Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph was unveiled at Baselworld 2018. Angus Davies appraises this timepiece at length and highlights the many areas which distinguish it as extraordinary.
This detailed review of the Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph includes live images, specification details and pricing.
In 1869, François Czapek mysteriously disappeared and the company he founded, Czapek & Cie, ceased making watches. The name of the illustrious firm was rekindled in 2012 by three entrepreneurs. Three years later, the Swiss brand was relaunched in front of an audience of assembled journalists and watch enthusiasts. The name was old, but the company and its inaugural watch were decidedly new.
The Genevan company sought investment through crowdfunding and began its rapid ascent to greatness. Indeed, only one year later, Czapek & Cie won the ‘Public Prize’ at the GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève).
Anyone who has met Xavier de Roquemaurel, the CEO of Czapek & Cie, will attest he exudes charm, but also a notable hunger for progress. This is manifest with the advent of new models and continued growth.
The inaugural model, the Quai des Bergues did not remain an only child for long. Very soon, the collection encompassed ladies’ watches and the spectacular Place Vendôme, a timepiece endowed with a tourbillon and GMT.
Since its rebirth, Czapek has worked with some exceptional partners. For example, the Quai des Bergues features a movement conceived by the genius watchmaker, Jean-François Mojon of Chronode. Moroever, the ‘XO’ stainless steel for the case has been ‘reworked’ by specialist steel company, Montanstahl.
Its latest watch, the Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph, features a fully integrated column-wheel chronograph movement, produced by Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. While this model is available with a guilloché dial, a speciality of the maison, my favourite variant is equipped with a grand-feu enamel dial. Czapek has sought the services of one of the finest producers of enamel dials, Donzé Cadrans.
Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph L’Heure Bleue with guilloché dial
While the Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph was unveiled at Baselworld 2018, Xavier had shown me drawings of the watch a few months beforehand. It was love at first sight, albeit I did wonder whether something would be lost in the transition from concept to final watch. Thankfully, on seeing the watch at Baselworld earlier this year, I was not disappointed.
The brilliant white dial is a paragon of purity. A grand-feu enamel dial is the product of painstaking creation, employing the deft hands of an artisan. The fragility of the enamel results in a high failure rate. Only those dials free of imperfections are selected. The appeal of enamel is that it does not fade with the onset of years, its brilliant appearance will last forever.
Czapek has ‘gone the extra mile’. The dial is described as ‘bombé,‘ meaning rounded. The chronograph registers are welded in position, sitting below the main dial surface, bestowing a beautiful depth to the display. The dial is discreetly marked with a secret signature, although despite my best efforts the scribed text eluded my curious eyes.
It is clear that the Genevan brand has expended much time and incurred much cost, creating this exquisite dial.
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph I photographed at Baselworld 2018 was a prototype. The brand now equips the model with blued steel hands.Each hand is slender, providing a sense of grace. The tips of the ‘arrow’ hour and minute hands are lined with Superluminova. The central chronograph seconds hand features a red tip, conferring a touch of judicious ebullience and the hands on the chronograph registers feature counterweights.
The elongated Roman numerals repeat the gracefulness of the hands. Each numeral is black, save for 12 o’clock which is presented in ‘scarlet red’. Interestingly, while most watch dials using Roman numerals express 4 o’clock as ‘IIII’, this watch proclaims the hour as ‘IV’, providing a degree of individuality.
The two sunken chronograph registers, a 30-minute counter on the left and a 12-hour counter on the right, dominate the dial. The scale of the registers facilitates read-off. Moreover, the crisp black numerals augment legibility.
The small seconds display appears diminutive adjacent the aforementioned chronograph registers. Nevertheless, despite its relative size, the indication remains legible.
While this would be described as a ‘tri-compax’ layout, the size and positioning of the registers imbues the dial with a sense of balance typically associated with ‘bi-compax’ displays. Indeed, beyond this dial’s lucidity, it exudes a notable degree of elegance and poise.
The glass-box sapphire crystal allows light to flood the dial to glorious effect. Furthermore, this specification detail has a ‘retro’ quality I find most appealing.
Measuring 41.5mm, the stainless steel case should appeal to a large cross-section of the watch buying public. By avoiding extreme sizing, Czapek has ensured this timepiece will proffer lasting appeal.
Wherever you choose to look on this watch, you will note flourishes of delightful detail. Nothing is the product of haste. The crown nestles between arcing protectors. Adjacent the protectors are discreet chronograph push-pieces which share the same trajectory as their neighbours.
The caseband is intricately recessed, granting a distinctive appearance.
An exhibition case-back affords views of the automatic chronograph movement.
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph incorporates the Caliber SXH3. The Genevan brand travelled to Fleurier and sought the help of the movement specialist, Vaucher Manufacture. This company makes movements for several brands and is an esteemed practitioner of fine watchmaking.
Czapek has indulged horophiles with a technical tour de force. The Caliber SXH3 is an integrated column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch. When the chronograph is actuated, the central chronograph seconds hand commences its journey without any hesitation. This particular movement is also fitted with a linear hammer ‘which reduces wear and tear on parts and resets all the associated dials in one easy movement’.
A further benefit of a column wheel, when compared with a simple cam, is the smoothness of the pushpiece when actuating the chronograph. Quite simply, it feels sweeter.
Unusually, the balance wheel has a frequency of 36,000 vph (5Hz). While other companies also offer high frequency movements, they are not commonplace. The obstacles which need to be overcome when creating a high frequency movement are increased stress on the escapement, high consumption of lubricants and greater energy consumption, resulting in reduced power reserves.
Once the aforementioned obstacles have been surmounted, the benefits justify the effort. The high vibration confers greater accuracy. In addition, the movement is more stable, exhibiting greater resistance to impacts. Many watches are tested in static conditions, however, the precision of a high frequency movement is less prone to variation when the watch is held in different positions. This latter detail proves especially relevant when wearing the watch.
The balance is fitted with masselottes or variable inertia blocks, positioned in-board. By rotating the inertia blocks the watch can be made to run faster or slower. This helps mitigate the positional errors often associated with a conventional index adjuster. Furthermore, by positioning the masselottes in-board there is less air turbulence, enhancing precision.
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph has a prodigious power reserve of 65 hours. This is remarkable given the watch is fitted with a lone barrel. Moreover, a 5Hz movement consumes more energy than a 4Hz calibre, making the autonomy conferred by the Caliber SXH3 particularly impressive.
At Baselworld 2018, the prototype on display (see pictures) featured colimaçon on the bridges and a golden rotor adorned with the brand’s logo. The final movement execution retains the same oscillating weight, but now includes finely sandblasted and diamond polished anthracite bridges and snailed trottoirs (the pathways for the rotor). This latest specification imbues the Caliber SXH3 with an agreeable dose of modernity.
The Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph is an exquisite timepiece.
The grand feu enamel dial exhibits a pure, chaste quality. The two chronograph registers sit below the adjacent dial surface, creating a wonderful depth to the dial. The elongated Roman numerals encircling the dial include red numerals at noon, tastefully enlivening the horological vista. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the dial is functional, allowing the wearer to readily assimilate the information presented.
Czapek has imbued the Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph with a timeless quality. The steel case is modestly proportioned and should sidestep the indignity of changing fashions. There is a palpable neatness to the case design. The chronograph push-pieces discreetly hug the right flank of the case. While this latter detail contributes to the handsome mien of the timepiece, it also mitigates the risk of the push-pieces uncomfortably rubbing the wearer’s wrist.
Most notable of all is the Caliber SXH3. It is superb. Each detail is intended to sate a purist’s desires. Personally, I have a penchant for chronographs and the one fitted to the Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph is magnificent. The smooth action of the push-pieces and the wobble free start to the central chronograph seconds hand immediately differentiates the Caliber SXH3 from cheaper alternatives. The high frequency of the movement, the balance wheel endowed with masselottes and the impressive power reserve all heighten the allure of this movement. Finally, Czapek has employed traditional craftsmanship to embellish the movement in a contemporary style.
Over the last few years, Czapek has repeatedly shown a capacity to conceive new watches. However, despite being prolific it has upheld high standards of craftsmanship, considered design and technical virtue. Since 2015, this company has come a long way, delivering its own unique take on high-end watchmaking and providing connoisseurs with a welcome alternative to the horological old guard. Based on its creative prowess, I suspect it won’t be too long before we see another exemplar of fine watchmaking from this Genevan maison.
- Model: Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie Chronograph
- Case: Stainless steel case; diameter 41.5mm, sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 5 ATM (50 metres).
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
- Movement: Caliber SXH3; Self-winding movement; frequency 36,000 VpH (5Hz); 42 jewels; power reserve 65 hours.
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap with a steel deployant
- Price: £22,320 (RRP as at 30.7.2018)