The one-time partner of Antoni Patek himself, and maker of noted pocket watches in his own right, has his name revived in a new high-end brand, part-funded by crowd investment
For many watchmakers, death is merely the first step on the path to success – such is the frequency with which great horological names are being revived these days. The latest venture to resurrect a venerable watchmaker is that of the eponymous Czapek & Cie – but this one’s got a slightly different backstory from most.
Bohemian-born Franciszek Czapek fled Poland for Geneva in 1830, after fighting in the uprising against Tsarist Russia. He founded several watch companies, most notably Patek, Czapek & Cie, where he worked with fellow expat Antoni Patek (the name may ring a bell?). In 1847 he went his own way, establishing Czapek & Cie. The brand counted Napoleon III among its customers, as well as Russian and Egyptian nobility, but it did not survive Czapek’s death.
Four years ago, the Czapek name was purchased by a trio of entrepreneurs, and Czapek & Cie was reborn. At SalonQP – opening in London this Thursday evening – it presents its first watches to the world.
The new family of watches go under the title Quai de Bergues, after the location in Geneva of Czapek’s workshop, and has an elegant, unusual classical design in a shapely 42mm case. It uses a proprietary calibre made exclusively for Czapek & Cie by Chronode, the developer of high-end, high-tech movements which has worked with brands including Breva and HYT, and on Harry Winston’s Opus X.
The SXH1 movement has a seven day power reserve, courtesy of two mainspring barrels arranged in series, and has a bead-blasted finish with blued screws and hand-chamfered bridges and plates. It’s an architecture that recalls a pocket watch design from Czapek himself, dating from 1850.
The watch also boasts a rather original formation on the dial, also inspired by a Czapek watch. There are two sub-dials sunken into the bottom section of the enamel dial. At 7:30 is the running seconds, while the dial at 4:30 carries both the seven day power reserve indication and a day of the week display, with a single hand in the centre indicating both at once – provided you wind it up at the beginning of the week.
Czapek & Cie is offering the watch in various forms, including white gold, a sporty titanium version, and an ultra-tough steel alloy known as “XO” steel that has not previously been used in watchmaking. There are also options with different hands – the version shown to QP, the top-of-the-range option in pink gold, has quite stunning gold Fleur-de-Lis hands. These, again, hark back to one of the original Czapek pocket watches, as shown above.
Interestingly, the trio behind the revival of the Czapek name – art-world entrepreneur Harry Guhl, watch industry executive Xavier de Roquemaurel and an anonymous watchmaker – have chosen a form of crowd-funding to get the brand off the ground. Besides going to private investors with a range of investment options in the future of the brand, they also created a sporty, ’70s-style chronograph with vintage Valjoux 73 movement, which they sold to friends to help finance research into design and movement development.
This means that, though the Czapek name is now officially back in action, the project is still developing (and welcoming investors). The preliminary phase of the project, including R&D and pre-series production, has been financed to approximately CHF500,000. The brand is now planning to raise another CHF1 million through the European-based crowd infesting platform Raizers. A separate UK-based investment platform will also be announced.
Prices for the Quai de Bergues watches range from £7,800 in XO steel to £19,200 for the rose gold model pictured. Tantalisingly, Czapek has also announced that it intends to release chronograph and minute repeater watches in 2018.