he design of the Place Vendôme Complicité is as much the result of a chance encounter, a coincidence (do they really exist?), as it is a technical and artistic feat. Human encounters and the sharing of ideas lie at the heart of everything that Czapek does. As a fundamental value, the Maison defends the concept of établissage – the ecosystem of specialised workshops that once defined the entire watchmaking industry; this enables it to choose the most talented, independent specialists in each of the watchmaking crafts, bringing them together – as a conductor would unite musicians in an orchestra – to create exceptional timepieces. For Czapek, suppliers are also partners in creativity and this turned out to be decisive in Place Vendôme Complicité ever becoming a reality.
The idea for the watch was born in 2018 as an evolution of Czapek’s renowned initial models, Quai des Bergues and Place Vendôme; the movement architecture of those pieces translates into a distinctive Czapek ‘face’ with sub-dials at the 7.30 and 4.30 positions on the dial.
While the technical aspect of the double escapement concept fully visible on the dial side and distributed around the centre was fascinating to Czapek’s CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel – and the group of ‘rare people’ who make up the Maison’s inner circle of collectors, investors and enthusiasts – it’s a guiding principle of Czapek that the beauty of a mechanism is as important as the beauty of the habillage – the dial, hands and case. Consequently, the architecture of every Czapek calibre is designed to unite the technical and aesthetic elements, serving and enhancing both in equal measure.
The starting point for Complicité was to respect the dial layout of the original Place Vendôme model – on which the two signature sub-dials form the base of a pyramid, completed by a third sub-dial at the apex. An initial sketch was then designed: the escapements would be at 7.30 and 4.30 and the differential that connects them would be at the 12.00 position, with both escapement trains embracing the centre.
“The real beauty of the idea lies in this way of expressing the double escapement, with the differential at 12 o’clock as a central element,” explains Xavier de Roquemaurel. “And by bringing the mechanism to the dial side and open-working everything, we would also have a beautiful kinetic sculpture.”
However, building such a movement was easier said than done; after a fruitless search for a watchmaking partner capable of reconciling the aesthetics with the technical demands, the idea was eventually put to one side. And then, one day, a story of family and friendship brought it back to life. Paul, one of Xavier’s children, was in the same school class in Neuchâtel as the daughter of watchmaker Bernhard Lederer, and a mutual friend introduced the two fathers. Their encounter led to a friendship, mutual exchanges of ideas, advice and help and, ultimately, resolved the problem, made the new double escapement architecture possible and gave birth to the watch. The name of the new timepiece, Place Vendôme Complicité alludes to this collaboration – as well as to the complicity between two independent escapements working in unison.
The principle of the double escapement regulator is that, with two balance wheels beating independently, and power delivered from a single barrel via a differential, any variation in rate (which may be caused by gravity or various other factors inherent in everyday life) will be cancelled out, thus ensuring greater timekeeping accuracy.
With the double escapement at its heart, Czapek’s new in-house Calibre 8 is manually wound to provide a power reserve of 72 hours, which is indicated on the dial at 6 o’clock between the balance wheels. Two sapphire bridges reveal the entire gear train on the dial side, protected by a box-style sapphire crystal glass.
Dominated by distinctive, triangular bridges from which the balances are suspended, the aesthetic blends modernity with tradition, playing with the colours of different metals of various components while drawing the eye deep into the workings of the movement. Naturally, haute horlogerie finishes abound, with traditional handcrafts complemented by more contemporary decorative finishes – not only on the dial side but also on the back of the movement, where 18 inward angles have been hand-bevelled.
The crown wheel mechanism – a hidden signature of Bernhard Lederer – is integrated into the movement design as a subtle tribute to his contribution to the development of Complicité. As a backdrop to the movement, two dial colours are offered: cool tones of grey that create a subtle harmony with a white gold case for the Place Vendôme Complicité Stardust, and a bolder combination that epitomises Czapek’s more adventurous spirit: deep sapphire blue in a rose gold case for the Place Vendôme Complicité Harmony Blue. The satin-brushing of the flange and index ring contrasts with the matte grainé surface of the baseplate.
Adding contemporary style, the hands are sword-shaped and open-worked, so as not to obstruct the view of the mechanism, and their shape is echoed by the applied hour markers. All are plated in gold to match the case material and tipped with luminescent coating to enhance legibility in low light conditions. In true Czapek style, some almost-hidden details have been added purely for aesthetic effect; for example, looking deep into the movement reveals that the post on which the hands are mounted has been open-worked to create a tiny ‘arcade des heures’ (arcade of the hours).
Inspired by the cases of Quai des Bergues and Place Vendôme, the case – a relatively compact and very wearable 41.8mm diameter – is a distillation of Czapek’s signature iconography, with sharper lines adding contemporary flair. The eye is caught by a dynamic tension between the flowing curves of the case sides and the crisp angles of the deep recesses on the sides of the lugs, the play of light and shadow amplified by a mix of brushed and polished surfaces. Completing the ensemble, an alligator strap that matches or closely complements the colour of each dial is fastened with a gold folding clasp.
“Our vision at Czapek is to be at the forefront of the evolution of modern Haute Horlogerie, projecting watchmaking’s heritage into the future,” says Xavier de Roquemaurel. “The connection with the past remains fundamental but we are expressing it in new ways – with the Place Vendôme Complicité being just the latest example of this philosophy” – a philosophy that is underpinned by the values of precision, creativity, openness, collaboration and the love of beauty. The first two models of the Place Vendôme Complicité will be offered in limited editions of 50 pieces per iteration.