HANDS-ON: Czapek unveils reworked SXH1 calibre in two new Quai des Bergues watchesZach Blass
While conglomerate brands from groups like Swatch and LVMH have a large presence, arguably the sector of watchmaking that is drawing the most interest from collectors these days are the independents. Therefore, these brands really have to standout with their products, and they typically do so with novelties that embody the best of horological craftsmanship. Czapek is one such brand, with roots dating back to the mid 1800s. After leaving his partnership with Antoine Norbert de Patek, who would later go on to co-found Patek Philippe, Czech-born Polish watchmaker Francois Czapek created Czapek & Cie in 1845. He would become the official watchmaker of Napoleon III, and reportedly open the first watchmaking boutique on the Place Vendome in Paris. The brand would later return to the limelight upon its revival in 2015 as a result of equity crowdfunding. Today, Czapek is perhaps most known for their distinct and dashing Antarctique sports watch. But today’s two novelties represent the next evolution of where the new era of the brand all began – The Quai des Bergues – but with a redesigned, next-gen SXH1 calibre.
This initial collection from Czapek was named as a tribute to the location of one of Francois Czapek’s ateliers, in Geneva. The two new references, while there are multiple ‘S’ and ‘L’ case sizes within the collection, are both encased in L-sized steel cases 42.5mm in diameter and 11.9mm thick. The primarily polished case, with scalloped and frosted lugs and a brushed caseband, definitely has a broader stance than the more classically sized dress watches of the past, but modern watch wearers, who find vintage dress pieces too dainty, will welcome the larger diameter.
Two enamel dial options are available to choose from in “sapphire blue” and a newly designed “emerald green” colour. These “flinqué” dials are incredibly well executed, leveraging initial metrics for the starting tool from famed dial manufacturer Metalem and ultimately fabricated by Donzé Cadrans. Some manufactures use white-gold plates for their enamel dials but, to present greater value to the end consumer, Czapek strategically uses silver as the base. Had gold been used, the watch price would have to rise approximately 33% according to Czapek. Silver also has its advantages in the resulting aesthetic. For example, the unique combination of blue enamel and a silver plate results in a shade of blue that can only be found at Czapek – developed by Donzé Cadrans just for the brand.
Colour is not the only source of intrigue for the pair of handmade flinqué enamel dials, but also their stamped “Ricochet” guilloche texture as well. As you stare at the dial, a sort of wavy optical illusion begins to form – drawing the eyes down to the two concentrically textured registers at 4:30 and 7:30. The register on the left conveys the running seconds, while the right register indicates the power reserve in a distinct way. The display of both the day of the week and the remaining power reserve is a nod to Czapek’s heritage – an aesthetic commonly found on 18th century clocks. But, technically speaking, the single hand only displays the remaining power reserve – there is no calendar complication within the movement. That being said, perhaps a cheat code, for what some may find visually confusing, would be to take advantage of the seven-day power reserve and ritually wind the movement each Sunday morning. Were you to pick the watch up in the middle of the week, you could also wind the movement to a level of power that coordinates to a given day.
Befitting of a dress watch, both new references are offered on alligator straps with case-matching stainless steel pin/buckles. Strap aficionados will appreciate their design, resting flush against the case with zero gap. While the case is rated to 50 metres of water-resistance, the watch is best suited to its classy factory pairing in material. But, if you are adventurous, a rubber strap would allow you to take advantage of its surface-level swimming depth rating.
The most notable introduction within the presented pair is the re-worked SXH1 calibre. As Czapek explains, transforming an existing movement can be immensely more difficult than developing a new one. The proprietary calibre originally designed by Chronode has had a slew of upgrades both aesthetically and technically. Aesthetically, the revisions are much more obvious. While v1 of the manually wound SXH1 calibre was already handsome, v2 ultimately brings the finish of the calibre more in line with the style of the movements found in their Antarctique watches.
A superb and more emphasized frosting, as well as the introduction of skeletonization, deliver a more modern aesthetic that, dare I say, is far more gorgeous than its predecessor. Previously a three-quarter bridgeplate covered many of the components below it, but the partial skeletonization of the calibre now allows for a better view of the full gear train in action. Also, the newly framed edges of the bridges are hand-chamfered deeper than before – resulting in softer edges and a greater glisten. A neat Easter egg of the calibre is the positioning of the bridge plate and balance bridge, which in their new hollowed out makeover appear like two shooting stars passing each other.
Technically speaking, the reworkings of the calibre are far more subtle to the untrained eye. But for gear heads there are some exciting changes. Firstly, a notable upgrade was made to the design of the balance. The original balance had a classic rack and index for regulation. The re-worked SXH1, on the other hand, has an annular balance wheel with weights for variable inertia and a Breguet terminal curve balance spring. Secondly, the regular jewels have been replaced with “mi-glace” rubies. These “mi-glace” rubies have a rounded relief that improves lubrication on the point of contact with the axes.
Considering competitive references to the Czapek Quai des Bergues can cost nearly twice as much, and definitely do not deliver twice the quality of fabrication, at CHF 18,000 Czapek presents an incredibly enticing high horology option for true watch collectors to explore. With beautiful finishes, enamel dials and a revamped seven-day power reserve calibre, this is a dress watch you won’t want to take off each week. And, considering it can run a full week without a wind, you won’t have to.
Czapek Quai des Bergues L Sapphire Blue & Emerald Green pricing and availability:
The Czapek Quai des Bergues L Sapphire Blue & Emerald Green are both available now for inquiries. Price: CHF 18,000
|Quai des Bergues
|42.5mm x 11.9mm
|Sapphire Blue or Emerald Green enamel dials
|Leather strap with steel pin/buckle
|168 hours (hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve)
|Available for inquiries