Following the success of its Antarctique Terre Adélie collection in May, Czapek & Cie is still refusing to let Covid-19 dampen its spirits with the introduction of a brand-new collection featuring a distinctive dial motif and the exquisite final version of its new movement.
Press Release information with commentary in italics.
Czapek & Cie Antarctique Passage de Drake
Key highlights – commentary
The retail price remains at CHF 18’400 – USD 20’000.
The Czapek Antarctique joins the ranks of the luxury sports genre when it was introduced in May this year. See our full hands-on detail report here
All subscriptions for the 99 pieces of the Terre Adélie, which opened on May 26th were spoken for by June 12th. This new release, in four additional and different dial versions is an extension to the collection. This latest addition is notable for the following:
- New dial motif, with a very interesting visual aesthetic.
- Improvements to the rotor, which is now larger and made in platinum. The ball bearings on which the rotor runs on is also upgraded. The result is an increase in winding efficiency.
- Improvements to the movement plate. Czapek claims the new German Silver plates are nicer looking. Also, one of the bridges is now finished in a mirror polish.
- These improvements to the movement, no 2 and 3 in this list, will be fitted in the Terre Adélie models which are not yet delivered, and retrofitted to those which have when they are returned to the factory.
The Drake Passage
The Drake Passage, or Passage de Drake in French, is the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It a deep waterway, 1000 km wide that connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.
It is also known as the Mar de Hoces [“Hoces Sea”] in Spainish, as its discovery was attributed to Spanish navigator Francisco de Hoces in 1525. In 1578, the English explorer Sir Francis Drake, lost a ship to formidable southward winds whilst sailing the west coast of South America. This confirmed to him the existence of a convergence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Drake was a legendary figure in British expansion and it is from him that the passage’s English name derives. The Spaniards, however, consider him a pirate (in their defence, Drake did have a penchant for capturing their treasure-filled ships) so most Spanish-language literature nowadays still refers to the Drake Passage by its original name.
The Drake Passage is considered one of the most treacherous voyages for ships to make. Currents at its latitude meet no resistance from any landmass, and waves top 40 feet, hence its reputation as “the most powerful convergence of seas”.
The new collection
The new Antarctique Passage de Drake collection takes the sport-chic case design of the Antarctique Terre Adélie line and pairs it with an atypical trapezoid dial motif whose three-dimensional stamped surface creates a play of shadows across the dial.
“This unique dial design is called the ‘Stairway to Eternity’ and was actually our initial concept dial for the Antarctique, as we were looking for a signature dial design that would be very different from anything else, but it was such a lengthy process to perfect that we launched with another dial, based on a forgotten workmanship technique, the combed ‘lamé’ dials,” shares Czapek & Cie. CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel. “We finally discovered the perfect motif when our designer accidentally enlarged the trapezoids by 50% without realizing it, and it looked amazing. That’s the beauty of mistakes!” All Czapek designs are officially registered, demonstrating the company’s directional approach/identity/skill.
The SXH5 – From Prototype to Perfection
Since the unveiling of its base movement in May, Czapek & Cie has been continually making improvements to its automatic calibre SXH5 to enhance its precision, performance, and aesthetic. These upgrades will apply to both the 99 pieces of the Antarctique Terre Adélie collection and the Antarctique Passage de Drake timepieces.
Creating a movement that was designed to be a “power-horse”, but also feature a sophisticated and ambitious architecture, was a real challenge. Everything was studied in great detail to take the best from both the past and the present. An example of this can be seen in the incredible finishing on the bridges that merges haute horlogerie angling techniques with state-ot-the-art laser engravings.
The first upgrade has been to the micro-rotor that was previously in recycled 18-karat gold. It quickly became apparent that even though the watch’s timekeeping was functioning perfectly, its winding power was limited, so the watch’s designer and case maker decided to try a slightly larger rotor in platinum – still 100% recycled – which brought 25% more power to the movement. The second upgrade came with a complete change of ball bearings under the micro-rotor. Both upgrades raised the train efficiency to 90% to fully wind the single barrel and deliver the impressive 60 hours of power reserve.
The Moment of Truth
Other challenges only became apparent when the movement was tested in the first stage of the manufacturing process, such as the main plates that turned out to be not entirely flat. A third partner was quickly found to rectify this and delivered an even nicer German silver main plate. The aesthetics of the movement were also reworked, with one of the small bridges on the movement now featuring mirror-polishing on the top and six meticulously polished angles, which multiplied the price of this component by 10, but the result was worth it! “Creating a base movement from scratch was more challenging than bringing the brand to life,” says de Roquemaurel with a smile. “We knew we had to suffer a bit to achieve the level of quality and finishing we were dreaming of so that the overall result would be truly unique.”
The Antarctique Passage de Drake collection comes in a 40.5mm stainless steel case that is fitted to an ergonomic brushed integrated bracelet, whose brushed links are connected with highly polished links in the form of a “C” for Czapek. The bracelet features a quick-change system so each owner can quickly and easily switch to a rubber strap that is decorated with the same trapezoid pattern found on the dial.
The Czapek & Cie Passage de Drake will be launched on December 8th 2020 with four different dial colours: Ice White, Deep Blue, Black Ink and a limited edition “Roaring Forties” grey. Forty pieces that will available via a 40-day-long online subscription.
The collection will be available for sale at Czapek & Cie official retailers, at Czapek’s Geneva boutique – 18 rue de la Corraterie – and online at czapek.com. Deliveries are scheduled to start in March 2021. With a production limited to only one watch per day, Czapek will offer its online customers the possibility to choose and book the production date of their watch. In addition, they will be able to select from several aesthetic options, from the colour of the centre seconds hand to a personalised engraving on the case back.