We have followed Czapek & Cie since they started. We have always have been impressed with the watches as well as their interesting business model. Impressed with the honesty of the folks running the company, as we are of the beauty and sincerity of the products. This Baselworld 2017, they added a tourbillon to their collection, their first, and delivering on the promise to build up their complication base to include all the classics. We took a deep look at the new Czapek Genéve Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs” in this review.
Recommended reading: We covered the Czapek history and interesting business model in our first review of their watch, the Quai de Bergues Fleur de Lys no 33. We also carried the Press Release for the Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs”. The naming convention within Czapek is a tongue twister, especially for the non-French speaker. It is an impressive watch, and caught our Chief Editor’s eye as he named it in his Top Independent Watches from Baselworld 2017.
So on with it!
Czapek Genéve Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs”
The name of Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Allieurs”, loosely translated Place Vendôme Suspended Tourbillon “Here and Elsewhere” is a rather curious name. Perhaps referring to the dual timezone capability of the watch being able to be usable everywhere. It is part of the current two collection lines within Czapek vis à vis the Place Vendôme and the Quai de Bergues. The former, our subject for this review, is fitted with a tourbillon escapement. The first run of the Place Vendôme Tourbillon is 25 pieces, 9 in rose gold, 1 in white gold and 15 in platinum.
The case, dial and hands
The visual imagery of the watch is striking. The dial side shows the time at 12, a one minute tourbillon at 8, and a second timezone at 4, a day/night indication at 6. A power reserve indicator is shown in a aperture within the time sub-dial. The layout is symmetrical on the 12/6 o’clock line, and is rather pleasing. The bezel is irregular in shape, generally ring shaped, but carries two portions which are thinner, sculptured to accommodate the tourbillon and second timezone sub-dial, giving the impression that the movement is bulging and trying to burst out of the case. We find this detail to be subtle, but visually interesting and aesthetically pleasing.
The dial proper is perhaps absent. Taking up the majority of the real estate on the dial side is the back of the movement plate. This plate is anthracite and is sand-blasted to show a frosted matt surface texture. This contrasts beautifully with the highly polished steel bridges holding the tourbillon, the second timezone hand, as well as the circumference of the ring of the main time sub-dial.
The bridges visible from the dial side are made of stainless steel, and each carry a peculiar shape, approximating that of a stylised arrowhead. The tourbillon bridge is opened up with an aperture to showcase the virtuoso inside anglage which is quite well done.
However, we will make a criticism on the design choice. We came away a bit disappointed that the inward angles, of which there are 4 on the bridge, are not designed to show sharp inner angles, but rounded. This indicates to us that some measure of cost or labour saving has been implemented, as rounded angles are easier to execute, and does not require a master’s hand as much as a sharp inward one. The same treatment is seen on the bridge whose pointed head serves as the hand for the second timezone at 4 o’clock. Even the small steel bridge at 6 carrying the day/night indication is carried out the same way.
Other than this, the bridges are all feature beautiful anglage, which are well executed. The bright polishing of the surfaces of the bridges are done in the black polish style, and gleams magnificently, and contrasts nicely with the frosted matt finish of the main plate.
The time dial is a ring of grand feu enamel made by Donzé Cardans, framed by a polished steel edge. We documented the fascinating method to produce grand feu by Donzé here. This makes for a particularly elegant set of hour markers in Roman numerals with bars for the minute markers. A polished steel edge bounds the enamel ring.
We also note the beautiful hand made, hand blued steel hands in the signature Czapek fleur de lys design.
The movement is already partially visible from the dial side. As mentioned, most of the real estate on that side is the frosted matt finish of the base plate. Flipping the watch over, the movement is visible through the sapphire glass.
We see more of the beautiful frosted matt finish. We also observe the same rounded treatment to the bridges. We wished that instead of the printed medallion with sharp angles, these same angles were applied to the openings to the plate. However, what intrigues us is that there are actually 5 outward angles which are sharp, (count them!) which tells us that Czapek (Chronode) is able to execute these very nicely, but chose to leave them out for the other angles.
The click, visible at about 5 o’clock in the photograph above is rather nicely made, and noteworthy. The movement is nicely designed and should perform robustly. The screws are polished and sit within nicely polished countersinks. The anglage appears to be competently executed as well.
Note the watch above is the Piece Unique in white gold. For the purposes of illustration, it is similar to the platinum version, safe for some minor colour tone differences.
The competitive landscape
Priced at a retail at CHF 88,000 for rose gold and CHF 99,000 for platinum, the Czapek Place Vendôme Tourbillon strikes us as value priced. This sits well within our #ComplicationsForLess theory, where watches at the same level of complications and limited availability would command a price upwards of CHF 150,000 if it were to debut 4 or 5 years ago. We see this drive to provide better value to be very positive against the trend of gravity defying prices of yore. And hope to see more maisons follow suit. Bravo Czapek for taking this step.
The competitive landscape is sparsely populated. Somehow the juxtaposition of a tourbillon with a dual timezone or world time is not popular. With the specific complication of a tourbillon with second timezone, day/night indicator and power reserve, the Place Vendôme Tourbillon is perhaps unique, especially when considered with the possible customisation that Czapek offers. But for a comparison, we offer the following:
Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time (platinum cased, but US$145,000 before taxes, equivalent to approximately CHF 140,300) . The JLC is notably a universal time watch, capable of showing all the timezones (in this case 24) simultaneously, and carries a flying tourbillon, making it somewhat unique. As a member of the Geophysic family, the JLC is also amagnetic and features what JLC calls True Seconds, which is a seconde morte system. In addition to spinning on its own axis making one revolution in 60 seconds, the tourbillon moves across the dial in a clockwise fashion, making one revolution every 12 hours.
Greubel Forsey GMT (US$565,000 for the GMT Black, in gold and platinum the GMT is priced at US$605,000 and US$630,000, respectively). For those who love GF, the volume of the watch becomes a real positive, as it allows the space for the movement to be developed 3 dimensionally, and packs a stunning aesthetic. For detractors, GF watches are often too large for most wrists. But neither group can deny the high asking prices for Greubel Forsey, nor the superb finishing and attention to detail. The 3 dimensional spinning globe is one such detail which leaves fans breathless. A full city scale is available on the back to easily and quickly see the times in all 24 cities worldwide in a single glance. Not to mention the spectacle of the tourbillon which is tilted.
Richard Mille Aerodyne Dual Time Zone RM22 (€438,000 Euros in red gold, €397,656 Euros in titanium and €450,500 Euros in white gold). As typical of Richard Mille timepieces, the use of materials is quite clever, and in the RM22, the base plate is a honey comb structure of orthorhombic titanium aluminide with a carbon nano-fiber core. The material is developed by NASA as the core material for supersonic aircraft wings. The second timezone is indicated by a digital diaplay, and the watch also features a power reserve indicator (in characteristic Richard Mille style of the Torque indication system developed by Renaud et Papi). And, of course, the higher the price tag, the more desirable the Richard Mille.
In conclusion, we feel the Czapek Place Vendôme Tourbillon deserves a good look by the seasoned collector. Here is a watch which is nicely designed and well executed. By a company with a unique sales model to deal directly with the collector. And a communications policy which is open, honest and clear. The watch itself is a beauty, notwistanding the criticisms we leveled at it for some cost and labour saving implementations. On the wrist, the Place Vendôme Tourbillon feels comfortable, and sits well on the author’s 7.5″ wrist. It must be said, that his wrist is rather forgiving of most watches.
Furthermore, the pricing is also at a level which is rather attractive. Its got many things going for it. And we remain impressed with the team at Czapek.
Czapek Genéve Place Vendôme Tourbillon Specifications
Movement with off-center tourbillon
hours/minutes located at 12 o’clock
second time zone, day/night and power reserve indication
Hours and minutes on separate dial located at 12 o’clock
One-minute tourbillon located at 8 o’clock
Second time zone on subdial at 4 o’clock, turns counter-clockwise
Disk day/night indicator located at 6, turns counter-clockwise
Power reserve: Off centre disk, located at 12, turn on 90° on 60h, winding counter clockwise
Calibre SXH2: Haute Horlogerie proprietary
Mechanical hand-wound movement developed by Chronode and Czapek & Cie
Power reserve: 60 hours with one barrel spring
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 VpH)
Diameter: 34.8 mm – 15 ½ lines
Height: 9.8 mm
Front: anthracite sand-blasted plate, steel bridges with sandblasting, circular graining, and polish
Case back: open ratchet with circular bevelling, sand-blasted bridges, blue screws, final “anglage” main
CASE & BRACELET
5N rose gold or platinum Pt950 case
43.5 mm diameter
Curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Sapphire crystal case back with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Water-resistance: 30 meters (3 atm)
Alligator strap with 5N rose gold buckle
“Grand feu” Enamel ring, steel polished bridges and sand-blasted plate
“Fleur de Lys” hands in different color
“LUMIÈRES” EDITION LIMITED TO 25 NUMBERED PRIECES
10 pieces in 5N rose gold, 15 pieces in platinum
Recommended Retail Price
CHF Switzerland: 88,000 for RG and 100,000 for Platinum before taxes