Czapek was a naturalized Pole of Czech origin. He was born on April 4, 1811 in Semonice (now part of Jaroměř), Bohemia, the son of Jan Czapek and Catherine, née Walaschek. He took part in the Polish November Uprising as a soldier of the National Guard, in Warsaw.
On July 1, 1832, he arrived in Geneva, where he gallicised his name, thus becoming François Czapek. Shortly afterward, he created the firm Czapek & Moreau, along with a certain Moreau, from Versoix.
On October 22, 1836, he married Versoix Marie, the daughter of clock and watchmaker Jonas Pierre François Gevril de Carouge (1777–1854).
Patek, Czapek & Co. (1839-1845)
On May 1, 1839, he was one of the three founders of Patek, Czapek & Cie - Fabricants à Genève. Paragraph 5 of the agreement stated that Czapek was to receive 100 francs monthly, with the profits being divided evenly among the three associates.
During the firm’s first fourteen months of activity, it appears that Patek and Czapek worked alone, perhaps assisted by one or two workmen. They purchased watch ebauches, called blanks, from specialised makers, and bought cases from casemakers. Czapek’s task was that of finisseur, meaning that he performed the final examination, finishing, adjusting, and casing the movements.
As of July 1840, the firm came gradually to employ a half dozen workmen. Several were Poles: Lilpop from Warsaw; Henryk Majewski from Lwów; Siedlecki and Friedlein from Kraków. Approximately 200 watches were produced yearly.
On April 18, 1845, the Patek, Czapek & Cie firm was liquidated. His former partner founded Patek & Co which later became the famous company Patek Philippe & Co..
Czapek & Cie.
Franciszek Czapek established his own company in 1851 under the name of Czapek & Cie. He entered into an association with Juliusz Gruzewski (1808–1865), a hero of the 1830 insurrection (having remained active in politics, in 1863 he was made official agent in Switzerland of the Polish National Government, being responsible for the purchase and transport of arms into Poland). Both men were Protestant, which was rare in the largely Catholic community of Polish émigrés in Switzerland. Many of the Polish clients preferred to give their business to Czapek, believing that, with the arrival in the company of Frenchman Jean Adrien Philippe, Patek & Co. would no longer be the Polish National Manufactory that Antoine Norbert de Patek had intended.
By 1854 Czapek had a shop in Warsaw and in 1860 he founded a subsidiary company on Vendôme Street in Paris. Juliusz Gruzewski’s friendly relations with Napoleon III (1808–1873), French emperor from 1852 to 1870, helped the Czapek firm to become Fournisseur de la cour (Purveyors to the Imperial Court). For unknown reasons, the company was liquidated around 1869.
In 1895, the Great Illustrated Polish Encyclopedia stated that Franciszek Czapek had died in poverty at an unknown date.
Franciszek Czapek was the author of the first book on watchmaking ever published in the Polish language Remarks on the watchmaking for the use of the watchmakers and the public (Słów kilka o Zegarmistrzowstwie ku użytku zegarmistrzów i publiczności). The work was printed in 1850 in Leipzig.
- Tellier, Arnaud, & Didier Chaponnière, Mélanie, Timepieces for Royalty, 1850–1910, by Patek Philippe, Geneva, Patek Philippe Museum, 2005 (192 pp.), pp. 14–15.