And once again, just when you think you’ve seen it all in terms of vintage tool watches, something surprises like the Rado Over Pole.
Man, it’s good to be back writing a #TBT article. We’re so excited to have Tomas here on the team and he continues to share some fantastically different vintage pieces, but I couldn’t let him have all the fun, could I? So, for the first time in months, I’m back in the well worn saddle to document a really cool watch that I truly stumbled upon in the Rado Over Pole.
I was cruising some Japanese sites not too long ago when I truly stumbled upon the vintage Rado Over Pole. I had never seen this model before and I spent a lot of time looking at the auction ad pictures. It wasn’t completely obvious as some of the pics were quite close up, but after enough looking and cross checking on Google Images, I came to realize that this watch shares the same case, case back, and inverted bezel as another fan favorite, the Rado Captain Cook diver. We’ve reviewed a vintage Cook that I, and you’ll notice a trend here, also found in Japan. More well-known, though, is the fact that Rado brought back the Captain Cook in 2017 with a faithful reissue and a brand new line using the original’s styling characteristics. Just a few weeks ago, Rado announced another limited release Captain Cook with a patinated dial.
The auction for the Rado Over Pole was a popular one with something like 40-odd bids, but I persevered (with a little help from my friend, the Intermediary) and won out at something like $850. Of course, when you’re buying site unseen and in a far away place like Japan, you know you’re in for a wait. Finally, I received the watch and as you can see, it’s in sublime condition. It came on a vintage Maruman beads of rice bracelet that certainly isn’t original, but knowing that my Cook came on an original, similarly styled bracelet, it looked pretty appropriate. I frankly have no idea what was originally on these watches and if the scans you’ll see below are any indication, it may have been leather.
Before we get to some details on the Rado Over Pole, let’s talk a little about the history of the watch. I was stymied and postings on Instagram got a lot of positive responses, but not a whole lot of information. I did chat with one serious vintage Rado collector from Japan and he had yet to pick one up and didn’t have a lot of information on the model’s history either. Google searches yielded little aside from some gold-plated models and later, far less interesting versions in c-cases. So, having just written an article on the recent Captain Cook, I decided to reach out to Fernanda Zapata Vakil of the US PR firm, Gigantem, as they represent Rado in that region. Fernanda gladly offered to reach out to Rado of Switzerland for any background information and, lo and behold, they sent some scans of original catalogs from Argentina and Germany.
There was also a photo from their archives showing how the Over Pole changed over several generations. So, firstly, thank you Fernanda and to Rado of Switzerland. Because of you, we now have some great scans to share with collectors.
The catalog pictures of the Rado Over Pole contain file names that, in one case, date back to 1958! I’m not sure if I’m in agreement with that early of a date, but perhaps it’s possible. Other years noted are 1961 and 1962. The other interesting point is that the Over Poles in the ads are always shown in gold-plated form, but the history picture does show us stainless steel versions.
The watches were proudly advertised as 100% water proof and, due to the same case and case back, I’d assume that the Over Pole was rated the same as its Captain Cook relative.
What you notice immediately on the Rado Over Pole is a rotating bezel with loads of city names. The point was simply to rotate the bezel placing your home time on the correct hour once you’ve landed and changed the hands to local time. Or, conversely, changing the bezel to the correct time of your newly arrived destination. I know that time hasn’t left my bezel in 100% perfect condition, but the city font is awfully small on this watch to make it easily readable. On its outer edge, you can see the base metal showing through whatever was originally used to plate the ridged details.
Still, it’s a cool look and always fun to go and read city names that have either been lost to time or replaced with more prominent cities within the same time zone. And, again, it’s inward sloping and who doesn’t love that?
The Rado Over Pole surprises with a high level of detail on its dial. Its central portion is dark grey while the 24-hour track is actually in silver on its lower half. You can see the mirrored and indexed rehaut just below the crystal. This watch differs from the Cook with its applied faceted silver markers and lume dots found on the outer edge of each. The hands are also different and take on the shape of daggers with a stripe of tritium down the center. Rado keeps the same font as on the cook for its name and model name while adding just a touch of spice with a red date wheel under the magnified acrylic crystal. Of course, we have the rotating anchor just below 12:00 to signify the use of an automatic movement within a Rado. Similar to the Cook, this sneaky little implement seems to have a mind of its own because it does move, but I’ve never witnessed the act!
Similar to the original Captain Cook, the Rado Over Pole runs with the A.Schild AS1701 automatic. Once again, I’ve decided not to open the watch, but I’d presume that I’d be treated to a view of a gold-plated rotor. The movement starts up with ease, feels pretty robust for something nearing its 60th birthday, and can be hand wound via its signed crown.
I mentioned that we’ve seen this case before and that means that sizing is 35.5mm in diameter with 19mm lugs. The length of the watch is 43mm and thickness from the somewhat bulbous crystal to heavily domed crystal is 12mm. That makes for a watch on the smaller size, but it has enough visual presence going on to make an impact. I like these older Rado’s in the same manner that I enjoy sporting a 36mm Rolex Oyster-cased watch. They’re masculine, but extremely wearable.
I mentioned that I paid around $850 for this Rado Over Pole and I’d consider that well-bought considering that Captain Cook’s often sell for multiples. Gold-plated examples are far more common, although still rare and I often see them priced around the $1,000 mark. So, I think it’s best to simply allow your desire-meter to be your guide if you’re in negotiations for one of these lovely pieces.
As one who likes to collect “sets” of things, I was hell bent on winning this one and probably would have gone quite a bit higher just to be able to pair it with its sea going relative. Yep, I’m that type of addict.
With the Rado Over Pole, we have an example of an early 60’s world timer that coincided with the beginning of the jet age. You can easily picture a classy watch like this on the wrist of either a pilot or a well-dressed businessman on the way to some foreign city like Cairo with briefcase in hand. Somehow, this one escaped serious damage and wear over its long life and that allows us to marvel at its many details. The fact that it uses the same “bones” as the Captain Cook also gives me hope that Rado could reissue a modern version. Let’s hope!
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became... read more