The Place Vendôme line of watches from Czapek & Cie arguably contains the most complicated watches the brand has produced. They’re also the most contemporary. While the brand has always had a bit of a traditional look, the Place Vendôme catapults it into an almost futuristic landscape that feels a bit more Iron Man than Pride and Prejudice. Unveiled for Baselworld 2019 is the all new Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Ombres. French for “shadows,” the name is fitting for the new monochromatic look of this addition to the collection.
The case measures in at 43.5mm, the same as previous iterations, however significantly lighter. The case is made from Grade 5 Titanium, so actually feels a bit less hefty on the wrist. Don’t read that as “cheap” because the Ombre has a really fluid and impressive build quality. When it comes to titanium, it’s often hard to find harmony among weight, aesthetic, and build quality, but the Ombres does a fantastic job of balancing all three quite well. As is typical for a watch at this price-point, the case is fitted with a sapphire crystal on the front and back of the case.
I’ve come to admire Czapek & Cie, specifically with the Place Vendôme Collection, for taking major and oftentimes convoluted complications and managing to fit them all into a mostly coherent dial. The Ombres is a perfect example of how minor refinement can be better than a full-blown overhaul. The Place Vendôme Collection has seen everything, from small changes to full-on “themed” watches. I often hear people say, “I like everything about the watch but….“ For example, last year’s Ici Et Ailleurs was a classic instance in which the brand added overall Roman themes to the familiar Place Vendôme aesthetic and received mixed reviews over the handset.
Here, however, the small changes provide uniformity to the watch that has escaped previous iterations in the collection. For instance, in lieu of the typical cathedral-esque Fleurs De Lys handset, Czapek & Cie went with a more traditional sword-style handset in polished metal. In fact, the only splash of bold color on the entire watch comes from the bridge jewels, a blued screw that acts as a second hand on the tourbillon, and some rose gold pins visible through the tourbillon cage. This makes viewing the time and the unique GMT module fluent and pleasingly without distraction for a watch boasting a suspended tourbillon. Overall, the subdued aesthetic of the Ombres is an overall achievement for the Place Vendôme collection, if for nothing else but the show of restraint on a watch that is inherently complicated.
Flipping the watch over, you’ll find the beautiful Czapek & Cie SXH2 Hand-Wound × Chronode with GMT Function (a mouthful, I know) movement. A lot of the movement is covered by a sandblasted mainplate; however, the back of the tourbillon is visible, there are a few sandblasted bridges and some finished gears, including the single-barrel power reserve. The movement beats at 3Hz and features a 60-hour power reserve — impressive for a single barrel. While not as interesting as the dial, I would argue that the back of the movement isn’t exactly the what the brand intends to draw your eye to.
Tying everything together is a black alligator leather strap with a simple branded pin buckle. While perhaps not the most interesting strap choice, it works. Personally, I would have opted for a dark gray sfumato-style leather to keep with the overall theme, but I can’t fault the brand since the strap is high-quality, comfortable, and still fits the watch, even if it’s a bit mundane.
I originally covered the Ici et Ailleurs (linked above) last year, and one thing that stood out to me was how much the brand heeded feedback. Many enthusiasts found the Fleurs de Lys handset to be too much and would opt for a more subdued set, if given the choice. And here we are. The traditional hands are a triumph and will hopefully be received well by fans of the brand. The mostly monochromatic, toned-down dial will really allow for Czapek & Cie’s penchant for different finishing materials to shine (quite literally, in this case), and the complications don’t void any visual influence typically associated with monochromatic watches. The look of this watch simply feels uniform — something I haven’t been able to say about the Place Vendôme in the past, and that’s a major checkbox for many collectors in the market for an ultra-luxury watch. The Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Ombres will be limited to 25 pieces, and come with a price tag of $93,000. For more information, visit czapek.com.