Czapek & Cie, a small independent watchmaker joined the wagon of luxury sports watches in stainless steel with their Antarctique Terre Adélie announced some weeks ago. Here is our hands-on, detailed analytical review of the Deep Blue with SS bracelet.
The 4 variants which were announced for the Terre Adélie model will be only sold via an online subscription starting May 26 until July 15th up to a maximum of 99 orders. The subscription closed today, but we were given to understand that even when we received the review sample last week, all 99 pieces are spoken for.
We continue with this detailed review in spite of that, as the Antarctique will appear in another manifestations. While we are not privy to what that might be, Xavier de Roquemaurel, CEO of Czapek assured us that a new model will be unveiled in December. This new model will be called ‘Passage de Drake’, and will share the same movement, case design and bracelet with Terre Adélie, but will have a completely different dial.
Czapek Antarctique Terre Adélie – Deep Blue
We got the Deep Blue sample of the first level prototype for evaluation, and have had it for about a week. First level prototypes are not typically shown to journalists, retailers or the public, but as they say, unusual circumstances call for unusual solutions. With the current climate of COVID-19 and limited mobility, this is the unusual solution.
The watch we received was fully functional, keeps good time, but had some features not complete. It is also make its way across the world – from Switzerland to Japan to us in Singapore, and have been worn, shown, tried on by many people, and shows some wear scars in the form of scratches.
The case, bracelet, dial and hands
The case is a tonneau like shape, with a distinct case middle which looks like its machined out of a block of stainless steel. The middle is angular, with curved sides and features a brushed finish. It is scored with two sculptured grooves to provide visual relief, though the case is not that massive that it needs it, as it measures 40.5mm, and not particularly thick. Nevertheless, the grooves provide a nice aesthetic touch. The bezel is a truncated cone with high polished sides leading to a raised sapphire crystal. The overall look is rather vintage like, reminiscent of designs of the 1970s.
On the crown side, a raised bit rises to meet the crown, offering some protection. The crown itself features a nice embossed logo.
The bracelet is a beautiful angular design, with links in increasing smaller width as it gracefully tapers to the buckle. The brushed links carry over from the brushed case sides, and are held to each other by polished C (for Czapek) shaped links. This arrangement is visually beautiful and allows for good flexibility of the bracelet making it rather comfortable on the wrist. The bracelet is removable, and Czapek supplies the watch with a sporty rubber strap.
The Antarctique’s dial was designed and manufactured by Metalem, a Czapek & Cie cooperation partner and also the supplier to Dufour for the Simplicity. The dial features a straight grain which is made using a unique lamé technique, invented by Metalem 30 years ago. This graining is visible on the Deep Blue dial, though less apparent than the one which is fitted on the Secret Alloy model (our preferred model). This technique scratches lines on the dial with a comb. These characteristic striations give the colours more depth and starker reflections.
The indices are are sword shaped in polished appliqué with Superluminova infill. A date window is placed at 6 o’clock. The hands are also sword shaped, repeating the design of the indices. In particular, the seconds hand is long, slender and elegant, with a red tip, and a long counterweight in the form of the crossed spears in the Czapek logo.
Legibility is excellent both in the light as well as in the dark, which is to be expected from a watch with only 3 hands. The indices are large and clear.
The movement: SXH5.01
The movement is quite an achievement by itself. Conceived by in-house and realised by prototype maker Emmanuel Bouchet, with Atokalpa and Générale Ressort. The movement is made of maillechort, and electroplated with nickle to provide a nice blackened surface, a finish called nickel-noir. And the layout concept is rather like a typical three quarter plate. A rather large bridge covers the mainspring barrel and transmission wheels and also extends to provide the pivot for the center wheel. Each of the other wheels on the train have their own cock, and the balance is held in place by a bridge.
The shapes of the cocks and bridge are inspired by 19th century movements and by Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie chronograph’s rotor and are semi-skeletonized, and feature nice sharp angles. Each of the cocks feature a skeletonized centre. The outer edges, and those within the cutouts are hand chamfered and polished. The cocks feature a raised brushed outer perimeter edge and a matte finished relief center portion. They end as a rounded ring to hold the jewel, and we are rather enchanted with this arrangement.
Of course, the cocks and the main bridges are held in place by polished screws. The micro-rotor is rather massive, seems like an oxymoron, but it is a thick semicircular slab of 18k gold which is made from 100% recycled gold. This rotor drives the massive 8.8 Newton mm single barrel which provides the watch with 56 hours of autonomy.
The balance wheel features a variable inertia system to allow for fine adjustment and good chronometry. The watch kept very good time when it was in our care, and performed well with nothing unusual observed. Time setting was smooth and reliable, with no jumping of the hands when the crown is pulled or returned. The crown, as noted is screw down, affording the 120m water resistance rating.
The competitive landscape
At CHF18,000, about S$26,700, the Czapek Antarctique sits somewhat in the middle of the forest crowded with luxury steel sports watches. For nearly 40 years, the kings have been the originator Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (reviewed is the titanium and platinum limited edition of 250 pieces retailed at USD 34,800 but the regular model ST15500ST in steel is priced at S$30,300) and the Patek Philippe Nautilus (S$ 40,400). Both with evolution from the 1972/76 models to the current versions, and both almost as hard to get at full retail from an authorized dealer than hen’s teeth. The reference to the Nautilus is particularly poignant as François Czapek was the first partner to Antoine Norbert de Patek before the latter restarted the company with Adrienne Philippe.
AP and PP are by no means the only landscape occupants from the same era, but the others are somewhat less prominent. Like the beautiful Vacheron Constantin Overseas S$30,800, which underwent a complete revision in 2018. Also the numerous IWC Ingenieur models, And the continually evolving Rolex steel sports models.
But there are also new challengers arising to try their hand at this field. Among them, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus (S$40,700) , the Chopard Alpine Eagle (at S$17,200 is quite a bargain in this field) have their own attractive and unique selling points.
We think the Antarctique Terre Adélie Deep Blue is a stunning achievement. The design is sleek and quite classic. We love the bracelet and how it is pliable and comfortable on the wrist. The dial is also very well executed. And the movement, as realized by Emmanuel Bouchet is magnificently laid out and beautifully finished. And Czapek pitches it at a very reasonable price. It is little wonder that all 99 pieces have been snapped up!
Photo notes: Photographed with the Haselblad H3D-39 and HC4/120 or HC2.8/80 with and without extension tubes H28 and H52. Note we experimented with high ISO for this shoot. For the CCD sensor on the H3D, the ISO of 400 is considered to be high.