Over the last decade or so, there’s been an explosion of new, independent watch brands. These range from the hyper conservative to the wildly experimental, but here at HODINKEE we’re big fans of creative people trying new things and pushing horology forward into the 21st century. Czapek & Cie. is one such firm and they’ve only recently unveiled their second family of watches: the Place Vendôme collection, starting with the dramatic Tourbillon Suspendu "Ici et Ailleurs." I had the pleasure of going hands-on with the watch recently in New York, and I was very impressed by what I saw.
Czapek launched back in 2015, raising money through a sort of crowd funding program that gave contributors equity in the company. It’s an interesting idea and sort of a more structured parallel to the Kickstarter model that we see so frequently. A year later, in 2016, Czapek took the Public Prize at the GPHG for its 33 bis Quai des Bergues, the brand’s inaugural watch.
The watch we have here, however, is something very different. The Place Vendome Tourbillon Suspendu "Ici et Ailleurs" kicks off the new Place Vendôme collection, which might contain other iterations and complications in the future. To start though, Czapek has really gone all-out, offering a dual-time watch with a tourbillon, day/night indicator, and power reserve. All of this is housed in a massive 43.5mm platinum case and the time is told on a ring-shaped grand feu enamel dial.
Looking at the front of the watch, we have five basic elements. First is the time-telling dial up top. As mentioned, it’s white grand feu enamel with inky black markings, and blued gold fleur-de-lis hands. Tucked into the bottom portion of the dial is a power reserve indicator, which subtly tracks the 60 hours of power that the watch gets from its single barrel. On the right side you’ll see the second timezone indicator, which uses a rotating 12-hour disc and a pointer incorporated into the disc’s bridge (with a touch of lume over the arrow too). It’s actually a rather simple execution of a second timezone, but the finishing on each of the components here is incredible. From the circular graining to the mirror polishing to the beveling, it’s all top quality.
And then, of course, there’s that tourbillon on the left. The one-minute tourbillon echos the finishing found on the GMT indicator and the result is spectacular. I’m not really a tourbillon guy, generally speaking, but this one has the right mix of flourish and technically to keep me interested. There’s no seconds hand mounted to the tourbillon cage, but there is a lone blued screw that acts as a pointer, letting the tourbillon serve that function as well. Lastly, tucked between the tourbillon and that 12-hour disc is a small day/night indicator. You could easily miss it, but don’t – the finish is, as you’d expect, very nice.
Turn the watch over and you get even more to look at. The Caliber SXH2 was developed just for this watch through a collaboration between Chronode and Czapek. I’m glad Czapek has decided to be up-front about its cooperation with Chronode instead of saying "in-house movement" and causing a kerfuffle here. The plates and bridges are an anthracite color and have a lightly frosted finish. This offers a nice ground against which the mirror-polished and snailed wheels really pop. It’s a movement that goes for a broader visual impact rather than obsessive attention a lot of fine detail, but the finish is still nice and clean and a good match to the overall movement architecture.
I must admit, strapping this watch on was a bit intimidating. It’s much bigger than anything I’d usually wear. However, the Place Vendôme Tourbillon ended up being much more comfortable than I expected. Yeah, it’s still a 43.5mm watch in solid platinum, but it’s far from paperweight-on-a-strap territory. I don’t think I could sport this one every day, but I do give Czapek credit for making something relatively ergonomic at this size and weight. As far as legibility goes, I had no problems reading the indicators quickly and clearly, even with the crowded dial.
Ultimately, Czapek is doing exactly what I want to see from a modern independent brand. They’re creating interesting products that add something genuinely new to the marketplace in a way that is noticeably distinct from what we’re used to from the bigger players. The Place Vendome Tourbillon Suspendu is a great sophomore introduction for the new brand and it has me looking forward to what might come next.
The Czapek Place Vendome Tourbillon Suspendu is available in two models, the one you see here in platinum, which retails for $99,000, and another version in 5N rose gold that retails for $88,000. The former is limited to 10 numbered pieces and the latter is limited to 15 numbered pieces. For more, visit Czapek online.