Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Rado Tradition Captain Cook MKIII Automatic

In 2017, Swiss brand Rado released its Hyperchrome Captain Cook to critical acclaim. The piece, based on a series produced in small quantities from 1962 to 1968 and originally meant to capitalize on the recreational diving trend of that era, was a faithful re-issue of the vintage model, and for the brand marked a dynamic shift from its primarily futurist collections. This year, following the success of last year’s design, Rado has released the Tradition Captain Cook MKIII Automatic, a model influenced by another historical Captain Cook design yet with clear modern touches.

This new watch is a 46.8-mm titanium-cased diver, with hooded lugs accompanying its tonneau case shape, and a super-compressor-style inner rotating bezel operated by a 2 o’clock crown. The sandblasted case (produced by a brand probably best known for its resilient ceramic cases) is scratch-resistant and water-resistant to 220 meters, thanks in part to its screw-down crowns — a marked shift from the relatively underwhelming 100-meter water resistance of the 2017 vintage re-issue.

Caseback of the new Rado Captain Cook MKIII.

On the black sunburst dial, you’ll notice several of the unmistakably modern design elements — white and yellow-accented applied and printed indices on the rotating bezel and hour markers, which place the watch firmly in line with today’s funky luxury divers such as the IWC Aquatimer and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph. At the 3 o’clock mark is a black-and-white day/date indicator. A rhodium yellow minute hand and a white hour hand sweep over the yellow Rado logo toward the top and the watch descriptors toward the bottom of the dial. Within the timepiece is an automatic movement similar to the one in last year’s Captain Cook, the ETA C07.621, which has been previously used in various Mido Ocean Star models and features an 80-hour power reserve. It is protected by an engraved caseback featuring waves, seahorses, and stars. The MKIII will be available for purchase in the U.S. beginning in November 2018, exclusively through Macy’s, priced at $2,550, although it will retail outside the country through various other dealers.

The Rado Hyperchrome Captain Cook from 2017 on a perlon strap.

On one hand, the MKIII marks a stark shift from the vintage-oriented series presented in 2017 (pictured above). In comparison to the vintage watch it’s based upon (pictured below), little has remained the same outside of the general case shape and super-compressor functionality; and compared to the original 1962 Captain Cook, all that remains shared is the name and Rado logo. Still these similarities present themselves with modern shifts: the case shape is significantly more refined in its sandblasted finishing; the super-compressor styling is not similar to the ‘50s-era Ervin Piquerez SA (EPSA) design, like those seen in the Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage, Longines Legend Diver Watch, or Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris series, but much more akin to a late 1960s/early ‘70s design; and even the Captain Cook name and Rado logo are presented in different fonts and colors.
 Rado Captain Cook MKIII- vintage 1960s

All that said, the MKIII brings the Captain Cook series back into the longer historical fold of Rado, with a bold and futuristic design that suits the brand’s modern ethos. Between the technological aspects, like the use of scratch-resistant and lightweight titanium, and in the unique styling seen on the dial in its yellow-accented hands and indices, the piece stands very much on its own and thus fills a niche in the canon of Rado watches. As such, while not a strict homage to the vintage super-compressor model — itself produced in what must have been incredibly small quantities, even compared to the very small amount of traditional vintage Captain Cooks —in form, it is so in influence and story.

Rado Captain Cook 2017 - side

As the MKIII is a much more functional and funky diver than the nostalgia-inducing classical piece presented in 2017, time will tell if it will receive as much attention from consumers upon its release in October. Yet for a brand that has long prided itself on forward-looking design schemes and resilient timepieces, the 46-mm, 220-meter water resistant titanium diver finds itself back in this mold, offering a significant value for those willing to jump into the wave of the modern Captain Cook.


For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto to its historical counterpart, click here.

Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.

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