Czapek expands its Faubourg de Cracovie chronograph collection with the incorporation of this California Dreamin’ model. Although its name will have you humming the Mamas & the Papas 1965 hit song, it has nothing to do with nostalgia for California sunshine. Nor does it have anything to do with the historic figure of François Czapek, whose name is honoured by the brand. The latest chronograph is inspired by the first modern watch of the brand designed by its co-founders; a robust, vintage sports watch with a California dial known as the Czapek Design Study Watch. The sportiest, raciest and quirkiest chronograph in the Faubourg de Cracovie line-up today, we spent some time with the watch and this is what we found.
With its high-falutin’ brand name belonging to the ‘other’ founder of Patek Philippe, the name Czapek was registered by three co-founders in 2012. To legitimise the establishment of the brand they needed to produce a watch. The Czapek Design Study Watch was their solution and doubled up as a showpiece to attract potential investors in their equity crowdfunding scheme. The peculiarity and charm of this robust, vintage-style watch was its California dial, the name given to dials that combine Roman and Arabic numerals. The sale of the watch provided much-needed cash for the fledgeling company’s R&D programme and the development of its proprietary SHX1 calibre that would power the Quai des Bergues collection. Presented in 2015, the Quai des Bergues took home the Public Prize at the GPHG awards and Czapek has never looked back. If you’d like to find out more about this independent brand, don’t miss our video interview with CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel.
In deference to the man whose name they honour, Czapek names its collections after milestone locations in François Czapek’s career as an independent watchmaker: Place Vendôme (tourbillon/GMT models) marks the Parisian square where he opened a boutique in 1850; Quai des Bergues (three-hand and days of the week) after the Geneva address where he founded Czapek & Cie in 1845 after his partnership with Antoine Patek was dissolved, and Faubourg de Cracovie (chronographs) to celebrate the address of his third boutique which he opened in Warsaw in 1850.
With just five years of history, Czapek has become something of a cult brand among collectors drawn to the brand’s highly original watches that marry old and new in surprisingly refreshing ways. The family that best captures this mix of old and new is the Faubourg de Cracovie chronograph collection which appeared in 2018. The striking combination of sturdy cases equipped with formidable integrated 5Hz chronograph engines and incredible artisanal dials caught our attention. The first batch of chronographs came with lavish Grand Feu enamel and hand-guilloché dials combined with the incongruent touch of sporty lume. Unusual, unconventional, yes, but what beauties!
California Dreamin’ chronograph
The first impression of the California Dreamin’ chronograph is of a compact, solid watch. Housed in a 41.5mm steel case, the ingenious integration of the pushers around the crown guards means that they don’t protrude and compound the tight, compact feel of the watch. In a similar manner, the thick stepped bezel and short lugs add to the overall solidity. When viewed from the side, you can appreciate the sloping design of the lugs and the hollowed-out area in the caseband to accommodate the chronograph pushers. The surfaces feature brushed and polished finishes while the bezel and lugs are polished.
As we mentioned, most of the existing Faubourg de Cracovie chronographs come with highly elaborate dials confected using traditional enamel and guillochage, some with classic Roman numerals and others with applied hour markers. The novelty here is the California dial. The origin of this unusual combination of Arabic and Roman numerals is still not clear. Some think that it was because this was a popular dial style in the state of California in the 1930s and 1940s, others speculate that it had to with a famous Los Angeles dial finisher Kirk Rich who was popular in the 1970s…
Large white Roman numerals are applied on the dial at X, XI, XII, I and II o’clock, although the X and the II have been practically eclipsed by the two sub-counters for elapsed times. The large white Arabic numerals at 4,5,7 and 8 o’clock have fared slightly better than their companions and only the 4 and 7 are slightly ‘decapitated’ by the base of the two counters. Nevertheless, the dial is intriguing and makes you look twice. The third counter in the classic tri-compax arrangement is for the running seconds and houses a discreet date window with a black background.
Another big difference with the existing models, and a feature that jacks up the sporty spirit of the watch, is the incorporation of a white tachymetre scale. The brass base of the dial has been electroplated and displays an asphalt-like surface, the result of a grené (grained) hand finish. The white applied hour markers, the white tachymetre scale, the white hands and the red central chronograph hand literally pop out against this gritty matte dark surface. Last but not least, the hour markers and the arrow-shaped hours and minutes hands are treated with Super-LumiNova.
Bespoke chronograph movement
Like its brothers in the Faubourg de Cracovie collection, this three-register chronograph with small seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour counters and date is powered by a bespoke automatic movement. Calibre SHX3 is an integrated column-wheel chronograph movement manufactured by the prestigious Vaucher Manufacture in Fleurier and has been certified as a chronometer by COSC. It has a high-beat frequency (5Hz or 36,000vib/hour like Zenith’s El Primero), as well as a comfortable 65h power reserve. It also features high-end solutions, such as a fully integrated architecture, a column wheel and a vertical clutch. You can see the contemporary, technical-looking finishes on the movement on the reverse with its anthracite sandblasted and diamond-polished bridges and the large golden openworked rotor with the Czapek logo.
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie California Dreamin’ comes with a sporty black rubber strap with a steel folding buckle. It is a limited edition of 18 pieces and will retail for CHF 28,000. More information at czapek.com.