|Reference||Quai Des Bergues|
|Case||5N rose gold, 42.5mm|
|Bezel||5N rose gold|
|Dial||‘Grand Feu’ enamelled dial with ‘secret Czapek signature’; elongated roman numerals|
|Movement||Calibre SXH1; manual wind; finished with double open ratchets, sandblasted bridges, blue screws, bevelling and final anglage|
|Crystal||Scratch resistant sapphire with anti-reflective treatment|
|Waterproofness||Waterproof to 30m / 98 ft|
|Power Reserve||Approximately 168 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds; small second at 730h; power reserve at 430h|
|Bracelet||Alligator leather strap with 5N rose gold pin buckle|
The vast majority of people, whether they are into watches or not, will probably have heard of Patek Philippe. They will, perhaps, have some idea it is one of the oldest Swiss watch manufacturers still in existence and, arguably, the finest of its kind. It is likely they will assume, given that heritage, it was started by two individuals, one Patek, the other Philippe. In part they would be correct; in 1845 Antoine Norbert de Patek (he was born Antoni Patek Prawdzic, of Polish descent) began a partnership with the Frenchman Jean Adrien Philippe. Together, Patek represented the master salesman whilst Philippe was the master craftsman… but this was not the first time such roles had been assumed.
On 1 May 1839, Patek had signed an agreement with two gentlemen; a Mr Moreau and one Franҫois Czapek (formerly Franciszek, also of Polish descent who had founded Czapek & Moreau in 1832). Patek and Moreau invested 8,000CHF each, Patek assuming the lead ‘sales role’, with Czapek contributing his watchmaking skills to the partnership; thereby creating Patek, Czapek and Cie.
All the movements were bought and cased by the young firm, who’s shop was on Geneva’s Quai Des Bergues, and were hand finished by Czapek. They became successful very quickly and, by 1843 they were producing 200 watches a year; Patek using his Polish connections to bolster the sales of their watches. Unfortunately however, the partnership between Patek and Czapek had begun to sour, with Czapek reportedly taking extended breaks away from the business. If this is true, then given Czapek’s vital role, it was going to decline rapidly, which it did. Their partnership ended in 1845 and it was not renewed.
Shortly thereafter however, on 1 May 1845 Czapek founded another company, Czapek & Cie, with a new partner Juliusz Gruzewski and quickly became recognised as one of the world’s master watchmakers, creating watches for the Imperial Court and Napoleon. 24 years later however, it seems he disappeared without trace …
Fast forward to 10 November 2015 and, via an unusual decision to crowd fund its revival, Czapek & Cie was re-launched with the model Quai Des Bergues; a collection that in 2016 won the ‘Public Prize’ at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie.
So what of Czapek and their Quai Des Bergues? Yet another reincarnated watch brand trying to jump on the independent band wagon, using a historical name to bolster their credibility? Or one with real substance?
At 42.5mm this is a sizeable timepiece, but thanks to its elegant finishing, including a smooth, round case and lugs, it wears snugly and neither looks nor feels overbearing. Accordingly it has the perfect dress watch proportions and happily sits under a shirt cuff. The rose gold is rich and perfectly offset by a brown alligator strap and pin buckle. These are all, of course, very positive attributes and the case itself is very elegant. But I was a little underwhelmed by it; it seemed to have no real defining feature – nothing that gave it character.
The Dial is made of ‘Grande Feu’ enamel, which Czapek is very keen to point out is one of the most difficult techniques to master in watch making and it is here you start to appreciate the piece’s design. Enamel of this kind, having been painstakingly applied and then baked at over 800oC, has a depth and richness to it that other, lesser processes cannot help to match. Coupled with that is the delightful ‘Czapek secret signature’ which only appears at certain angles and in particular lighting conditions, adding intrigue and an opportunity to make it a very personal time piece, should the purchaser want to customise the message.
Additionally, the watch has two sub-dials. To the left is the seconds, whilst to the right is the power reserve and day indicator, which charmingly is done so simultaneously. In harking back to the time before automatic winding, this is a manual wind watch with seven days power reserve; meaning it is to be wound once a week, on a Sunday. It adds to the purpose, integrity and clarity of the dial which, when combined with the very elegant ‘Fleur de Lys“ hands, makes for a very attractive face to behold.
As indicated, this is a manual wind piece, done in the usual way by pulling out the crown and turning it clockwise. This sounds somewhat mundane, but it’s only when you turn the watch over and watch the cogs and wheels move as you do so, do you begin to understand the magic in its construction. The movement is somewhat simple in its design and, because of the size of the baseplate, you do not have the same sense of depth as in, for example, the equivalent Bovet. But that makes it no less appealing, or indeed satisfying to operate. Its clean lines are delightful and evidently a lot of thought has been placed on being able to view the watch work.
At first blush, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Quai Des Bergues. But it was when I started to look at it more closely I realised that Czapek has actually done something rather lovely. Simplicity is this watch’s cornerstone and it carries an understated elegance. It is certainly not going to get you noticed at the dinner table but if that’s what you are worried about, you are probably not even going to consider this watch in the first place, because it will either not be loud enough or you will never have heard of it. Instead, this is a watch for the connoisseur; the collector who already has numerous Audemars Piguet, Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. It is a faithful homage to watch making from a bygone era; a slice of history. After all, had there been no Czapek, there may well have been no Philippe . . .
The Czapek Quai Des Bergues in rose gold is priced at £20,500 plus VAT. It is a limited edition of 188 and is currently very difficult to find on the secondary market, given this low number. Savings could probably be had however, if you do find one, given it is not a brand many will know even exists.
Footnote: the score of 5/10 for heritage is calculated on the basis of Czapek’s influence on Patek’s career, offset by 150 years of dormancy.