For the recent Geneva Watch Days, Czapek released two references with dual escapements in collaboration with Bernhard Lederer – we explain the complication of the new Place Vendôme Complicité.
Press Release information with commentary in italics.
New: Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité – explained and compared
The retail price for the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité Harmony Blue and Stardust are both CHF 85,000 / USD 100,000 / EUR 89,000 / GBP 77,300 before taxes. Limited to 50 pieces each.
An interesting collaboration between two of our favourite independent watchmakers. Czapek leverages on the expertise of Bernhard Lederer to adapt the latter’s interesting and unique dual escapement with differential gearing to the former’s architecture and styling of their existing Place Vendôme collection. The result is quite stunning. Two references are released, one in a blue dial with a rose gold case and the other in a monotone grey dial in a white gold case. Each is limited to 50 pieces.
What we find most interesting is that Czapek did not just slap Lederer’s Central Impulse Chronometer movement into the Place Vendôme case. That would be the easy and lazy thing to do. But the new Czapek Calibre 8 is a brand new caliber, with the most prominent character – the dual escapement being the only connection. Without a doubt, Bernhard’s expertise in dealing with two escapements has been helpful in the development.
Other than the concept of a dual escapement, the new Calibre 8 shares little else with the Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer. The Czapek uses a differential gearing to split the power from a single main train into two. It has two balance wheels, two escape wheels, two complete wheel trains. The power from the mainspring is split by the differential from the third wheel to the two trains.
The Calibre 8 is conceptually similar the Dufour Duality. Philippe Dufour chose to place the differential after the common fourth wheel, and drives the two escape wheels directly. While the Czapek’s differential is further up the power flow, splitting the power from the third wheel, giving the movement two trains and two fourth wheels. The center seconds hand is indirectly powered from the third wheel, and outside of the power flow to the escapement. We think the Duality is perhaps more elegant, as it requires fewer parts. But also more complex, as the power the differential handles is lower torque and higher speed, and much smaller. But this is perhaps not a fair comparison. Dufour only made 9 Dualities in the late 1990s, and these are going in the secondary market upwards of CHF 1 Million. Last done was about CHF 980k. Though in reality, Dualities are so rare that it almost never comes to market to establish a market pricing level. We think, given that the Dufour Simplicity is already striking past CHF 1 Million, if a Duality appears in the market, it will likely hammer at CHF 2 Million or more. In contrast, the Czapek is making 100 Complicités, which one can buy right now (limitations do apply) for CHF 85k.
Conceptually, both these are totally different in concept to Lederer’s own Central Impulse Chronometer. The Lederer uses a central impulse system working on two escape wheels, each with its own drive train and each with its own remontoire driving a single balance wheel, with no differential. Our linked article takes you to the technical explanation of how the Central Impulse Chronometer works.
Czapek also uses two sapphire bridges to showcase the open worked movement, proudly displayed dial side. The layout on the dial side is dominated by the triangular bridges suspending the two balance wheels, and the two trains laid out symmetrically on each side of the dial with the differential mounted centrally at 12 o’clock.
The case back shows the already familiar Czapek architectural DNA, with the very special Lederer crown wheel mechanism integrated.
We have not examined the watch, but from the high resolution photographs, the finishing looks to be at a very high level suitable for haute horlogerie. And aesthetically, we find both models to be very pleasing. Our initial preference leans slightly to the rose gold model, which Czapek romantically names Harmony Blue. But the monotone grey Stardust also calls its siren song almost equally well. So truth be told, both tugs at our heartstrings.
Czapek & Cie unveils Place Vendôme Complicité, a unique reinterpretation of a double escapement combination initially created in 1930 and very rare in wristwatches. Two independent oscillators beat at their own pace, with any rate variations balanced by a differential at 12 o’clock, all beautifully laid out on the dial side.
The design of the Place Vendôme Complicité is as much the result of a chance encounter, a coincidence (do they really exist?), as it is a technical and artistic feat. Human encounters and the sharing of ideas lie at the heart of everything that Czapek does. As a fundamental value, the Maison defends the concept of établissage – the ecosystem of specialised workshops that once defined the entire watchmaking industry; this enables it to choose the most talented, independent specialists in each of the watchmaking crafts, bringing them together – as a conductor would unite musicians in an orchestra – to create exceptional timepieces. For Czapek, suppliers are also partners in creativity and this turned out to be decisive in Place Vendôme Complicité ever becoming a reality.
In Pursuit of Beauty
The idea for the watch was born in 2018 as an evolution of Czapek’s renowned initial models, Quai des Bergues and Place Vendôme; the movement architecture of those pieces translates into a distinctive Czapek ‘face’ with sub-dials at the 7.30 and 4.30 positions on the dial.
While the technical aspect of the double escapement concept fully visible on the dial side and distributed around the centre was fascinating to Czapek’s CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel – and the group of ‘rare people’ who make up the Maison’s inner circle of collectors, investors and enthusiasts – it’s a guiding principle of Czapek that the beauty of a mechanism is as important as the beauty of the habillage – the dial, hands and case. Consequently, the architecture of every Czapek calibre is designed to unite the technical and aesthetic elements, serving and enhancing both in equal measure.
The starting point for Complicité was to respect the dial layout of the original Place Vendôme model – on which the two signature sub-dials form the base of a pyramid, completed by a third sub-dial at the apex. An initial sketch was then designed: the escapements would be at 7.30 and 4.30 and the differential that connects them would be at the 12.00 position, with both escapement trains embracing the centre.
“The real beauty of the idea lies in this way of expressing the double escapement, with the differential at 12 o’clock as a central element,” explains Xavier de Roquemaurel. “And by bringing the mechanism to the dial side and open-working everything, we would also have a beautiful kinetic sculpture.”
However, building such a movement was easier said than done; after a fruitless search for a watchmaking partner capable of reconciling the aesthetics with the technical demands, the idea was eventually put to one side. And then, one day, a story of family and friendship brought it back to life. Paul, one of Xavier’s children, was in the same school class in Neuchâtel as the daughter of watchmaker Bernhard Lederer, and a mutual friend introduced the two fathers. Their encounter led to a friendship, mutual exchanges of ideas, advice and help and, ultimately, resolved the problem, made the new double escapement architecture possible and gave birth to the watch.
The name of the new timepiece, Place Vendôme Complicité alludes to this collaboration – as well as to the complicity between two independent escapements working in unison.
Aesthetics and Sophisticated Mechanics: an Unbreakable Bond
The principle of the double escapement regulator is that, with two balance wheels beating independently, and power delivered from a single barrel via a differential, any variation in rate (which may be caused by gravity or various other factors inherent in everyday life) will be cancelled out, thus ensuring greater timekeeping accuracy.
With the double escapement at its heart, Czapek’s new in-house Calibre 8 is manually wound to provide a power reserve of 72 hours, which is indicated on the dial at 6 o’clock between the balance wheels. Two sapphire bridges reveal the entire gear train on the dial side, protected by a box-style sapphire crystal glass.
Dominated by distinctive, triangular bridges from which the balances are suspended, the aesthetic blends modernity with tradition, playing with the colours of different metals of various components while drawing the eye deep into the workings of the movement. Naturally, haute horlogerie finishes abound, with traditional handcrafts complemented by more contemporary decorative finishes – not only on the dial side but also on the back of the movement, where 18 inward angles have been hand-bevelled.
The crown wheel mechanism – a hidden signature of Bernhard Lederer – is integrated into the movement design as a subtle tribute to his contribution to the development of Complicité.
As a backdrop to the movement, two dial colours are offered: cool tones of grey that create a subtle harmony with a white gold case for the Place Vendôme Complicité Stardust, and a bolder combination that epitomises Czapek’s more adventurous spirit: deep sapphire blue in a rose gold case for the Place Vendôme Complicité Harmony Blue. The satin-brushing of the flange and index ring contrasts with the matte grainé surface of the baseplate.
Adding contemporary style, the hands are sword-shaped and open-worked, so as not to obstruct the view of the mechanism, and their shape is echoed by the applied hour markers. All are plated in gold to match the case material and tipped with luminescent coating to enhance legibility in low light conditions. In true Czapek style, some almost-hidden details have been added purely for aesthetic effect; for example, looking deep into the movement reveals that the post on which the hands are mounted has been open-worked to create a tiny ‘arcade des heures’ (arcade of the hours).
Inspired by the cases of Quai des Bergues and Place Vendôme, the case – a relatively compact and very wearable 41.8mm diameter – is a distillation of Czapek’s signature iconography, with sharper lines adding contemporary flair. The eye is caught by a dynamic tension between the flowing curves of the case sides and the crisp angles of the deep recesses on the sides of the lugs, the play of light and shadow amplified by a mix of brushed and polished surfaces. Completing the ensemble, an alligator strap that matches or closely complements the colour of each dial is fastened with a gold folding clasp.
“Our vision at Czapek is to be at the forefront of the evolution of modern Haute Horlogerie, projecting watchmaking’s heritage into the future. “The connection with the past remains fundamental but we are expressing it in new ways – with the Place Vendôme Complicité being just the latest example of this philosophy” – a philosophy that is underpinned by the values of precision, creativity, openness, collaboration and the love of beauty.Xavier de Roquemaurel
The first two models of the Place Vendôme Complicité will be offered in limited editions of 50 pieces per iteration.
For Only Watch 2023, Czapek has created a one-of-a-kind example of Place Vendôme Complicité cased in steel. The dial is encircled by a champlevé enamel ring featuring the charity’s official colours for 2023 in a pattern inspired by ripples on the surface of Lake Geneva. The unique piece has been donated to the Only Watch auction, to be held in Geneva on 5 November.