From cars to clothing to camping gear, all things nostalgia have experienced a massive influx of popular in recent years, with the horological space being far from an exception. And while we’ve seen a slew of retro-inspired references that draw inspiration from their horological predecessors, it’s far rarer to see near carbon-copy replica reissues of vintage timepieces — the latter of which is the route that Swiss watchmaker Rado has taken when recently reintroducing its famed Captain Cook model a few years back. With a six-decade-old industrial design concealing a contemporary movement, we were curious to discover how the Lengnau watch label’s reissued diver would actually look and perform in real day-to-day life. After spending a few weeks with the watch on our wrist, we’ve become intimately acquainted with the retro reissue, arming us with the information needed to deliver this hands-on review of the Rado Captain Cook Automatic watch.
At A Glance
Rado Captain Cook Automatic Specs
Case Size: 37mm
Lug to Lug: 43mm
Case Thickness: 11.1mm
Lug Width: 19mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement Type: Automatic
Power Reserve: 80 Hours
Movement: Rado Calibre R763
Crystal: Boxed Sapphire
Strap: Beads-Of-Rice Stainless Steel Bracelet
First Impressions Of The Rado Captain Cook Automatic
Even when armed with its dimensions, it can sometimes be tough to get a sense of a watch’s overall size and scale merely through photos. As such, despite knowing that (this version of) Rado’s Captain Cook boasts a width go 37mm, we were still surprised by how incredibly small and dainty this reference looked — and this is coming from someone that wears a 38mm watch as my daily-wear timepiece. At 37mm, the watch definitely falls on the smaller end of the dive watch spectrum, though is still big enough as to not be mistaken for a lady’s watch at first glance. It’s also worth pointing out that Rado produces the Captain Cook in a larger 42mm version that fully remedies this issue.
Once getting over the physical size of the Captain Cook, the next aspect of the watch to jump out at us were its design and fit and finish. When held up alongside a 1960s Captain Cook reference, the modern reissue is practically identical, save for the absence of a cyclops just above the date window. Hallmark design traits such as the OG version’s boxed sapphire crystal and flat bezel very much remain in the mix. The watch is so true to the original design, in fact, that the only other deviation from the 1960s version is the addition of a new case back — an element that can’t be seen when the watch is on-wrist, making it look like a near carbon copy of its ‘60s era predecessor when worn. And, while it might not be quite on par with its more exorbitant Swiss-made horological counterparts, the Captain Cook nonetheless boasts an excellent fit and finish, with an expertly-applied amalgamation of evenly-brushed and finely-polished surfaces.
The Rado Captain Cook Automatic’s Case
Boasting a 43mm lug-to-lug measurement and a thickness of just 11.1mm, the Rado Captain Cook Automatic is constructed around a rather diminutive 37mm case that’s crafted from stainless steel. Though the modern Captain Cook’s flat rotating bezel looks identical to the unit on its predecessor, the original model’s coated stainless steel item has been jettisoned in favor of a new bezel with a high-tech ceramic insert that sports laser-engraved markers and numerals. And, as a purpose-built dive watch, the Captain Cook Auto features a water resistance rating of 100 meters (or 330’).
Equipped with a push-pull crown, the stainless steel case has been decorated in a combination of brushed and polished finishes. The bottom of the case has also been capped off with an all-new caseback design that features three seahorses punctuated by a trio of stars — another nod to the original watch and the only element of the entire timepiece that fully deviates from the original design. With a fairly common lug width of 19mm, finding aftermarket bracelets or bands for the 37mm Captain Cook should be no trouble, as well.
Less Is More Done Right
The Rado Captain Cook Automatic’s Dial
Known as the reference R32500203, the 37mm Rado Captain Cook Automatic that we tested sports a blue gradient dial that transitions from light to dark as it nears the bezel. Upon close viewing under proper lighting conditions, the dial reveals a lightly-textured sunburst effect. Rado’s text logo and a raised rotating anchor logo also sit between the center of the dial and 12 o’clock, while just below the words “Captain Cook” are printed in an elegant typeface. Additionally, the words “Swiss Made” are also present on the dial, being divided by an hour marker sitting just above 6 o’clock. There’s also a date window at the traditional 3 o’clock location with red numerical text against a white background — a color choice that adds a bit of juxtaposition against the blue and silver of the dial, case, crown, and bracelet.
Contrasting the blue dial is an arrow-shaped high-polish-finished rhodium-plated handset that’s been hit with a liberal amount of Super-Luminova paint. The same lume treatment has also been applied to the dial’s indices. Framing the entire dial is an internal bezel with train track-style markers. And, while Rado produces the Captain Cook in a wide variety of different dial color options, almost all of them follow the same basic motif in terms of the indices, handset, and date window.
The Rado Captain Cook’s R763 Movement
At the heart of the Rado Captain Cook Automatic is one of the Swiss brand’s R763 movements. Based on the ETA 2824-2, this modified automatic watch movement boasts 25 jewels, a frequency of 21,600, and a Nivachron anti-magnetic hairspring. The changes made to the movement have also resulted in the Captain Cook Auto managing to deliver an industry-leading 80-hour power reserve — meaning it can be taken off on Friday, left sitting for an entire weekend, put back on Monday morning, and still be ticking, picking up right where you left off.
While the modified ETA 2824-2 is a solid no-fuss movement, we wouldn’t mind seeing a slightly more high-end mechanism utilized here — especially considering in-house-modified versions of the 2824-2 are used in other luxury watches that cost just a fraction of what the Captain Cook does, such as the $600 Hamilton Khaki Field Auto and the $800 Tissot Gentleman Powermatic 80 Silicium.
Framed Beads Of Rice
The Rado Captain Cook Automatic’s Bracelet
With the Rado Captain Cook Automatic’s case design being a dead-ringer of the 1962 original, it would have admittedly looked somewhat peculiar for the company to pair said case with an updated bracelet design — like Rado has done for the larger 42mm Captain Cook. Staying true to the original, the updated auto-powered version of the famed 1960s diver sees its 37mm case mated to a stainless steel bracelet. Rado does offer this watch with numerous strap and bracelet options, though it really is hard to go wrong with the ‘60s era beads-of-rice original.
Connecting to the case via a fixed end link, the bracelet consists of two outer links with a vertical-brushed finish that bookend a mirror-polished five-link beads-of-rice setup — another unmistakably retro design decision plucked straight from the 1962 model. The combination of brushed and polished surfaces mirrors the same motif found on the case, as well. Utilizing Rado’s Easy Clip system clasp, this staggered seven-link setup not only looks great — providing an awesome little light show as the sun moves across the bracelet — but the beads-of-rice configuration also makes for an exceptionally form-fitting watch that provides genuine all-day comfort — an area only furthered by the watch’s overall weight, tipping the scales at around 2oz (not including the bracelet which only adds a few dozen grams at most).
Falling In Love With A 1960s Classic
Upon first putting on the Rado, I simply couldn’t get over how small the case and its 37mm width looked and felt on my wrist — again, despite usually wearing a 38mm timepiece in my day-to-day life when not testing watches for review. With this thought still kicking around in my head several hours after strapping the thing to my wrist, I assumed my feelings on the Captain Cook Auto’s size would play a major role in my overall opinion of the watch, however, the longer I spent using it, the more and more it grew on me.
As much as I thoroughly appreciate the updated mechanics of the watch — with the anti-magnetism afforded by the Nivachron hairspring and the impressive power reserve — and the new ceramic bezel insert, what really draws me to this classic Rado diver is its old-school charm and unparalleled authenticity. It’s a great-looking dive watch that still holds up just as well today as it did upon its release just over 60 years ago — a fact that speaks volumes about the timelessness of its design and overall appeal. So, if you happen to be in the market for a highly-authentic dive watch retro reissue, we’d recommend looking no further than the Rado Captain Cook Automatic dive watch reissue.
The Best Men’s Watches Under $2,000
Want to check out a few more horological options for at or around the two-grand mark? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best watches under $2,000 for a hand-selected list of stellar luxury watches with attainable MSRPs.