The company’s new standalone building in La-Chaux-de Fonds, a hub of Swiss watchmaking, houses a large, light-filled room with windows on three sides overlooking the surrounding greenery. It is the inspiring workspace for a growing team of watchmakers tasked with fulfilling Czapek’s surging order book. How this was achieved in a few years is the remarkable story of a young brand that strategically defied the odds in a competitive market. For a new watchmaker, reaching the five year mark is crucial. It’s when collectors, who often form the backbone of a company’s clientele, can assume that a brand is successful.
Czapek & Cie celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2020. Until that point it had been producing up to 180 timepieces a year. But it now faced a challenge in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. “We had a dramatic choice to make, either pause, like many others, or go into overdrive,” says Xavier de Roquemaurel, the company CEO. “We decided to press ahead, because we realized that watch lovers love watches every single day, and they were looking to see what we were doing!”
The decision paid up. To proceed with the strategic launch of the Antarctique line, de Roquemaurel recalls – almost nostalgically now – having to drive components around the Jura mountains to the Czapek partners who were still working. The company’s fans grew incrementally with each new release of models like the limited editions Antarctique Passage de Drake Roaring Forties or the Viridian Green for Fratello. They were often sold out in a matter of hours. The order books started filling up, too.
For the team leading the company, the acceleration is gratifying: “Until then, our cash burn was like a prairie fire in our backs,” de Roquemaurel remembers. “Now we finally glimpsed green spaces and it ushered in Czapek’s second Golden Age.” This year, the company will be producing up to 800 timepieces.
Growth, however, requires agility and careful handling. To maintain its laser focus on quality, Czapek will continue working with its dedicated manufacturing partners, who are at the high end of the Swiss watchmaking tradition.
At the same time, the company aims to ramp up production at the new workshop. “We will bring in more watchmakers, and, if need be, the building next door is also available,” says de Roquemaurel. The mid-term goal is to be able to manufacture up to 3,000 watches a year. “It’s ambitious, but Czapek has the know-how and now the space to open its next chapter”.