This is the watch Czapek & Cie had planned to show you when it launched at SalonQP two years ago. Was it right holding it in reverse for 2017?
by James Buttery
When the Czapek name was revived two years ago, founder Xavier de Roquemaurel had not originally intended on launching with the traditionally styled watches of the Quai des Bergues collection. He had envisaged coming to market with an altogether more modern take on the 18th Century watchmaking of Francois Czapek.
Eventually, and wisely, he and his partners instead decided to first introduce the watch world to the Czapek house style through the twin sub-dials, fine fleur de lys hands and enamel dials employed more than two centuries ago by the man who was once watchmaking partner of one Antoni Patek. The approach certainly worked, Czapek won the Public Prize at last year’s GPHG.
This, the 43.5mm Place Vendome Tourbillon Suspendu finally launched last month at Baselworld, is the watch that de Roquemaurel had thought to show you first. While the signature hands, enamel dial and bottom-loaded dial are still evident, it’s a very different proposition.
The design links classic and modern aesthetics, framing the traditional hands – which have lost some of their fineness in the name of legibility – and the enamel dial – now a ring – within an open dial on a canvas of frosted mainplate. It’s an agreeable composition, as neither period feels forced on the other, although it could be argued that there are probably a few too many exposed screwheads.
But the Place Vendome – the site of Francois Czapek’s original shop – is not purely an exercise in aesthetics; it also boasts power reserve, second time zone, day/night indication and a one-minute tourbillon.
While power reserve indication is located at the centre the enamel ring dial and the day/night is beneath it at the six o’clock position, both the tourbillon and second time zone disc take up the traditional positions of the two Czapek sub dials at the eight and four o’clock.
Of course de Roquemaurel has not revived Czapek alone – the business employs an entirely horizontal approach – having worked from the outset with Jean-Francois Mojon’s Chronode. As such the finishing is first-rate, from the polishing of the steel suspended bridges to the chamfered bridges visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. The 3Hz Calibre SXH2 will run for 60 hours once its single mainspring barrel is fully wound.
Twenty-five pieces will be made in total, 10 in platinum (CHF 99,000) and 15 in 5N rose gold (CHF 88,000).
Looking back it would have been madness to (re)launch the Czapek name with this watch. Two years ago the brand’s launch might have been completely overlooked had it arrived with a watch that would have invariably been compared to Breguet, Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece, Arnold & Son et all. Then it might have been seen as derivative, devoid of new ideas. But now it shows genuine progression from the brand.