Rado Captain Cook vs Longines HydroConquest

What happens when two of the most iconic affordable divers meet in one glorious battle? Of course, we are referring to the quirky Rado Captain Cook and the beloved Longines HydroConquest. Both these have massive fanbases, and the same can be said for the two companies.

Rado is loved for doing things their way and not caring what you think about it, and Longines is renowned for creating some of the best heritage-inspired watches out there! Between Longines and Rado there are plenty to compare, but in this article, we will be focused solely on the Captain Cook line and the HydroConquest.

Captain Cook: That Diver

Go to your local jeweler and you might come across a diver that looks unlike all the others – in a good way. The Captain Cook draws its inspiration directly from the model family born in 1962, and its design stays pretty close the original. From the sloped bezel to the beads of rice bracelet, the Captain Cook makes itself known as one of the best divers in its price segment.

  • Price: $2,000 – $2,200
  • Size: Case Size: 42mm (and 37mm), Case Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.2mm
  • Water resistance: 200m
  • Movement: Auto ETA C07.611
  • Ace up the sleeve: A full ceramic bezel insert

The Captain Cook comes in various iterations, ranging from more sober dial colors like black and blue to more attention-grabbing models such as the red-gradient dial option. Or, if you really want to stand out, there’s even a ceramic skeletonized model as well – but you better be ready to shell out plenty of loot for that one. 

The defining characteristics of this particular model are without doubt the sloped ceramic bezel paired with the ‘deep’ dial. This creates a dimension you don’t see in other divers, and it makes the Captain Cook unique. What also sets this diver apart from other models is its complete and utter lack of caring about clout, fame, or fitting in.

The Rado logo itself moves from time to time, verticle brush finish along the case edges, a true barebones dial, and a name that makes you giggle slightly. In a world of divers that are all diving to new depths of luxury, the Captain Cook seems to be extremely focused on being a tool watch. It has this Jack Russel energy about it as if it were to say “Let’s go diving, let’s go exploring, let’s go, let’s go!”. Charming in its own way.

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HydroConquest: Brand Spanking New?

In case you missed it, Longines just updated both the Conquest and HydroConquest lines, and what an update the HydroConquest got. We might have lost the oversized Arabic numerals in favor of a lovely GMT complication (a worthy trade in my opinion), but we retained the ceramic bezel and the exceptional value for money.

  • Price: $2,675 – $2,775
  • Size: Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 12.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: Undetermined
  • Water resistance: 300m
  • Movement: Longines caliber L844.5
  • Ace up the sleeve: A full ceramic bezel insert paired with a GMT function

You can still get the older three-hand option in-store, but we’re focusing on the new model. Various colors are available, four to be exact, available on a three-link polished steel bracelet or a NATO strap. Despite the pushback from some in the community over the use of round hour markers on the 6 and 9 o’clock positions, this is a really attractive watch and one of the best entry-level luxury GMTs you can find.

This new design language from Longines is a welcome addition to their lineup. They are seamlessly blending their vintage-inspired roots with modern elements and technology. The sun-brushed dials pair perfectly with the NATO strap in case you want to really go diving and the polished elements on the case and bracelet mean you could realistically wear this to the office if you wanted to.

Which One Should You Buy?

Enough determining what is what and who is who, let’s get down to the brass tax – which is the best one to go for? The first factor we have to look at is what these watches offer based on the price you pay. The Longines offers more water resistance, greater functionality, more color versatility, and a more impressive movement (even though it is technically also an ETA). That said, you are paying quite a bit more, $500 isn’t nothing after all.

So, the case for the Longines is pretty straightforward. You get more, you pay more, and from an aesthetic perspective, it has more to offer as well. Polished elements along the case might not be the most utilitarian feature, especially on a diver, however, you are paying more than $2,500 for this watch. And, lest we forget, it has a GMT function.

This inherently means you are planning on taking this watch to other places besides just to the bottom of your local dam – which it can do thanks to that impressive 300m water resistance. If you are someone looking to get more use from their diver in terms of usability other than pure grunt, the Longines might be the better offering.

The case against the Longines and therefore for the Rado is also remarkably straightforward. I don’t need a GMT function. I don’t need 300m of water resistance. I don’t need it to look fancy, I just need it to work. A noble endeavor indeed, and one the Rado does perhaps do slightly better. It certainly has a more utilitarian approach to life, and if that’s the type of person you are or the life you lead, this is certainly a great one to look out for.

The equivalent GMT diver to the Longines would be something like the REEF GMT, a great-looking watch that comes in $500 cheaper than the Swiss giant. REEF is not as well known, but offers similar stats. Ceramic bezel, great looking bracelet, but is slightly different with its use of a brushed finish. This could be the middle ground between the Rado and the Longines, as it takes the most prevalent features from either and wraps it up neatly in one 42mm package.

Finding a Captain Cook alternative is a bit harder because, well, you buy a Capatin Cook because you want a Captain Cook. You could consider the older HydroConquest, which will cost nearly the same, comes in several color configurations, and is a true no-nonsense three-hander just like the Rado. You get a sublime finish, name recognition, good movement, and a ceramic bezel, and with the green option you get an 116610LV “Hulk” alternative – neat!

What you miss out on is that sloped bezel look paired with that beads of rice bracelet and the shifting Rado movement. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Rado is polarizing, because it isn’t, but it is unique. It plays the same game as the Tudor Black Bay, the old HydroConquest, and most Seikos, which is utility. However, it’s so different that it stands out without using a ‘fancy’ leverage. It’s perfectly fine with being who and what it is – an elevated diver. Don’t like me? Cheers.

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Personally, I would go with the HydroConquest. I have seen more Captain Cooks in cases than I can remember, and every time they make me smile – especially the ‘out there’ models. That said, the new HydroConquest makes me gitty. It makes me excited because they seamlessly combined two features that I really want on a watch – a GMT complication in a robust watch. To be fair, I also really like the REEF. I would probably buy the REEF and buy a different Longines that I really want – like the regular Conquest. That said, I do work with various overseas clients. I need to know the time in other time zones.

If I were to look at one of my clients, let’s call him Bob, he would prefer the Rado. Bob loves chasing animals. He is, quite literally, obsessed with wildlife – his words, not mine. Bob has almost zero use for a GMT function or a polished bracelet while on the Amazon River looking for panthers. He doesn’t care, he just needs to know the time. Bob would be better off saving the $500 and just getting the Rado. It looks amazing, has the specs to match, and is designed for the task at hand.

The point is, buy what you love. Buy what fits your life. These two go down different roads to the same venue – one is a truck with 4×4 and the other is a luxurious SUV with 4×4. Both can get to the venue, one is just going to cost you a wee bit more – but you get a leather interior.

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