On a couple of occasions recently, in the comments, other Fratelli (perhaps who are waiting patiently for theirs or are considering taking the plunge when the list opens again at the end of March) have mentioned that they would appreciate my writing an article on the Czapek Antarctique to give some insight as to what it is like to own. There had been mention of a “week on the wrist” sort of article, but given that I wear it in rotation with several others, I didn’t really think I could do that!

As I have had my Antarctique Viridian Green for over a year now, though, and with the new models imminent at Watches and Wonders, it seemed a logical time for a retrospective. Did it meet my expectations of an Haute Horlogerie watch? Did it get much wrist time? Is it really worth 40 Tissot PRX Powermatic 80s? It’s time to find out.

Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Viridian Green

A much-anticipated arrival

Before Fratello’s March Mania in 2021 (where was the 2022 edition?! And please, let’s have a 2023 one after a bumper wave of new releases last year!) I knew very little about Czapek and nothing about the Antarctique. That event brought both the brand and the watch into the spotlight in spectacular fashion, with the Fratelli voting it to win over some very tough competition. By the end of that, I knew everything about it. And I knew that I wanted one. Back then, it was much more expensive than any other watch I had — or, indeed, had handled. I dithered. Luckily for me, that dithering meant that the Fratello version was announced, and with only 50 available, I couldn’t dither any further. I jumped on it, and it was lucky that I did too as it sold out in under an hour!

Fratello × Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Viridian Green
I then agonized over the options for the seconds hand. Safe steel, crazy full orange, or the obvious halfway house? Inevitably, with my conservative nature, I eventually settled on steel (which turned out to be a good decision on the exclusivity front — I have it from the horse’s mouth that only seven of those were made) and waited…

Czapek x Fratello Antarctique Viridian Green 2021


Delivery day was a bit chaotic. Anyone who has had a valuable item delivered to the UK post-Brexit will know how it goes. You don’t know when it’s getting here, you don’t actually know how much import tax you will have to pay and when, etc. As a consequence, I wasn’t at home when they first tried to deliver it, and by happy accident, my (adult) son was the second time. He called me at work, and I dropped what I was doing and raced home.

Upon opening, I was delighted to find that the Fratello Shop had included a couple of wee goodies gratis (thanks again, Sarge!). I was not so delighted to find a handwritten note from Xavier de Roquemarel explaining that not everything was there as Czapek’s supplier had not come through. The resizing tool, some bracelet links, and, most importantly, the buckle for the second strap were all missing. Sadly, it was not a great start and not a great “luxury” experience, which detracted somewhat from my joy at finally getting my watch.

Where is the magic?

Looking back, I don’t know what I expected, but there was no choir of angels when I first put it on my wrist. There was no feeling of zen completeness that my grail was finally at hand. There was just a very (very) nice watch. I had a couple already. I wondered where the magic was.

Czapek x Fratello Antarctique Viridian Green 2021
So I fetched my loupe to give it a closer inspection, and that is when things started to click into place. There was no discernible flaw anywhere. The finishing of the movement was immaculate, but so too were the dial, the hands, the indices, the case, and the bracelet. At the time, my level of expectation was Rolex/Grand Seiko, and this was clearly on a different level than both of those. Not to the naked eye, but when you got in close, you could tell. I compared the movement to my then-undisputed champ, the Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8, which suddenly seemed slightly less impressive.

For a few weeks, that was the main role that my Antarctique played — a subject of awe-inducing inspection as I was afraid to wear it outdoors.

Fratello × Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Viridian Green

The first outing

I had to go to Edinburgh to pick up some things for a new post I had been appointed to. That wasn’t going to take too long, so my wife and I decided to go and have a spot of lunch and “kick the tires” at some watch boutiques. It was a lovely day out, and the guys at Vacheron, particularly, were very friendly and attentive. At one point, when trying a piece on, there was an amusing moment when I took the Czapek off. The salesman (who knew his stuff generally from our conversation) didn’t seem remotely interested…until he saw the case back. Then his attitude to the watch (and me) changed very quickly when he gave it a closer inspection, calling over his colleagues to have a look at the SXH5 under a loupe.

That day, something else clicked for me. Wearing a watch like the Czapek Antarctique just makes you feel good about yourself. You know what you have on, but the rest of the world — even salesmen of Haute Horlogerie pieces — doesn’t have a clue. Even though I was in a bigger (for Scotland) city, at no point did I feel uncomfortable wearing such a valuable piece on my wrist.

Resisting the urge

I started wearing the watch more frequently after that. It got to a point where I had to force myself to put something else on as my Rolex, Omega, IWC, Panerai, Grand Seiko, and other pieces started to feel less and less special. The Czapek also got many more positive comments than the others, even though nobody knew what it was. One person audibly gasped when it took it off for them to have a look and they saw the movement through the case back.

It wasn’t all fluffy clouds and rainbows, though. The missing parts still hadn’t arrived after months — and then the watch started to act up. It didn’t stay running for long if I didn’t wear it. I was in touch with The Sarge, and he sprang into action. He arranged for it to be sent back to Le Locle for me, and when it arrived back a couple of months later, it was running perfectly. And I mean perfectly. It was (and is to this day) running at ±0–1 second per day. Who needs Spirate?!😂

Fratello × Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Viridian Green

Powering on

From then on, ownership and the Czapek customer experience have been a dream. The missing parts arrived, and I was finally able to put the watch on the wonderfully supple rubber strap. Czapek sent me a leather strap as a “thank you” for my patience whilst it was repaired and regulated. I also bought an all-brushed spare bracelet for a reasonable price, and it came with the brilliant hidden clasp adjustment that is now standard. Thanks to the quick-change system, I now have four different looks for the watch and can change easily whenever I want. It is an incredibly flexible piece.

Fratello × Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Viridian Green

Final thoughts

Over a year since its arrival (with more expensive pieces that have followed), the Czapek × Fratello Antarctique is still easily my best watch — and it is my all-time favorite. It does everything well. It is beautiful, tough, exclusive, and under the radar. The build quality and finishing are of the highest order I have experienced. It is ludicrously comfortable and slim, and its dimensions are nigh on perfect. It is also a great talking point when you meet true enthusiasts who know what it is. I can count on one hand the number of people who have recognized it when I have worn it, and a thoroughly enjoyable conversation has ensued every time.

The icing on the cake is that, as a brand, Czapek is just a different class. My wife and I were invited to meet Xavier and Pierre at Geneva Watch Days last year, and they were just such nice, friendly guys. They showed us and let us handle the current range, and they were genuinely interested in our thoughts. Xavier was mildly disappointed when I told him about the accuracy since I got my Antarctique back from Le Locle — he was expecting zero deviation!

I previously referred to the brand as “the Anti-Rolex” in an article, and I still think that is apt. The folks from Czapek listen. And they care.

So, in conclusion: it met and eventually exceeded my expectations of an Haute Horlogerie timepiece, it gets a LOT of wrist time, and, as nice as a PRX is, yes, it is worth 40 times as much in my opinion.

One final thing: my experience of the Fratello Shop was exceptional from start to belated finish. Nothing was too much trouble for The Sarge, and his email response time was ludicrously fast.

Buy with confidence, Fratelli!