November 29, 2022

The moment I put the olive-green Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic on my wrist, I was still in awe of the otherworldly plasma oven I saw earlier that day at ComaDur, the specialized Swatch Group company that’s responsible for creating all the ceramic watch components for Rado. Can you blame me, though? I mean, the inside of that plasma oven reaches a mind-blasting temperature of 20,000°C — for perspective, the temperature of the sun’s surface is estimated to be around 5,600°C. The purple light that the plasma reactor generates is strangely eerie and hypnotizing, and so is the idea that something is being made inside at a staggering temperature of 20,000°C. I thought I was witnessing the birth of a star! I took my feelings of bewilderment and awe with me to Rado HQ in Lengnau where I tried on the stealthy Captain Cook Diver in high-tech ceramic.

Even today, the memory of the plasma oven still smolders. It was truly one of the most unexpected, impressive, and confusing things I have ever witnessed at a watch-production facility. And although I know that the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic in olive green (R32130318) that I’m doing a hands-on with today didn’t spend time inside the plasma oven — it’s the shiny black and silver-colored versions of the Captain Cook that go into the intimidating science-fiction machine — my experiences from ComaDur have an impact on how I perceive and appreciate the watch. When I look at the watch on my left wrist, I re-experience the excitement and wonder of looking at the many intricate and fascinating aspects that are needed to create a watch that starts with powder and turns into an almost unscratchable, untouchable object.

The technically dapper Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

Since I mentioned ComaDur and its mind-boggling plasma oven, I have to tell you two things before I tell you how the Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic wears. First, next Monday, there will be an in-depth article about the workings of that ceramics-specialist company. And second, this Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic in matte olive green experienced temperatures of “just” 1,450°C for a whole week (!) during its creation process. Still pretty hot stuff, right? Both the production method and the watch, I would say. Especially on the subtly textured, integrated rubber strap with folding clasp, this particular Captain Cook looks technically dapper.

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Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

Under the surface of the Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

I mentioned the untouchable qualities of ceramic. On the Vickers scale, which indicates hardness, the ComaDur-produced ceramic of the Captain Cook scores 1,250 points. Compare that to the 152 points that 316L stainless steel scores, and you get an idea of just how hard ceramic is. But no matter how hard the ceramic Captain Cook actually is, paradoxically, it feels almost soft. It feels smooth, warm to the touch, reassuring even. And that’s the thing with a ceramic watch; it immediately feels comfortable. But because of its instant likability, the complexity behind creating that love-at-first-touch sensation often doesn’t even become a topic. And that’s a real shame because I feel that the ceramic adds value to the watch. If you compare it to traditional alloys, it’s an evolutionary material. Plus, the colors that are possible put ceramic in a class of its own.

Tech, specs, and measurements

In essence, the Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver is a full-ceramic-cased 300m dive watch. But material, color, and size — the watch measures a contemporary 43 × 14.6mm with a lug-to-lug length of 49.8mm — make it a timepiece that connects tradition with the space age. The most traditional aspect of the watch might well be the ETA-based three-hand automatic caliber R734 inside the case. And even this movement with its trademarked Nivachron anti-magnetic hairspring and 80 hours of power reserve is a piece of state-of-the-art watchmaking.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

Different rules apply to ceramic

The Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver is a big watch. But I didn’t find it too big, and with a weight of 120 grams, it didn’t feel too heavy either. I think that for ceramic watches, different rules apply. Because of the impression the non-alloy material makes, its color, and its tactile qualities, I don’t mind a firm and bold case size. Like the 44.5mm IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph “Lake Tahoe” and “Woodland” models, for instance, or the even-larger IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”. For that matter, the 42mm Hublot Big Bang Integral Ceramic Sky Blue can hardly be called a small watch either.

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These watches also don’t have small prices. The Hublot costs €23,800, the 46mm IWC Big Pilot in sand-colored ceramic has a price of €15,200, and the white “Lake Tahoe” and green “Woodland” chronographs have a price of €11,800. For the cost of the later, you can buy three olive-green €3,420 Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Divers on rubber straps and still have €1,540 to spare. You could even get three €3,730  versions on full-ceramic bracelets and still have €610 to spend on a Michelin-star dinner.

Captain Cook is very competitive

Don’t mind me making a comparison between the non-chrono Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic and the IWC pilot’s chronograph. But when compared to the similarly non-chrono Big Pilot, the Rado scores a comfortable 4 to 1. In other words, the ceramic Captain Cook is very competitive. Also in specs, color, and technicality. Yes, the IWC uses an in-house movement, and the Rado uses an in-group movement. But performance-wise, the price difference is hard to explain. You could say you pay for brand perception, image, and the Top Gun badge. But if you’re a non-badge-wearing individual who’s not so interested in paying for brand logos, the smart Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver is a very wise choice.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

Captain Cook also has an eye for detail

The face of the watch is a familiar sight for those who have met the Captain before. The 1960s are still visible thanks to the inward-tilting bezel, the typeface of the numerals, the stout hands and markers, the proud, bright white triangles on the bezel and on the hour hand, as well as the slightly domed sapphire crystal. Another Rado signature element is the anchor logo on the dial that rotates when you move the watch. More familiar signs can be found on the crown — another anchor — and on the circular-brushed titanium screw-down case back. On the back of the watch, you will find two inward-facing stylized seahorses. The elegant duo reminds you of the nautical inspiration and abilities of the watch.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic

The easily adjustable, solid folding clasp is made of stainless steel. The hue matches nicely with the ceramic crown and the side of the notched 120-click unidirectional bezel. The bezel feels sturdy, and its color adds visual diversity. It’s striking how accurate, tight, and bright the markings on the hard-wearing bezel are. The bezel is laser-etched first. After that, the inside of the engraving is filled with a special lacquer that binds permanently to the ceramic of the bezel. It binds so strongly that it can take a hit. And that’s just what you need and want from a tool watch with a nautical heritage, even if it’s too handsome to do manual labor underwater.

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Rado Captain Cook

Not your only watch

When looking at the matte camo-green Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver, I think is important to remember that this likely won’t be your only watch. You have to judge it on its technical capabilities, sizing, and looks, sure. But you also have to keep in mind that you already have a steel watch, possibly a black DLC-coated steel watch, a lightweight titanium watch, and maybe a gold watch in your collection. A ceramic watch in an unexpected color, however, can match your style and broadens your horizons in all kinds of ways. It will uplift both your attire and give a boost to your collection because you added another material to your meticulously curated selection of timepieces. I wore the watch with my olive-green and khaki chinos, my faded army-green Barbour summer jacket, and a camo shirt with great joy.

Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

The price of the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver

The Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver is an ISO 6425-certified diver that’s also fashionable and dapper in its olive-green attire. It comes either on a color-matched rubber strap with a stainless steel folding clasp (€3,420) or on a high-tech ceramic bracelet with a trifold titanium clasp (€3,730). The rubber-strapped version is my personal preference because of its overall appearance. The mix of two different-looking materials and the way the combination feels speaks to me more than the full-ceramic version. The version on a bracelet is just a bit too “ceramic” for me. Too much of a good thing, if you will. It does wear splendidly, though, because of the build quality and the smoothness of the ceramic material. Either version is an excellent non-alloy addition to your collection.

Rado

Oh, and color-matching your timepiece with your outfit doesn’t make you any less of a “serious” watch aficionado. It will, on the other hand, make you a seriously good-looking watch aficionado.

If you want to learn more about Rado’s ceramic watches, the brand in general, or its use of high-tech materials, please check out the Rado website.

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