to be appropriately sized for my 7.5 inch wrist.
While it’s inspired by a vintage diver, there really isn’t much going on here that would make one think that Rado really intends this to be a watch that one dives with. And that’s fine with me. I like great dive watches but I do not dive. At all. It’s great to know that the Captain Cook can survive some spills (it’s rated at 200m water resistance) but I think Rado smartly understood that style over real, serious diver substance would be the appeal. This is even more clear when you consider that the smaller 37mm is rated to 100m of water resistance.
It’s not easy to gain a unique “aesthetic signature” these days, especially with the number of vintage-inspired peers the Captain Cook has. However, the sloped bezel, big legible hour and minute hands, along with the rotating Rado anchor logo at 12 o’clock all mesh together for a distinctive style that doesn’t at all feel derivative or contrived.
One major gripe I want to get out of the way before I go on to the dial design and movement has to do with the fabric strap. Considering it’s the only one out of the three options (the other two being bracelet and leather strap), I was really disappointed at just how tough and stubborn the parts of the strap around the lug areas are. It got a little softer after I bowed it back and forth, but it honestly took several days of doing this. Even then, that area of the strap felt too far off my skin and at points it even made clasping the buckle on a more snug fit tough as it would quite literally snap open due to how taut it was.
It’s an easy enough fix for Rado to handle as well as one that will considerably improve the wearability of the piece. All this being said, the otherwise quality fabric strap with touches of leather remains my first choice over the leather strap and bracelet.