It seems like it really is only a matter of time before every watch brand in the world has a watch that is some sort of integrated, steel sports watch vibe. It is sort of comparable to every homage brand making Submariner homages, it is almost a right of passage.
The latest brand to jump on the bandwagon is an independent brand that a lot of you may not have heard of, Czapek & Cie. Czapek & Cie have been in business since 1845, and are famed for making bespoke watches with incredible movement architecture. After the founder, Francios Czapek, died, the brand fell dormant for many years. It was then revived in 20101 by a watchmaker named Sebastian Follonier. They had a pretty amazing return to watches, winning the Public Prize at the Grand Prix de L'Horologie in 2016. Whilst they are still fairly under the radar, they are very appreciated in the nerd community and make some pretty cool pieces.
Other models from Czapek
The important thing to note here is that all of these integrated sports watches are facsimiles of the Royal Oak and Nautilus, that's just a fact. What sets them apart is how much originality (I am using that term loosely) brands can inject into the basic formula of the style. There are a few ways that brands can do this. They can experiment with bracelet links, case shapes, and a variety of dial colours. Below are some of the examples of other brands that I feel have done this well.
My two other favourites The Octo Finissimo and the Vacheron Overseas
The Czapek, In my opinion, fits perfectly into this category. For me, whilst you could cynically compare this watch the Royal Oak or Nautilus, I feel like there is more similarity with the Vacheron Constantin 222. There is something about the case shape and the flat wide lugs that gives me 222 vibes. The departure from the watches potential inspiration is the bracelet. Whilst integrated, it features centre-links that certainly are not a homage of any other design. They are highly polished c-shape links, a clear nod to the 'C' of Czapek. A really nice touch that adds a dress feel to the watch, as well as helping to accentuate the taper of the bracelet.
The watch comes in a very well proportioned 40.5mm x 10.6mm case, very wearable, and slim enough to slide under a shirt cuff. Whilst people may say that it is derivitive of the The main collection comes in four dial variations - Secret Alloy, Deep Blue, Black Ink and Burgundy. The dial is a very good example of using negative space well, the dial is very clean, with an unobtrusive date window at 6 o'clock. The markers are an unusual sword-ish shape, with a double marker to indicate the 12 o'clock position.
Photo Credit: Hodinkee
Not only are we getting an entirely new model line of watches, but we are also getting a new movement. Unlike Laurent Ferrier, there is no hidden tourbillion that is going to balloon the price up over £100,000. This movement is a completely in-house, COSC certified movement featuring a micro-rotor which packs 56 hours of power reserve... and all for less than £20,000. If this isn't an example of relative value in watches at the moment then I do not know what is.
Photo Credit: Hodinkee (Again...)
The main collection will initially be launched as a 99 piece collection. I can only assume that this is to test the market before releasing more models over the coming year or so. There is also a special hand-varnished dial variation which is a 10 piece limited edition. For me this watch is aesthetically attractive, innovative with the creation of a new movement, and incredibly affordable given the area of the market that it sits within. Considering at the moment the likes of the Royal Oak and Nautilus are pure unobtanium, not only does this make sense from a brand point of view, it also makes sense from a consumer point of view. Owning this watch is not only a show of how little you care about hype, but it is also a show of an appreciation for independent haute horologie, which for me trumps hype any day of the week.
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