If You Know Patek, Then You Should Definitely Know Czapek
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of watches will be familiar with the name Antoni Norbert Patek. Ok, so you may not know his full name but his surname will ring a bell as one half of the duo that, with Adrien Philippe, became the now-legendary Patek Philippe.
But what about the name Czapek? Or rather Francois Czapek? That’s probably not a name you’re familiar with, but it was with him that Patek first got his start in watches; Czapek even introduced him to his future wife.
Because before there was Patek Philippe, there was Patek, Czapek & Cie – the joint watchmaking venture set in 1839 up by these two young dashing Polish emigres living in Geneva. Czapek was the watchmaker, while Patek was in charge of leading the sales side of the business. And apparently, between them, they made some pretty fine watches.
However, the partnership didn’t last and, by 1845 the two went their separate ways and Czapek set up on his own as Czapek & Cie, with a new partner called Juliusz Gruzewski who was friends with Napoleon III; always handy to have an emperor as an acquaintance when setting up a business that requires the patronage of the rich. And indeed, Czapek went on to become the watchmaker of the Imperial Court.
After Czapek’s death, it seems as though the business limped on for a little while but eventually the name was lost in the annals of history and looked as though it was going to be forgotten.
That is until 2011, when Xavier de Roquemaurel, a luxury marketing heavy-weight; Harry Guhl, an art expert, and Sebastien Follonier, a watchmaker, decided Czapek was due a resuscitation.
In a move that was halfway between marketing genius and leap of faith, the three decided that the only way it was going to be able to raise enough money was to appeal to the kind hearts and deep pockets of the watch-loving fraternity. So it turned to crowdfunding platforms. Using InvestingZone in the UK and Raizers in France and Switzerland, as well as QVentures, the investors club, the three managed to raise 1.1million Swiss francs in its first round of investment (after its second round the total reached an impressive 3 million), which allowed them, in 2015, to start work on the Quai des Bergues collection, named after the location of Czapek’s first Genevan workshop.
The glorious antique-looking design is borrowed from an old Czapek pocket watch, while the layout of the movement, created specially by esteemed maker Chronode (the name behind MB&F’s sci-fi creations as well as Linde Werdelin’s spectacular SpidoLite), is surprisingly modern and unusual. There are twin barrels, with their spoked ratchet wheels, front and centre when you turn the watch over. This arrangement makes for a real spectacle when you wind the watch.
There are lovely touches, such as the Grand Feu enamel dial, the choice of fleur de lys or blued-arrow hands and the option to go really traditional with the gold versions or take a more sporty approach with the titanium or steel. The collection as a whole is a fond nod to the past but without feeling too much like a slavish homage.
It only has one complete range under its belt at the moment, but Czapek & Cie is already making a splash in the watch world, which makes you wonder how long it will be before it’s as well known as a certain brand started by Francois’s mate Antoni.