Czapek Place Vendôme
The Czapek Place Vendôme is equipped with a second time zone indication, day/night indication, power-reserve indicator and a tourbillon. Its name references one of the most exclusive pieces of real estate in the world. Angus Davies looks at the costliest Czapek timepiece to date, keen to establish whether the watch delivers the über-luxurious experience its Parisian name suggests.
There are few cities in the world which surpass the beauty of Paris. Sipping a glass of Chablis, watching young romantic couples amble along the Champs-Élysées is a heart-warming experience. While a stroll along Rue St Honoré, window shopping, will sate the wishes of the most ardent fashionista. However, when it comes to the full grand cru experience, there is nowhere quite like the rarefied world of Place Vendôme. This prestigious square is the home of the über-luxurious Ritz Hotel, high-end banks, the Ministry of Justice and purveyors of haute couture.
Czapek has chosen the name, ‘Place Vendôme’, for a timepiece endowed with a tourbillon. This model, offered in a choice of platinum or 5n rose gold, represents the pinnacle of Czapek ownership and therefore its prestigious nomen seems most apt. In the mid 19th century, François Czapek opened a boutique on Place Vendôme, reputedly ‘the first Haute Horlogerie boutique’ on the famous square. The brand has cited this reason for the naming of their high-end timepiece.
Since the Czapek name was rekindled in 2012, the Swiss company has ‘been on a roll’, releasing several breathtaking watches. Its brilliance has not gone unnoticed with the brand receiving much publicity in the world’s watch press. Personally, I am an unabashed admirer of Czapek and have succumbed to the charms of several of its models. As stated earlier, the Place Vendôme is billed as the pinnacle of Czapek ownership, however, my inherent cynicism makes me question, ‘Is it as prestigious as its name suggests?’
The hours and minutes are displayed on an off-centre dial located at 12 o’clock. The dial is ‘handmade’ and the hour track is presented on a grand feu enamel ring. Each hour is denoted with elongated Roman numerals. Crisp lines are positioned in between each Roman numeral, each representing a 12-minute integer. The prevailing time is indicated with ‘Fleur de Lys’ hands in ‘Bluegold’.
The aforementioned hour track encircles a dark grey area featuring two screws, the Maison’s nomenclature and a power-reserve indicator. Czapek has employed a series of dial-side bridges as a means of mounting or framing the second time zone, day/night indicator and 60-second tourbillon. Each bridge is sandblasted.
While the Czapek Place Vendôme is an object of beauty, it also possesses a high quotient of practicality. A subdial, positioned at 4 o’clock, is capable of displaying the time in another location. An unusual static, openworked pointer sits above a rotating hour display. The wearer is able to see the rotating wheels responsible for indicating the time. The display feels special and surpasses the ‘usual’ static subdial and moving hand.
A day/night indicator resides above 6 o’clock. Again, Czapek has employed a static pointer and rotating element to impart information. The rotating disc is tastefully adorned with depictions of the sun and a nocturnal sky.
The pièce de résistance is the 60-second tourbillon at 8 o’clock. The upper tourbillon bridge shares a similar appearance to the openworked pointer on the second-time display. The aperture revealing the tourbillon includes a chapter ring. This is used in conjunction with a blued screw, affixed to the cage, to read-off the running seconds. The wearer is granted views of the screwed balance wheel and escape wheel in motion.
The scale of the tourbillon aperture and the second-time display are similar, conferring an agreeable symmetry. Furthermore, everything appears optimally positioned and proportioned, granting both eye-appeal and readability.
The Czapek Place Vendôme is presented in a 43.5mm Platinum Pt950 case. The watch has notable mass, reinforcing the perception of luxury and, by default, worth. The generous scale of the watch may prove off-putting to some prospective purchasers, especially those individuals with diminutive wrists. However, I did not find the watch too large and appreciated the high degree of comfort it conferred.
Platinum Pt950 is incredibly scarce and its market price reflects this. This beautiful noble metal exhibits a silvery-white appearance and is almost twice as dense as gold. Platinum also does not rust or tarnish. Its weight, appearance and, in particular, its beguiling lustre differentiate it from white gold.
The surface of the case appears predominantly brushed. However, there are delightful soupçons of gleaming metal delivering a comely contrast with the adjacent brushed surfaces. For example, the vertical flank of the caseback shines resplendently. Whenever a watch company juxtaposes two contrasting finishes, it inevitably heightens cost. Nevertheless, Czapek’s decision is vindicated by the resultant beauteous appearance.
Czapek has blended contemporary and classical elements together with formal and sporty design. The crown is marked with the date, ‘1845’ and possesses a formal and classical mien. However, the crown nestles within a crown protector, typical of a sporty timepiece. By combining seemingly disparate styles, Czapek has taken a huge risk. Nevertheless, this courage has delivered a sublime aesthetic.
The Calibre SXH2 is visible via an exhibition caseback. The hand-wound movement has been produced in collaboration with Chronode, a company whose mechanical expertise is well known within the Swiss watch industry.
Two large sandblasted bridges dominate the dorsal view of the watch. The ratchet wheel is openworked and features five spokes. The bevelled edge of each spoke is polished to a brilliant gleam. The wheels are circular grained and the screw sinks are also polished. The lower tourbillon bridge is endowed with straight-sided arms and exhibits a contemporary appearance.
The Calibre SXH2 brims with modernity. The sandblasted bridges, the openworked ratchet wheel and the aforementioned tourbillon bridge all evince a neoteric character. In contrast, Czapek has applied traditional text to the movement and caseback. Once again, this marriage of old and new works wonderfully.
This manual movement contains 35 jewels and the lone spring barrel delivers 60 hours of autonomy. The balance has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz).
Although the Czapek Place Vendôme would probably be best described as a contemporary watch, it has a judicious sprinkling of traditional details. The resultant appearance is cohesive and handsome. At the same time, it successfully sidesteps outré and intrinsically obsolete design elements.
The grand feu hour track and the elongated Roman numerals which adorn its circular form, exude elegance. The optimal scale of each indication grants peerless readability. Furthermore, the size and positioning of the tourbillon aperture and second time zone display provide a seemly symmetry, heightening the allure of this timepiece.
Despite the Czapek Place Vendôme displaying several indications, nothing appears cluttered.
Platinum is a gorgeous metal and befits a watch of this stature. Czapek has augmented the appeal of this model by skilfully enriching the brushed case with exquisite slithers of highly polished metal. Everything is distilled to a pure, refined conclusion.
The Calibre SXH2 features several darkly-hued bridges and is contemporary in appearance. However, watchmaking traditions have been respected. The jewel sinks (dial side) and the screw sinks (movement side) are polished. The wheels are circular grained and bevelling abounds. This movement befits the epithet ‘haute horlogerie’.
The Czapek Place Vendôme is, in my opinion, the finest timepiece to bear the company’s name. It is supremely stylish and imbued with a plethora of smile-inducing details. This watch is Swiss, a fact which is clearly stated on the rear of the timepiece, hence it may seem strange that it is named after a famous Parisian square. However, the Maison is able to demonstrate a historic link to the high-end enclave and, more pertinently, has produced a magnificent timepiece worthy of its prestigious name.
- Model: Czapek Place Vendôme
- Case: Platinum PT950; diameter 43.5mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; power-reserve indicator; day/night indication; one-minute tourbillon; second-time zone.
- Movement: Calibre SXH2; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 35 jewels; power reserve = 60 hours
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap paired with a platinum pin buckle
- Price: CHF 105,000 (RRP as at 21.12.2018)