Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake
Last year, I had the chance to have a short chat with one of Czapek’s three founders. Straight away, I asked him the query I always do when I don’t really understand a brand, ‘Can you tell me a little about this effort, why it needs to exist, and what it means to you?’ I was genuinely shocked by his response, which without a hint of sarcasm started, ‘Well, around 2012 we noticed that the name was available and there wasn’t any IP around it yet.’ To this day, I still don’t know if that’s the greatest or most terrible response possible. Definitely one of those and refreshingly honest. But, along with the fact that Czapek were definitely having the most fun at this event/had consumed the most alcohol, I got a feel for what the Antarctique is all about. These guys aren’t stuffy. They’re not weighed down by history or tradition. And the only thing I believe they genuinely give a fuck about is great watchmaking. Which shows.
For any brand these day’s it’s only a matter of time before something integrated will appear. But in 2020, when Czapek debuted an integrated sports offering, there was no tradition to build on except Sébastien Follonier’s watchmaking education. That proved more than enough, however, as his previous employer was none other than Greubel Forsey. It kind of makes sense, then, that Czapek executed in the movement to a standard very few upstarts could match: an in-house micro-rotor automatic with elaborate hand-finishing of six interior angles, skeletonized finger bridges, rotor made of recycled platinum, variable-intertia balance, and COSC certification. It really is a fantastic, brutally futurist bit of work.
But then the design didn’t let that movement down. The 40mm case is surprisingly thin, mostly dial, and with very sculptural scalloped sides. That, and the upside-down-U link bracelet with contrasting finishes really works on wrist. This Passage de Drake was released shortly after debut with a very deeply textured dial here in an icy blue, fit for the name. The Antarctique is a watch which forces me to think differently. What’s really important in a great watch? History? Finishing? Movement architecture or complication? Secondary market values? If your sense of import derives less from tradition and more from blind ambition, there’s a decent chance you’ll find the Antarctique as intriguing as I do. This, the Octo Finissimo, and Moser’s Streamliner are all doing integrated watch design a bit differently. They actually deserve the overused word: irreverent. And I’m glad they all exist, even if I am going to buy a 222 instead.
Like you’d expect of a watch made last year, there’s almost no wear. It’s in great nick. It comes with its full set, from a well-regarded Genevan retailer.