Introducing: The Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité
It’s been over ten years since the relaunch of Czapek & Cie in 2011. At the time, the watch world could dismiss the decision to relaunch as another manufacturer in the “reviving name” game. But Czapek’s heritage originates from when real-life watchmakers like Franciszek Czapek and Antoni Patek were alive and kicking. The 19th century was the barnstorming era before the names became logos on the dials from the brands we know today. Even the Czapek and Patek partnership predated the eventual collaboration of Patek and Philippe in 1845. Yet, following Franciszek “François” Czapek’s death in the 1870s, the Czapek brand laid dormant until the first timepiece in 2015. The Quai des Bergues model brought about a new direction for the brand, which went on to win the Public Prize at GPHG the following year.
I bring up the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève because Czapek’s latest timepiece is already a nominee in this year’s Mechanical Exception category. The Place Vendôme Complicité features a double escapement with two oscillators beating at independent rates. The differential at 12 o’clock balances any variation between the two wheels and compensates for any beat errors. I liken the concept to an automobile’s limited-slip differential used to apply more torque to a wheel with more traction and deliver less torque to a wheel that’s slipping. By applying this logic, the regulator cancels out any errors caused by gravity or other factors by either of the variable-inertia balance wheels. Developed in collaboration with German watchmaker Bernhard Lederer, the hand-winding Calibre 8 features a 72-hour power reserve and 293 parts.
Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Complicité Stardust
In keeping with the Quai des Bergues layout, the dial places the balance wheels at the seven-thirty and four-thirty positions. On the Quai des Bergues model, the running seconds and day-of-week scale occupied these spaces, the latter acting as a seven-day power reserve indicator. While the triangulation of gears and wheels continues the aesthetic established with the Quai des Bergues, the functions differ in the Place Vendôme Complicité. At the 6 o’clock position is the power reserve indicator, reversing from 72 hours in 12-hour intervals. This scale sits on a plaque with circular graining, black markings, and a fine-tipped hand. Sitting below it on this Stardust version is the “grainé” gray mainplate, which acts as the base of the dial. Flanking it is the half-moon hour scale with the markers 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock rendered in faceted and mirror-polished white gold.
Running the dial’s circumference is the minute track with circular satin brushing, which contrasts nicely with the polished indices. Moving inwards is possibly my favorite element of the dial side, the sapphire bridges providing an unimpeded view of the mechanics. All these moving gears and oscillating wheels are on show beneath the boxy sapphire glass with antireflective treatment on both sides. Continuing the spectacle is the view from the back, which is pretty restrained for a movement of this level. With the 3Hz oscillations happening on the dial side, the rear window is reserved for the slow-turning gear train and mainspring barrel. However, the arrangement of the gears is in a pleasing pentagon with hand bevelling and inward-angle chamfers.
Final specs and pricing
All of these fascinating “Rube Goldberg” interlocking components are contained within a 41.8mm 18K white gold case — or, as the GPHG calls it, “grey gold.” The overlapping gray tones somehow create a lot of visual interest despite the monochromatic style. The case maintains relatively slim 13.3mm profile and has a depth rating of 50 meters. However, on the supplied alligator strap and white gold folding buckle, this is not a watch you’ll want to take in the water. With the skeletonized sword hands and hollowed-out lugs, the watch has an almost industrial and technical appearance that juxtaposes its traditional approach. This is the very essence of modern Haute Horlogerie.
The Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité Stardust is a limited edition of 50 pieces for CHF 85,000 / €89,000. This is a complex machine, so for further details (and to see the Harmony Blue version), check out the Czapek website here.