Independent Watch Brand
François Czapek (a Gallicised version of his original name Franciszek Czapek), the founder of the brand, was a Czech-born Polish watchmaker who fled to Geneva in 1831 after fighting in the Polish uprising. The following year, he founded the Czapek & Moreau company in partnership with French-born watchmaker Thomas Moreau, who settled and worked in Versoix, a suburb of Geneva. In 1839, Antoine Norbert de Patek (a Gallicised version of the name Antoni Patek), also a Polish immigrant, joined the company’s partners. From that moment, Thomas Moreau held no official responsibilities and the firm was renamed to Patek & Czapek. In this company, now known as Patek Phillippe, Czapek was responsible for production, while Patek concentrated on the accounting and management. The partnership between Czapek and Patek ended in 1845 when both found new partners. After that, their paths did not cross.
After parting with Patek in 1845, Czapek established a new company – Czapek & Cie. Financial help came from Juliusz Gruzewski, also a Polish immigrant, who was a personal friend of Napoleon III and further secured a position for Czapek as a watchmaker to Emperor Napoleon III’s court. Czapek & Cie. had a workshop in Geneva, going on to open what was probably the first watch boutique on the Place Vendôme in Paris, in 1850. In the same year he published a book about watchmaking, the first of its kind in the Polish language: “Słów kilka o Zegarmistrzowstwie ku użytku zegarmistrzów i publiczności” (“A few words on watchmaking for the use of watchmakers and the public”). There is no information about the life and activities of Czapek after 1869 – he most likely fell ill or died. Antiquorum estimates the total production of Czapek & Cie. to be about 9,000 timepieces, mostly pocket watches, which are judged to be of excellent quality.
In this company, now known as Patek Phillippe, Czapek was responsible for production, while Patek concentrated on the accounting and management.
In 2012, Sébastien Follonier, Harry Guhl and Xavier de Roquemaurel re-registered the Czapek company name, with the view of reviving the previously prominent yet now little-known name. They set out to create a collection of wristwatches, respectful of François Czapek’s legacy. Quai des Bergues, the inaugural collection of the revived brand, was based on the Czapek & Cie. pocket watch No 3430, dating from around 1850. No 3430 featured an unusual and charismatic combination of 8-day power reserve, two sub-dials positioned at 4 and 8 o’clock, with a small seconds hand and power reserve indicator. A peculiarity of the power reserve indicator, which was also borrowed from the historical prototype, is the presence of two types of markings – one for the power reserve and one for the day of the week, meaning the owner of the watch rewinds it every Sunday to have the day of the week indication correct for the rest of the week. In 2016, the Quai des Bergues watch won the ‘Public Prize’ at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Since then, the brand has launched several other collections, including the Place Vendôme, a tourbillon with a second time-zone (2017), the Faubourg de Cracovie, an integrated chronograph (2018), and the Antarctique collection of sport-chic integrated stainless-steel bracelet watches (2020), powered by Czapek's first in-house movement, a slim self-winding caliber with mini-rotor, three hands and date. The company is situated in Geneva, Switzerland, and in 2022 it opened a production facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Auction 2023 lot:
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