Czapek & Cie, rebirth of a legend

One of the great figures of nineteenth-century watchmaking, François Czapek reemerges from history. The Quai des Bergues collection pays tribute to his art.

The Polish watchmaker François Czapek, born in Bohemia (Czech Republic today), was an associate of Antoine Norbert de Patek, a fellow Pole. Both men lived in Switzerland. But Czapek’s name, while no longer widely known, was uttered in the most prestigious circles in its day. His prized timepieces were hard to come by and were much coveted by the nobility back then. Napoleon III, Emperor of France, even granted him the title «Horloger de la Cour Impériale» (Court Watchmaker). To this day, Czapek watches are much sought after by collectors.

The revival began when three entrepreneurs in Switzerland received some intelligence from a group of passionate watch enthusiasts in 2013. They were convinced that what they had before them was a genuine historic monument and they decided to organise the Czapek comeback. They hired a well-known historian, fully aware of the fact that the digging work would set the pace for upcoming developments. They also tracked down Czapek timekeepers that had been sold at auctions. The more they researched, the greater their sense of humility and determination became. The first proactive step was to constitute Czapek & Cie, a limited company that respectfully took the name of the company created by François Czapek & Cie on May 1, 1845.

The brand Czapek Genève is officially alive again as of November 10, 2015, presented to the media and the watch enthousiasts invited to the Flower Clock, Geneva’s most visited monument after the Water Fountain. The Quai des Bergues is now officially unveiled, the first family of six models that will perpetuate the Czapek style and will be perfectly integrated into the haute horlogerie segment. Indeed, when scanning the past, one cannot avoid noticing that the great watchmaker not only understood the science of chronometry, but also knew how to give his watches a very special aesthetic style.

When gazing at the pocket watch with the reference number 3430, manufactured by François Czapek in Geneva around 1850, the three associates, Harry Guhl, Xavier de Roquemaurel and a watchmaker who prefers to remain unnamed, were fascinated by the timepiece’s sheer elegance and highly identifiable lines: the classy elongation of the Roman numerals, the slimness of the forged hands, and, above all, the unusual positioning of the two subdials, one at 4:30, the other at 7:30.

The first collection is named Quai des Bergues, in memory of the spot where François Czapek had his workshop. The knowledge of subcontracted watchmakers converge in this piece, the way one might cite sources. To finance the project, the three company leaders found private investors. They also sold the Czapek Design Study Chronograph to a small circle of close friends. This chronograph bears an historic caliber, the C73, which dates to 1971. This permitted them to finance research into the design, the development of a proprietary caliber of high quality, as well as the first pre-series. They then chose crowdfunding equity, a participative way of financing projects that lets people become investors.

November 30, 2015