It looks Christmassy.” That was the first reaction from my wife upon seeing the Rado Captain Cook Burgundy Bronze on my wrist, after I’d strapped it on for the first time in early December. And while it’s doubtful that Rado’s designers had a yuletide aesthetic in mind when they envisioned this timepiece, there can be no doubt that its over- all look is festive, and easily the most playful in the Captain Cook series since it made its modern debut in 2017.
Rado’s resurrection of the Captain Cook — originally a relatively obscure divers’ watch produced from about 1962 to 1968, and named after the 18th-century British explorer and navy captain James Cook — has proven to be one of the Swiss brand’s most savvy moves in recent years. Not only has the watch, with all of its distinctly retro elements, taken a place of honour in the burgeoning category of vintage-influenced dive watches; it has also given Rado a more classical style of timepiece with which to aunt its ‘master of materials’ cred, particularly in the use of high- tech ceramics and, more recently, bronze. Previous Captain Cook models have paired bronze cases with blue, brown, and green dials; this latest model, which I had a chance to review shortly after its debut, is the first to match bronze with a deep red colour-way that appears to be on the cusp of having a big moment in the watch world.
Aside from the vibrant, luxurious colours, the Captain Cook is still a divers’ watch, with a classical, unidirectional divers’ bezel. Its fluted coin-like edges frame an insert made of matte burgundy-coloured ceramic that echoes and enhances the dial’s colour. (Red tones, for those not well-versed in ceramics, are among the hardest colours to replicate in that material.) The insert is laser-engraved with the hallmark, inverted triangle at 12 o’clock, along with thin bar indexes and Arabic numerals at the 15-, 30-, and 45-minute markers.
The fluted edge of the bezel is easy to grasp — even for wet divers’ fingers, I’d presume — and its audible ratcheting announces the watch’s presence proudly. Running your finger over the bezel and box-type crystal is a tactile pleasure: Unlike many other such diving bezels, which tend to be at or slightly domed to continue the curvature of the crystal, this one curves slightly inward, which helps accentuate the silhouette of the convex-domed sapphire crystal, which is treated with non-reflective coating on both sides. The screw-down crown has a polished finish and is large enough to grasp easily, yet small enough to be unobtrusive to the overall aesthetic, and to avoid rubbing against the wrist.
The burgundy dial under the crystal has a striking sunburst shine. Its contours are also notable, with the outer periphery of the dial curving downward and the rectangular indexes shaped accordingly. Wedge-shaped pentagons occupy the spots at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock, along with a shortened one at 3 o’clock that seems to be chopped down to size to accommodate the date window, with its telltale red numeral — a hallmark of the Captain Cook model carried over from its earliest incarnations. The indexes are framed in yellow gold, a complementary hue to the bronze areas of the case, and filled with Super-LumiNova for a brilliant night-time glow. Hour and minute are quite easy to discern at a glance thanks to the wildly contrasting shapes of the main hands: The former is indicated by a short hand with a wide, prominent triangle pointer that barely brushes the inner edges of the hour markers, the latter with a thin, sword-shaped hand that sweeps over them. The central seconds hand has a thinner, curved triangle at its tip. Above the white-printed Rado logo is the Captain Cook family’s most unique feature, a small anchor symbol, here in yellow-gold colouring, on a synthetic ruby background, which subtly rotates with the motion of the wearer’s arm.
Another period detail recalling the 1960s Captain Cook models can be found on the solid caseback, name- ly three stamped seahorses that visually speak to the model’s maritime tool-watch heritage, its naval namesake, and its dive-ready 300-metre water resistance. Made of circular brushed titanium rather than bronze, which could discolour the wear- er’s skin as it oxidised into an aged patina, this solid caseback covers the movement, Rado’s Caliber 763. The movement is based on the ETA C07.611, which is also the base movement for the Powermatic 80 family of calibres found in watches by many of Rado’s stablemates within the Swatch Group, including Hamilton, Mido, and Tissot. The ‘Powermatic’ designation, which Rado does not use in the official name of its version of the movement, refers to its automatic winding system and the lengthy 80-hour power reserve it offers when fully wound. To accommodate this extended running autonomy, movement-maker ETA toned down the base calibre’s balance frequency from 28,800 vph (4 Hz) to a more leisurely 21,600 vph (3 Hz).
The burgundy red colour and the bronze-gold details continue on the sturdy yet soft NATO textile strap. Its buckle and loops are made of the same brushed bronze as the case, and it has a burgundy leather section stitched to one end to rein- force the holes for the buck- le’s tongue, adding a subtle but appreciated layer of construction for an even more secure feel on the wrist. Like most bronze-cased watches, the appeal of the Captain Cook Burgundy Bronze can be summed up twofold: When it’s new, it has the luxurious look of gold, at a fraction of the price; as it ages and becomes exposed to air, water and other atmospheric factors, it develops a patina that makes it uniquely the wearer’s own. It’s not just for Christmastime, but it makes for a very personal gift, even if — as so often happens among watch lovers — the giver is also the recipient.