Rado's Captain Cook makes a splash

While it might not help you circumnavigate Australia, Rado's Captain Cook is a smart bit of kit for any sailor or diver.

By Felix Scholz , July 22 2020
Rado's Captain Cook makes a splash

When the Captain Cook made its first appearance at Rado it was 1962, and the fun, friendly sports dive watch was perfectly pitched for a time when improved gear and education made recreational Scuba diving a popular pastime. And the name suited, invoking equal parts maritime and exploration.

Then, the Captain Cook slipped out of sight. Over the decades that followed, Rado leaned heavily into cutting edge materials and sleek design.

Throughout the '90s and '00s, there was no place amidst the glossy ceramic cases and ultra-hard coatings for a seemingly humble little diver. Until of course, the winds changed again.

Vintage became all the rage, and suddenly every brand that was solvent and trading 50 or more years ago was dredging through their stores for designs that might resonate with today's heritage hungry audience.

And Rado was no different. Captain Cook returned in 2017 as a limited edition, with a period-correct and petite 37mm case. It was a lovely watch, and a hit with critics.

Nuanced details, such as the freely moving Rado anchor logo, make this watch.
Nuanced details, such as the freely moving Rado anchor logo, make this watch.

At this point, I'm not sure if Rado knew it had something of a game-changer on its hands. But it's clear that today, the Swiss luxury watchmaker is definitely aware that the Captain Cook is, as some are wont to say, a cracking watch.

Now the Captain Cook section of Rado's shelves is well and truly stocked; and while there are still several more modest 37mm options, in Australia, the real crowd-pleaser is the well-sized 42mm version.

Rado's Captain Cook in grey, looking stylish on the wrist.
Rado's Captain Cook in grey, looking stylish on the wrist.

The appeal of this retro diver is immediately apparent: the Captain Cook is oozing with the sort of mid-century charm that speaks to a golden age of outdoor adventure. With its broad diver's bezel and stylised hands and markers, the watch looks like it was made to born worn by a heavily-tanned spearfisher island-hopping in the Caribbean.

While the heritage overtones are there, they certainly don't overpower the overall look and feel of the watch.
While the heritage overtones are there, they certainly don't overpower the overall look and feel of the watch.

The range of straps on offer only accentuates the nostalgia vibes, especially the 'beads-of-rice' style bracelet, so named because the polished centre links of the bracelet do look quite a lot like, well, rice.

But the Captain Cook is not all ye olde worlde. Construction and many of the components are decidedly modern, the most obvious being the tough domed sapphire crystal and the equally impervious ceramic bezel insert. And being a diver, the watch is rated to 300m, which is honestly a few hundred metres more than most wearers are ever likely to need.

Behind the solid caseback is an automatic movement, which has a very respectable 80 hours of autonomy.

These are the sort of specifications that you look for in a watch with a sticker price of $5,000 and upwards. The fact that the 42mm Captain Cook starts at $3,025 makes for an attractive package. And, if you go for the handy travel case option, your watch literally comes in an attractive package.

Have watch, will travel: if you want some more pizzaz (and extra straps), several versions come with a convenient storage/travel case.
Have watch, will travel: if you want some more pizzaz (and extra straps), several versions come with a convenient storage/travel case.

Retro charm aside, the other winning attribute of the Captain Cook is its sheer variety. The broad array of colours spans from conservative black to very fashion-forward green. On the smaller sized models, there are also white versions aimed squarely at female buyers.

One of the more interesting palettes is the grey variant launched earlier this year, which presents all the versatility of black with none of the severity.

Going grey isn't always a bad thing, as this Rado looks quite distinguished.
Going grey isn't always a bad thing, as this Rado looks quite distinguished.

Of course, if you want something a little louder, why not ditch the steel case for bronze? Another recent addition to the line-up, when brand new, bronze-cased watches do a very good impression of shining gold.

Exposure to the elements causes them to develop an oxidised layer that lends dulls the shine into a rich glow, and lends a charming patina all its own, especially when contrasted with the ever-glossy green, blue or brown ceramic bezel.

Framed in bronze, the Captain Cook makes quite a statement.
Framed in bronze, the Captain Cook makes quite a statement.

Breaking into the crowded sub-$5,000 dive watch market is a tough act, as there's a lot of competition. But Rado's Captain Cook, with its combination of just the right levels of nostalgia, along with quality components and a degree of modern flair, makes a strong argument to put this watch on your radar.

Felix Scholz

Felix Scholz is Executive Traveller’s watch editor, and one of Australia’s most respected authorities on the subject. As you might expect, he travels to Switzerland quite a lot.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 165

Thanks, Felix, I appreciate this review.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Rado's Captain Cook makes a splash