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Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton Watch Review

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

Another year, another cool new look for the Captain Cook. It seems like forever ago that the retro diver, based on a piece first built well over 60 years ago, became an overnight hit for Rado, but they’ve packed a lot into the intervening years since its 2017 comeback. While that initial reissue-adjacent release was relatively faithful to the classic original, it’s a design that’s since been put through its paces in all manner of styles leading to the new Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton.

Over the years, the Captain Cook has seen more than its fair share of ceramic, which is what we’ve come to expect from Rado. They pioneered the material in watchmaking over the past 35 years or so, and it only makes sense that their most popular modern watch gets the same 4,000-degree treatment. It’s also seen some skeletonisation, shorthand for tech-forward, modern watchmaking. Which all leads to their latest.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton
Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

So, for some of you this particular piece might look a little familiar, even more so if you have an archive of Oracle Time issues knocking about. Its predecessor graced our cover last year and for good reason. It was a limited edition tour de force of Rado’s particular style of watchmaking – and now it’s back, in a sexy non-limited, bi-colour form – and after a week on the wrist, I really don’t want to send back.

I love bi-colour, perhaps a bit more than I should. I know there are purists out there that would insist that there’s no place for gold – or anything that looks like gold – in a utilitarian tool watch, and don’t worry I’m not going to argue that because it’s corrosion resistant, it’s shark proof. But then, like the vast majority of collectors, I don’t dive, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a problem.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton
Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

But while the likes of the Tudor Black Bay S&G and Rolex Explorer (among many, many others) go for the classic yellow gold and steel combination, here things are a bit more nuanced. It still has that boat-to-boardroom vibe, but the gold plating on the bezel is rose rather than yellow and the solid, monobloc case is a subtle dark grey – and is, of course, ceramic.

The particular ceramic in question is Rado’s Plasma High-Tech Ceramic, which takes things a step further than ‘just’ baking it in a furnace. The process involves taking finished white ceramic and baking it at a further 20,000 degrees where a miasma of very particular gasses give it the grey, metallic sheen you see here. It’s a good deal different from the slick blacks or whites we’re more used to and much more in keeping with a dive watch. It still has all the hallmarks of ceramic of course; it’s lightweight while giving a sledgehammer a run for its money (though I don’t recommend testing it) and even the briniest of depths won’t corrode it.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton
Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

There’s something to be said for the sleeker, shinier nature of the more common black or white ceramic, just not here. That particular look works incredibly well for Rado’s more design-focused pieces like the True Square et al, but the Captain Cook demands something with a particularly rugged look and feel – and the Plasma High-Tech Ceramic is definitely that.

As a material it also wears incredibly well. Yes, it’s light, which is nice, but not as light as titanium, so it still has some heft to it (incidentally, the lighter, middle links of the bracelet are in fact titanium). At the same time, it’s the kind of tactile you’ll find yourself unconsciously running your fingers across. It might look like metal, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s been particularly comfortable in the bout of rare warm weather we’ve been having here in London, and that’s coming from someone that normally prefers a decent rubber strap for summer. Going back to plain ol’ steel has been a bit of a comedown.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

Like the previous version, the new Captain Cook measures in at 43mm across. It’s a bit bigger than I’d like, but thanks to its light weight and relatively short lugs, it suits even my diminutive wrists. I do still hold out hope they’ll bring this into a smaller, more vintage- sized version (40mm would be ideal) and a little slimmer than its 14.6mm of height. Still, the larger size makes it feel more modern, in line with both the case material and the dial – or more accurately, the lack of it.

There’s absolutely no dial to speak of here. The indexes are still there so it’s as practically readable as ever, with flat-tipped triangles for the cardinal points and rectangles elsewhere, but with an open view of the movement underneath. Unfortunately, I don’t find it the most interesting view. The calibre R808 is certainly a solid movement, with 80 hours of power reserve and a Nivachron hairspring, but from the front it’s hard to see it as anything other than the modified ETA it is. Some kind of coloured bridge or a bit more finishing would go a long way to making it aesthetically special enough to show off, above and beyond the innate coolness of a visible movement. It’s a bit more handsome when viewed from the back with subtle cotes de Geneve on the rotor, but still feels relatively spartan.

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton
Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton

Perhaps I’m being unfair there, expecting the kind of finishing of a much more expensive watch in something that’s already offering a torpedo’s worth of bang for your buck. It’s just that, given the excellence of the rest of the watch – and it really is a fantastic piece – the little things stick out like a periscope. The fact that movement finishing is the only one that readily springs to mind says a lot.

As for what that price is, we’re looking at £4,150. Based on the specs alone, the plasma-finished ceramic, the 80-hour power reserve and the 300m water resistance that’s par for the course for the Captain Cook, that’s a decent price. As a cutting-edge, bi-colour piece I’ve slightly fallen in love with, it’s a worryingly tempting prospect.

Price & Specs:

  • Model: Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Skeleton
  • Ref: R32148162
  • Case/dial: 43mm diameter x 14.6mm thickness, high-tech ceramic case
  • Water resistance: 300m (30 bar)
  • Movement: Rado calibre R808, automatic, 25 jewels
  • Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
  • Power reserve: 80h
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
  • Strap: High-tech ceramic bracelet
  • Price/availability: £4,150

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.