In the world of watchmaking, there are some historical names that are not to be denied: Abraham Louis Breguet, Ferdinand Berthoud, Hans Wilsdorf (founder of Rolex), Georges Daniels or Antoni Norbert Patek. Talking about Patek, he was not alone when founding the company but accompanied by a talented watchmaker, polish like him, François Czapek. History made both men split careers but Czapek continued to create timepieces – and not the worst to be true. After his death, the production didn’t continue and his name remained forgotten (except for some real, seasoned collectors). However, our beloved industry is good in revivals and here it is: a new brand is about to be launched together with the first collection of watches that goes with it. Please welcome the Czapek Quai des Bergues collection.
Historical background of François Czapek
A Pole of Czech origin (born 1811), Franciszek Czapek was born in Bohemia, and landed in Switzerland following a major geopolitical event, the Polish November Uprising, a time he was a soldier of the National Guard, in Warsaw. After his arrival in Geneva, Switzerland (July 1, 1832) he gallicised his name, thus becoming François Czapek. He started to build watches under his name but the main turning point in his life came later. The meeting between Czapek and Patek in 1836 was to change the lives of the two men. Both were Polish emigrants, survivors of an insurrection that had failed and forced them to flee. Antoine Norbert de Patek was invited by his countryman, François Czapek to start a career in watchmaking. Patek, Czapek & Cie was launched on May 1, 1839. Sales and the administration of the company were Patek’s duty, while Franciszek Czapek devoted himself to watchmaking and finishing.
The partnership between François Czapek and Antoine Norbert de Patek lasted six years. During that time, they sold a number of exceptional timepieces. And then, each man went his own way. Patek associated with Adrien Philippe and created Patek, Philippe & Cie. For his part, Czapek – who had already started a business venture with a certain Moreau shortly after arriving in Switzerland – founded Czapek & Cie on May 1, 1845, with a new partner, Juliusz Gruzewski.
The new Czapek & Cie was a genuine success. Czapek watches were sought after by prestigious clients. Among them – surely the most powerful and influential one – was the French Emperor, Napoléon III. An avid and loyal customer, he regularly sent in orders. He even granted François Czapek the illustrious and extraordinary title of “Horloger de la Cour Impériale” (Watchmaker to the Imperial Court). François Czapek kept his atelier on Quai des Bergues and opened a boutique in Paris, on Place Vendôme, and another in Warsaw. He passed away (date unknown) and the name fell into oblivion of the general public, but not from the seasoned collectors.
The re-birth of the name and the first collection, the Czapek Quai des Bergues
The idea of this revival come from three entrepreneurs in Switzerland, helped by a group of passionate watch enthusiasts. They also hired a well-known historian, fully aware of the fact that the digging work would set the pace for upcoming developments. They also tracked down Czapek timekeepers that had been sold at auctions. The first inspiration comes from a pocket watch bearing the reference number 3430, manufactured by Czapek & Cie in Geneva around 1850.
Utilizing some features of this historical pocket watch, the new company has now the inspiration for the first revival collection, the Czapek Quai des Bergues. Actually, the resemblance is obvious, with a dial, hands, functions and overall design common to the two watches, antique and modern. The new collection, the Czapek Quai des Bergues, is classical in every ways. Well, when you bear such a name on a dial, you actually have no right to be fancy or to go quartz. And obviously, they didn’t go quartz or cheap. What we have with the Czapek Quai des Bergues is a modern watch fully inspired by Czapek antique watches but with a modern twist and haute horlogerie features. We can’t actually talk about proper manufacture yet (the brand is not even launched). However, to respect the name and the concept, the owners went for a proprietary movement and sourced some of the best partners – we’ll get back on this later.
The Czapek Quai des Bergues is thus an elegant, dress watch (in its gold editions) that also exists in sportier editions (in steel and titanium), however with the same movement and layout. It is just a matter of dial and case finishing. Overall, we’re talking about a collection based on a single watch. The idea was to include a “Czapek style” that take inspiration in the antique reference 3430. The resemblance is obvious. The gold edition features an grand feu enamel dial (with a cooper base), with classical Roman numerals and blued or gold hands (depending on the edition, you have the choice between blued steel arrow hands or gold “lys” hands). The dial of the Czapek Quai des Bergues also uses the same display and the same indications: hours and minutes classically displayed on the central axis, running second at 7h30 and a quite special indicator at 4h30, that marks the power reserve and the calendar days at the same time (it is not a real day function but as the power reserve is 7 days, it could indicate the 7 days of the week in any case you wind the watch once a week).
Grand Feu enamel dial, blued steel hands, Roman numerals. Clearly, it is classicism. The case of the Czapek Quai des Bergues measures 42,5mm and can be ordered in pink gold, in white gold (both with enamel dial), in titanium or in a specific stainless steel (the XO). While the gold editions are dress watches, the titanium and steel ones are sportier and come with a different dial, but with the same movement and indications. No more roman numerals and enamel but a white or black dial with a brushed finish and more depth, with raised sub-dials.
Behind the dial sits an interesting movement made by Chronode (Jean-François Mojon). The Czapek SXH1 calibre has a long power reserve of 7 days, thanks to 2 barrels. The finish seems to be very pleasant, with frost / sandblasted bridges, with blued screws and polished beveled angles. Some features, like the overall architecture as well as the double open ratchets area also reminiscent of antique movements made by Czapek.
For the time-being, we don’t have all the details about the Czapek Quai des Bergues but we’ll keep the best for another article, with hands-on thoughts, as the watch will be first exposed at Salon QP this weekend. For the time being here is the price list:
- Rose gold, fleur de lys hands : 26,300 Euro
- Rose gold, blued steel hands : 24,300 Euro
- White gold : 24,900 Euro
- Titanium 14,900 Euro
- Steel, black dial : 9,950 Euro
- Steel, white dial : 9,950 Euro
More to come soon. czapek.com.