Czapek & Cie always manage to keep me interested. Every so often, the brand that was reborn a handful of years ago will push design boundaries I have no desire to see them push (the recent experiment with bright colors on the dial for example). And just as I think they’re losing me, just as I think I might be able to strike their name from my list of guaranteed future purchases, just as I’m about to emotionally disconnect and forget about my fleeting love affair, they pull me back in with something that is so up my street it’s strolled right into my house and pulled up a seat at the dinner table. The Czapek & Cie Faubourg de Cracovie “Tao” watch may well be an unexpected caller but it is most certainly a welcome one.
Brand: Czapek & Cie
Model: Faubourg de Cracovie “Tao”
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Case Material: Stainless steel
Crystal/Lens: Sapphire crystal
Power Reserve: 65 hours
Strap/Bracelet: Black leather strap
Price & Availability: CHF 25,500
So what is it that makes the Czapek & Cie Faubourg de Cracovie “Tao” so special? Yes, it’s a beautifully styled watch that blends model proportions and classic typography seamlessly, while remembering to add a dash of red to the dial to keep us focused. But there’s more to it than that. The Czapek & Cie Faubourg de Cracovie “Tao” not only boasts an in-house movement with twin barrels, feeding a 36,000vph hi-beat escapement with enough juice to stay ticking for 65 hours, a date at 6 o’cock, and a chronograph function, but it can also crow over having something very, very unusual indeed: a grand feu enamel dial with a panda colorway!
Okay, you might think that getting excited over a panda dial is a bit much but it’s not as straightforward as it seems. The grand feu white dial sits within the 41.5 mm steel case. The enamel is baked in a kiln at over 800°C, resulting in exceptional brilliance, as well as adding a strange sensation of depth to a flat surface. With this model, it appears that the sundials are not simply hydraulically stamped recesses in the dial plate but rather separate sub-dials that have been welded in lace, so the perfect application of white enamel can take place. This multi-component dial design gives a strong, over-engineered character to a finished article that looks flawlessly wrought.
And it is the perfect dial design to make intuitive use of this model’s main function, the chronograph, intuitive. There is a very simple reason why the panda dial configuration has been so popular over the years (independent of its cutesy nickname), and that’s because it just makes sense. Using color to separate different dial functions from each other is a trick almost as old as the craft itself but never more relevant than in today’s age of high complication.
Now, a chronograph is hardly a flying tourbillon, but executing this popular caliber style well is still a significant challenge. Here, Czapek & Cie has opted to put the chronograph minutes register at 3 o’clock and the hours at 9 o’clock. The whited-out sub-dial at 6 features the going seconds, hence it’s been chromatically delinked from the the other sub-dials. The chronograph’s actuation system employs a column wheel, vertical clutch, and linear hammer, resulting in a smoother, more decisive (and reliable) “click” when the pushers are depressed.
The SXH3 movement itself has a diameter of 30mm (13 lines 1/4), a height of 6.95mm, and it has been officially certified by COSC for chronometric excellence. The automatic movement is charged by a golden occiliating weight bearing the Czapek logo.
In my opinion, this is the most handsome chronograph Czapek & Cie has made to date. I’m a huge fan of their inaugural model, and I still rate it as their best overall, but the artisanal qualities of this dial and the excellent fusion of older styles (Roman numerals, elegant fleur de lys hands) and modernism (the sleek, avant-garde chronograph pushers and the more aggressive colorway, thanks to the red XII) have me hooked. With a retail price of CHF 25,500, it is not something that will make its way into many collections, but it should give collectors pause for thought in that bracket where the more established maisons of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet are not offering that many complicated watches. The Czapek & Cie Faubourg de Cracovie “Tao” gives an additional option to those of us who are fans of eternal style, but prefer a little bit of novelty on the wrist. To learn more, visit czapek.com.