Although integrated bracelet steel sports watches have been in vogue for several years now with almost every brand across the spectrum issuing their own take, the reality is that only a few of them are equipped with movements that are as elaborate as their exterior. In 2020, Czapek & Cie. unveiled the Antarctique, a sports watch in a 40.5mm steel case with an automatic movement that is easily one of the most impressive in terms of construction and finishing both in its price range and across the wider category.
This year, among other launches such as the skeletonized and titanium versions of the Antarctique, the brand has unveiled the Antarctique P.04 “Lanikai” in partnership with Collective Horology, a California based independent watch community and retailer founded by childhood friends Asher Rapkin and Gabe Reilly in 2018. Collective produces collaborative timepieces for both existing members and prospective ones. The Antarctique P.04 is the fourth edition of their Portfolio series, which aims to highlight independent watchmaking.
Limited to 50 pieces, the P.04 Lanikai is one of the most unusual and compelling versions of the Antarctique ever produced featuring a turquoise blue engraved enamel dial made by Donzé Cadrans, the most renowned grand feu enamel dial manufacture in the industry that is now owned by Ulysse Nardin.
The proposal was to design a dial that would evoke Hawaii’s famous coastlines, and it was put forth by co-founder Gabe Reilly, who had studied at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. During his visit to Lanikai Beach, Reilly shared photos of the scenery with CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel and the Czapek team as inspiration and reference. Using these images as a guide, Czapek collaborated with the storied enameler on a multi-year prototyping process to develop a dial that would not only capture the beautiful aquamarine hue of Hawaii’s famed waters but also mimicked the texture of sand and the motion of the waves.
The process begins with a gold dial blank that is initially pressed to form a gentle concave shape. This imparts an impression of depth variation on the dial. Meanwhile, a mold is hand- engraved to create a wave pattern as well as an irregular grained texture, which is then stamped onto the dial. The mold also creates a surface that runs deeper towards the relief lines of the wave pattern, allowing for more enamel to be deposited. As a result of having a thicker layer of enamel close to the relief lines, it achieves not just a wave pattern but also distinct gradients that create the illusion of shadow and light. After the enamel is applied and fired in a kiln, the dial is then sanded. As challenging as it is to create a plain enamel dial, creating an engraved enamel dial like this is all the more demanding, owing to its irregular surface. The team dedicated over a year to perfecting and fine-tuning the process until the final outcome met Czapek’s exacting requirements.
The addition of a seconds hand in a colour reminiscent of sand adds to the overall aesthetic, effectively evoking the feel of the shoreline while also offering a vibrant contrast. Depth- rated to 120m, the steel case is identical to that of the standard production model with a diameter of 40.5mm and an elegant 10.6mm in height. It is predominantly satin-brushed on its top surfaces and flanks, with a polished bevel on the edges of its crown guards, and a slender polished bezel.
The integrated bracelet also has a brushed finish that is punctuated by highly polished C- shaped links. Notably, it includes a micro-adjustment mechanism that enables the wearer to effortlessly increase or decrease its length by a few millimetres on either side, making it convenient to adjust the fit when the wrist expands or shrinks due to fluctuations in the surrounding temperature.
Just as exquisite as the dial is the automatic cal. SXH5 beneath the hood, a sizeable movement that is wound by an off-centered micro-rotor made of recycled platinum. It is elaborately constructed, featuring an architecture that is reminiscent of 19th century pocket watches with finger movement bridges. In fact, there are seven bridges in total, with each wheel in the gear train, along with the escape and balance wheel being supported by individual skeletonised bridges. What’s impressive is that despite having a clear focus on aesthetics, the movement was also designed to deliver exceptional performance. The free- sprung balance wheel is held in place by a full bridge that is secured by a screw on either side, offering greater stability that is especially vital in a sports watch. Additionally, it offers a respectable power reserve of 60 hours on a single barrel and has a frequency of 4Hz, which is higher than a majority of micro-rotor movements on the market that are both smaller and slimmer and therefore have weaker mainsprings. All things being equal, timekeeping benefits from a higher frequency as the balance is more stable in face of increased shocks that a sportier watch would face.
The automatic winding gear train, comprising of reversers and reduction wheels run on ball- bearings, significantly reducing friction and resistance, thereby improving efficiency. A micro- rotor that is made from platinum also helps provide ample inertia. The view of the wheels is satisfyingly dense due to the additional gearing used to achieve central seconds. Beyond that, the movement is also impressively decorated. The base plate of the watch has an anthracite grey coating and a frosted finish. The frosted bridges are designed with a raised lip that is brushed on the top surface and bevelled, with a polished edge. A striking detail is the open- worked finger bridge for the third wheel, which has been entirely black-polished on its surface with polished, bevelled edges. While both rounded as well as outward angles can be achieved using a grinding wheel, sharp inward angles can only be executed by hand, making it a rare sight in mass-produced movements. The said bridge for the third wheel has not one but a total of six interior angles, making it particularly exceptional for a sports watch of its price range.
In all, the Antarctique P.04 “Lanikai” is a beautiful and exotic execution of an already incredibly compelling watch, leaving little room for anything but desire.
Czapek & Cie. x Collective Horology Antarctique P.04 “Lanikai”
Movement: SXH5; automatic; 60 hours power reserve; 4 Hz or 28,800vph Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Case: 40.5 x 10.6 mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 50 m
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with additional calf rubber strap
Availability: Limited edition of 50 pieces; exclusively at collectivehorology.com