“François Czapek, success born of perseverance…” . A Polish watchmaker of Czech origin and an associate of Antoine Norbert de Patek, Franciszek Czapek may not be widely known but is a name that is synonymous with prestige. Czapek’s treasured timepieces are rare and very coveted … by nobility then, and by collectors today. Among his most prestigious clients was none other than Napoleon III, the French Emperor, who granted him the titel “Horloger officiel de la Cour Impériale”. In the world of watch auctions, rumour has it that many of the world’s best collectors all have their own Czapek model. Which, of course, makes these timepieces all the rarer.
During his career, François Czapek made sure that his concept of watchmaking excellence and the values were properly distributed at the hubs of luxury of his time. The three new guardians of the Czapek & Cie legacy, Harry Guhl, Xavier de Roquemaurel and Sebastien Follonier are well aware of their mission regarding the history of this great watchmaker, who has remained in the shadows for such a long time. For the name Czapek to persist in the watchmaking world, it needed to be trademarked and have a proper business organisation. Nearly two hundred years after its original founding, the company has been now revived in a spirit of sharing. Each watch lover can now partake in the ownership of a brand, while ensuring availability of a watch that is well placed on the market and certainly well made. It’s more than just a financial investment: it’s an emotional investment through direct access, information and learning.
The question is: was there and will there be a “Czapek style”? Well, the man not only steeped his timepieces in his chronometric science, but he also gave them a special aesthetic aura, one that was true to his identity. Which brings us to the most recent introduction revelaed at Geneva Watch Days 2021 – the Antarctique Rattrapante.
The brand new Antarctique Rattrapante, a split-second mono-pusher chronograph with a unique, dial-side mechanism, maintains a delicate balance between high-end mechanics and refined aesthetics, embodying the very ideals of Czapek & Cie. “The Antarctique line was released in 2020 as the epitome of sporty elegance,” says CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel. “It was calling for a complication that would amaze our aficionados.”
The roots of this project date back to the re-registeration of the name Czapek in 2012 when they introduced the a limited-edition chronograph run on a small series of the vintage Valjoux 7733. As a few pieces were sold to raise funds for the project, one buyer noted the hypnotic beauty of the cams as they pivoted. This is what sparked the idea of making a Czapek chronograph with the mechanism exposed on the dial side.
A split-second chronograph is, in fact, a quite complex mechanism, a grande complication, the pinnacle of mechanical creativity. The most noticeable element is the clamp, which will instantly immobilize one of the chrono wheels when the split-second pusher is activated. Meanwhile, the other chronograph hand must continue its time-counting undisturbed. When the clamp is released, the immobilized hand will “catch up “ (rattraper in French) to its companion. Each part must be manufactured to the highest specifications to ensure absolute precision.
From the reduced thickness of the main components to the horizontal clutch the SHX6, Czapek’s proprietary calibre created in collaboration with Chronode, is a work of art from a mechanical and aesthetic standpoint. The focus however is the tripod bridge in the centre that holds down a patented satellite minute train and the patent-pending split-second mechanism just below. The two column wheels, one at the top (for the chronograph) and the bottom (for the split-second mechanism) divide the movement into two halves. The minute totaliser at four o’clock and the small seconds at seven o’clock are more like the visual anchors and maintain the link to Czapek’s DNA, who would use vertical symmetry as a visual guide.
Imagine the idea of being able to control time, stop it and then catch up, all while having full visual access to the ballet of cams, levers and wheels in motion!
Unveiling the art of splitting time, the Antarctique Rattrapante comes with Czapek’s bespoke stainless-steel bracelet, with links shaped as a stylized letter C. It will be available at the brand’s boutique in Geneva, official retailers and online at Czapek.com as a subscription in a limited edition of 77 pieces.
Antarctique Rattrapante Silver Grey
FUNCTIONS – Split-second monopusher chronograph, hours, minutes & seconds / Chronograph’s minutes at 4:30 / Small seconds at 7:30 / Split-second pusher at 10:30
CASE – 42.5mm stainless-steel case / Height (with glass-box): 15.3mm / Perceived height (bezel to case-back): 10.5mm / Sapphire crystal glass-box with anti-reflective treatment / Sapphire case back with anti-reflective treatment on the inner side / Water resistance: 120m
DIAL – Open-worked split-second chronograph on the dial side (world première) / Sword hours and minutes hands with SuperLuminova treatment / Split-second hand with red tip / Diamond-chamfered rhodium-plated minutes ring and counters.
INTERNATIONAL RETAIL PRICE – 46’000 CHF or 43’400 EUR (no tax) or 51’900 USD (US taxes included)