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GPHG - Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève
Czapek & Cie - Spot the difference: Quai des Bergues 33bis

Czapek & Cie Spot the difference: Quai des Bergues 33bis

Watch names in French can often be bewildering for the English speaker. The latest offering by Czapek & Cie. is a good example.

There is a simple logic behind the names of the individual models of the first Czapek collection. The Quai des Bergues in Geneva follows the course of the river Rhone as it flows out of Lake Geneva through the city and onwards towards the Mediterranean Sea. This prestigious street is the original heart of the city’s luxury watch boutiques, before it was replaced by the Rue du Rhône as the place to be in luxury retailing. François Czapek’s original workshop is said to have been located on the Quai des Bergues, but there is no surviving evidence of the exact address. To cover all bases, Czapek therefore chose all the (odd) numbers of the Quai des Bergues for its first collection. But every new iteration requires a name and there are only so many numbers on this prestigious street…

For its latest model, therefore, Czapek appends the suffix “bis” to the name, which for English readers is the French equivalent of 33a or 33b.  A famous equivalent is Sherlock Holmes’s address of 221b Baker Street. Like the detective’s fictional abode, the Quai des Bergues 33bis is also a fictional address (if it existed it would be an annex to the five-star Four Seasons hotel). But what exactly sets the Quai des Bergues 33bis apart from the existing Quai des Bergues 33 model? Well, you have to look closely to figure it out. Both watches have a red-gold case, an oven-fired white enamel dial with a secret signature, both are powered by Czapek’s exclusive hand-wound 7-day movement and have the distinctive subdials that recall François Czapek’s model 3430 pocket watch.

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Both also have intricate fleur-de-lys hands, yet on the Quai des Bergues 33 they are in red gold, but on the Quai des Bergues 33bis they are in “black gold” – a 5N red gold that has a layer of black rhodium plating. The difference may be subtle and barely noticeable, but the very production of these hands is a feat in itself. They are just 0.35mm thick and are hand cut on a tool that has a precision of 0.1mm. And the use of gold is not just to add a touch of luxury: attempts to produce the hands in brass and steel failed because these materials were too hard. Only the combination of the density and softness of gold produced a satisfactory result.

The Quai des Bergues 33bis is one of the finalists in the Men’s watch category in the GPHG 2016. You can also vote for it in the Public Prize here. Although the majority of Czapek watches are sold by subscription as part of the brand’s crowdfunding campaign, the Quai des Bergues 33bis will be available on the day of the GPHG from Parisian retailer Chronopassion.

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The brand

Czapek & Cie. harks back to the origins of one of the watch industry’s most prestigious names, which was born from the watchmaking skills of two Polish émigrés who sought refuge in Switzerland after Poland’s November uprising. 

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