It was only SIX months ago that Czapek presented its Antarctique, an important watch for the brand for many reasons. First of all, it was the first attempt of the brand to develop a luxury sports watch with an integrated bracelet – the most active segment of the market today. Second, this watch inaugurated the brand’s first in-house movement, the SXH5 calibre – conceived from scratch by the brand’s movement constructor. It took only a couple of weeks for the first 99 pieces to find their respective owners (and that, right in the middle of global confinement). Following this success, the watch is back in new editions, non-limited for some of them, with a distinctive dial pattern and the final version of its movement. Meet the new Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake.
Czapek is a young but already very respectable independent watchmaker, with an unusual business model based on crowdfunding (with over 200 shareholders), and an interesting horizontal integration where suppliers are considered to be partners. Until May 2020, the collection was mostly focused on classic luxury watches, with a design echoing the timepieces created by Czech-born watchmaker Czapek. Also, the movements were developed and manufactured internally (even though proprietary) by partners such as Chronode. Things changed this year as the brand introduced its Antarctique, a watch designed to compete in the ultra-active market for luxury sports watches with integrated bracelet, and inaugurating a brand new movement approach, with an in-house developed calibre.
The first edition of the Antarctique, the Terre Adélie collection, was warmly received by enthusiasts and the 99 pieces available quickly sold out. These were equipped with a dial using a Metalem technique called Lamé – with a series of patterns on the dial executed with a comb to create beautiful horizontal lines. Also, it featured the first generation of its movement, which was functioning perfectly but could be (according to the brand’s team) upgraded. Those two elements are gone, as the brand launches the Passage de Drake edition, a Czapek Antarctique with a new dial and an improved calibre.
First, the case… No evolution can be appreciated here since the Antarctique retains its original design and proportions. The case, made of stainless steel, is in line with the codes of category, but with its own personality. It features a barrel-shaped flat surface framing a round, sloped polished bezel and dial. The top surface is finely brushed with a radiating pattern and a box sapphire crystal protrudes slightly from the case. Like all Czapek watches, the crown is protected by a crown guard. The proportions are great, as the watch measures a reasonable 40.5mm in diameter and has a height of 10.6mm. And the water-resistance of 120 metres makes it a great watch for most activities.
The bracelet of the Czapek Antarctique follows the lines of the case and is perfectly integrated into the whole design. Also made of brushed and polished stainless steel, it integrates complex brushed links and highly polished and C-shaped mid-links (a reference to the brand’s name) for a dynamic look. It is flexible, soft to the skin and adds to the comfort of the watch. It is closed by a triple-folding clasp. Also, it is fitted with an easy-release system letting you change the bracelet for a leather or a textured rubber strap, in seconds.
The main visual update on the Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake concerns the dial. First of all, it comes with a new pattern called “Stairway to Eternity” by the brand. It is an atypical trapezoid dial motif whose three-dimensional stamped surface creates a play of shadows across the dial – it was actually the initial concept dial for the Antarctique. The motif is done by the stamped “flinqué” technique.
Some more evolutions have been implemented in this edition of the Czapek Antarctique. For instance, the double-applied indexes index on top has been replaced by an applied 12 in Arabic numerals, and the outer minuterie has been slimmed down and redesigned. The sword hands and the other applied markers (also repositioned) are identical to the previous edition, and all filled with luminescent material.
Finally, the movement has been updated compared to the first specifications announced at prototype stage – also note that these upgrades concern all Antarctique watches, including the inaugural editions. The movement is an unprecedented development executed entirely in-house with parts from selected partners. It is an interesting mix of reliability and Haute Horlogerie. The SXH5 is a self-winding movement measuring 30mm. The first thing to catch the attention is its distinctive architecture with a micro-rotor and seven bridges, five of which are openworked offering a captivating perspective on the inner workings. A variable inertia balance wheel is held in place by a transversal bridge. The calibre SHX5 operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a long autonomy on one barrel. The finishing creates a striking contrast. It is modern but elaborate with hand chamfering of the inward angles and drawing of the flanks.
The first upgrade has been to the micro-rotor that was previously in recycled 18k gold. While no issue was to be noted on the movement’s running, its winding power was limited and the rotor is replaced with a slightly larger platinum rotor – still 100% recycled – which brings 25% more power to the movement and a better winding efficiency. The second upgrade is a complete change of ball bearings under the micro-rotor. Both upgrades raise the train efficiency to 90% to fully wind the single barrel and deliver a 60-hour power reserve.
Finally, the finishing has been improved too and the central raised bridge is now black polished (instead of brushed) and has six meticulously polished angles. The main plate, made of German silver, is now even more refined in terms of manufacturing.
Availability & Price
The Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake is available for orders Czapek & Cie. official retailers, at Czapek’s Geneva boutique and online at czapek.com, as of today. Deliveries are expected in March 2021. Three of the editions (silver, blue and black) are not limited per se, yet production is limited to only one watch per day. The “Roaring Forties” grey model will be limited to 40 pieces, available via a 40-day-long online subscription.
All models of the Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake will retail for EUR 17,000, CHF 18,400 or USD 20,000 (all prices excl. taxes). More details at czapek.com.