Captain James Cook (1728-1779) was one of the most prolific explorers, cartographers, and navigators the world has ever known.
On his way to being a captain in the British Royal Navy, Cook made three separate voyages to the Pacific Ocean in which he circumnavigated the globe, sailing thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the planet.
He achieved the first recorded European contact with both the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as being the first to sail around New Zealand. He was the earliest to cross the Antarctic Circle, and on the opposite end of the world, charted the majority of the North American northwest coastline, determined the extent of Alaska, and closed the gaps in Russian (from the west) and Spanish (from the south) exploration of the northern limits of the Pacific.
I know what you #watchnerds are thinking, I’m not in 7th-grade social studies class, where’s the horological significance with Captain Cook? Interestingly enough, on Cook’s second voyage (this time circling the earth in the opposite direction of his first voyage 🤯) he successfully used British watchmaker Larcum Kendall’s K1 marine chronometer, a copy of the first-ever produced (John Harrison’s H4 chronometer). This enabled Cook to calculate his longitudinal position with much greater accuracy by using the current time along with another known fixed location (say GMT). It was a major technical accomplishment, as accurate understanding of the time over a long sea voyage is necessary for navigation in the days without electronic or communication support. The marine chronometer successfully used by Captain Cook would revolutionize naval and later aerial navigation. Even more remarkable, the K1 cost £450 in 1769, and the original H4, the first successful chronometer was a whopping £400 in 1750. For comparison purposes, at the time this was approximately 30% of the value of an entire ship! Cook praised the timepiece in his famous published journals and he used it to make maps of the southern Pacific Ocean that were so accurate many of them were still in use in the middle of the 20th century.
The particular Captain Cook automatic I’m reviewing is reference R32500315, one of Rado’s new Captain Cook models from their Tradition collection. They are inspired by the original Rado pieces from the 1950s and 1960s and this particular model draws on elements akin to its original 1962 Brevet cased counterpart. Limited to 1,962 made, an homage to the year of the first production, this model has a case diameter of 37.3 mm with only an 11.1 mm thickness. The water resistance is still a robust 100 meters. A sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating and a screw-down case back is used. The brown sunburst dial has a nice vintage feel to it, changing in color and sheen depending on the angle of light hitting it. An oversized arrow-style hour hand is used as has always been for past Captain Cook models and the dial, markers, and handset together provide great legibility. Its caseback is adorned with Rado’s signature triple seahorse and stars that can be seen on the original Captain Cook dive watches.
Some may know that on many Rado vintage pieces the logo is a free-swinging anchor positioned at 12 o’clock. The anchor moves around an axis point similar to an automatic rotor. This has been preserved in the new models, a great detail you don’t see anywhere else. Another detail that can’t be missed is its sloped ceramic bezel insert (I’ve also heard stadium/coliseum/concave bezel used for this bezel shape when speaking with other watch collectors). A silver date wheel with red numerals again is a nice surprising detail, keeping true to its predecessors. Finally, the shape of the crystal in the modern Captain Cook’s are designed in a box-style, common for vintage acrylic crystals but here produced with modern sapphire, a nice touch for vintage watch enthusiasts looking for a modern watch.
The Rado website does not mention many specs about the movement they’re using for the Captain Cook Automatic, but after some research, they contain either the ETA C07.611 or an ETA mechanically very similar. The automatic movement operates at 3Hz and has up to an impressive 80 hours of power reserve. The longer power reserve is due to the slower 3 versus 4Hz operational frequency, seemingly without affecting accuracy performance.
The limited-edition reference is shipped with a leather travel pouch an additional mesh bracelet and a NATO strap. The weight of the watch on the OEM brown leather strap is a feather-light 60 grams. Retail for the Rado Captain Cook Automatic Limited Edition (Ref. R32500315) is $2,100.
The Captain Cook line is also offered in a 42 mm case diameter with varying thickness of 12.1 to 12.3 mm, a 49 mm lug to lug, and between a 200 meters to 300 meters water resistance with screw-down crown depending on the reference. It also comes in five colorways: green, navy blue, grey, black, and the vintage-inspired edition just discussed. I believe most wrists will like the 42 mm version better but for me, that’s the upper end of my size limit and the corresponding lug to lug length usually overpowers me eventually. I really like the size of the 37 mm case on my 6.75″ wrist, as it’s smack dab in the middle of my sweet spot for diameter, and the lug-to-lug length is a comfy 43.2 mm, perfect for me. Overall, I’d highly recommend a Captain Cook model of either size depending on one’s wrist size to both vintage and modern dive watch enthusiasts alike.
Researching this article really brought me back to my middle school days of memorizing social studies text line by line. Shout out to Mrs. Grossman. What a nerd I am (but so are you, admit it 🤓).
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