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Edzilla

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En lekker artikkel fra The Edge

 

Edzilla

Community Manager
Støttemedlem
Reg.
5. september 2011
Innlegg
10.115
Sted
Oslo
Meet Rexhep Rexhepi the maverick force in Swiss horology
Not only does Rexhep Rexhepi have the coolest name in the world of watchmaking, his timepieces – superlatively complex and made in his small workshop in Switzerland – are highly sought-after by the horological cognoscenti. Aged only 33, Rexhepi is one of the youngest success stories in Swiss watchmaking and, what’s more, the first in his family to step into this rarefied world. He did so with a bang, too: Rexhepi’s very first release in 2012 – under the brand name AkriviA, from the Greek word for ‘precision’– was a tourbillon monopusher chronograph he had made from his home workbench. An audacious feat of engineering, the piece defied all expectations of a debut watch – somewhat akin to a fledgling rocket engineer rolling out a Falcon 9 from his shed.

Since then, Rexhepi has produced many more high-tech marvels, including a chiming jump- hour tourbillon (the AK-03) and the non-tourbillon AK-06, which created a big buzz among collectors upon its release in 2017 because of an open-worked dial that showcases an ingenious power reserve system. More recently, he released the award- winning neoclassical Chronomètre Contemporain (below) with its grand feu enamel dial – the first watch that bears his own name in place of the AkriviA signature.
The earliest release was bought by friends of Jean-Claude Biver for the watch supremo’s 70th birthday. (A legend in the industry, Biver – who now serves as non-executive president of LVMH’s Group Watch Division – is credited with reversing the fortunes of numerous luxury brands, including Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith.) As a new independent watchmaker – Rexhepi and his team of nine produce just 30 timepieces a year, each taking around three months to complete – this is the ultimate industry accolade. But then, Rexhepi learnt from the best: aged just 15, he was accepted onto an apprenticeship scheme at Patek Philippe where he spent three years learning the ropes of this prestigious marque, from assembly to decorative techniques such as perlage.

Rexhepi’s passion for watchmaking was ignited after a significant life change: born in Kosovo and brought up by his grandmother, he was forced to flee his war-torn country at the age of 11 and move to Switzerland to live with his father, who encouraged his son’s fascination with watches, though not always when it came to his own: “I loved the soft ‘tik-tok’ of my father’s Tissot watch – I would take it while he was sleeping, just so I could observe it. I just couldn’t understand how it worked. I tried to open it on various occasions, which caused a few arguments!” he laughs.
Inspired by Geneva’s many manufactures – “In Switzerland, you are surrounded by watches,” he says – the young Rexhepi was a star pupil at Patek Philippe. “The amazing thing about Patek is how specialised each workshop is,” he proffers. “You learn so much and in such detail, from watch assembly and intricate adjustments to the complex restoration of components.” Being inquisitive, he got itchy feet soon after his three-year stint: “I realised I was drawn to experimentation. I wanted to work across various areas of watch assembly, which just wasn’t possible at Patek.”

Rexhepi was hired by the now-defunct BNB Concept, a specialist in high-end movements, known especially for its innovative tourbillon complications. “I stayed there three years, working on some really fascinating prototypes,” he says. “Building and developing movements, well, it was pure engineering, which is what I have always been drawn to.” Rexhepi had one more dream to fulfil after this: to work for François- Paul Journe, widely regarded as a genius in the modern watch world. Once again, the young wunderkind made this a reality. “Working for François-Paul Journe was a revelation, because not only did I witness his craft but I also learnt how he managed his workshops and how he worked across many products with his team. When I left, at the age of 25, I felt more like a ‘man’,” laughs Rexhepi.
“I decided to branch out on my own, but it was a slow, organic process. I made my first watch, but I realised fairly quickly that I had no structure in place to make more. The first step was to get my work seen, so I showed my watch to as many journalists and collectors as I could. The feedback was really positive, but you can’t build a reputation quickly – I had a lot more to prove before I was able to make any sales. “In fact, I made my first sale two-and-a-half years later in 2014. At 25, you don’t really think about the obstacles, which I’m grateful for, because I just stubbornly pushed on regardless! But when I did sell that first watch, something clicked into place. I pledged to always stay true to my gut feeling, to always make watches that I feel personally connected to.”
There are a still more goals to reach: AkriviA does not yet produce all components in-house, although last year Rexhepi introduced case-making to his marque’s repertoire. “Every year, I work towards bringing more and more in-house, because it gives you so much more freedom as a watchmaker. Very soon, hopefully within a year from now, we hope to be totally independent.” So, are the mechanics of a watch more sacred that its decoration? “As a watchmaker, my drive is to create compelling movements, but if you have a beautiful movement in a watch that doesn’t aesthetically captivate people, it is no good to anyone,” says Rexhepi. “For me, the finished product must be a work of absolute harmony.”
 

Edzilla

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Years on the Wrist – Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain
by Firmin Li

The Rexhep Rexhepi Chronometre Contemporain (or RRCC as it’s affectionally known by fans and owners), is perhaps one of the most coveted and heavily praised artisanal independent watch releases in recent years. So what is it like, you might ask, to own and wear one on a daily basis? Is the ‘magic’ still there? What is there still to add that hasn’t already been said?
As with all artisanal ‘indies’, the people involved are just as important as the watches themselves. It is fitting then, that I first tell my story of acquisition and the people involved before addressing the other matters.
Credit: Haoming Wang (@h.m.uhren)
The story begins just before Baselworld 2018, in one of his usual unannounced visits to Sydney, I was able to catch up with Mike Tay of The Hour Glass to discuss our shared interest in independent watchmaking and the recent developments in the area. Rather excitedly he mentions that he’s been working together with Rexhep Rexhepi of Akrivia on something special. Rex, as he mentions, is a classically trained watchmaker (having worked on the benches of Patek Philippe and FP Journe), so it would be fitting, then, for him to create a classically styled and sized watch. Rex, he adds, should also be proud of his work and feature his name on the dial for the first time. Following the discussion, I’m shown a glimpse of an early dial render with Rexhep Rexhepi in golden font and an outline resembling the emblem of the Galactic Empire.
Credit: (@initialjh)
Fast forward a few months, the RRCC was launched to much acclaim at Baselworld and I hear that a couple of close friends are interested in the watch. It is their interest and subsequent commitments that perhaps is a testament to the appeal and success of the project. For one friend, whose collection is rather diverse (ranging from Richard Milles to Seiko Gundam Tunas) and always focused on practicality and ease of daily wear. He had long admired the work of artisanal independent watchmakers but it was always a case of “oh that’s nice but I don’t think I would be able to wear it everyday”. With the RRCC’s small case (a 38mm watch that perhaps wears closer to a regular 36/37mm watch would) and ability to complement casual/ streetwear, this seemed something more fitting for him than any other piece before. The other friend, was a collector of more avant-garde watches, having previously treasured many of Max Busser’s creations, the RRCC would be his first ‘classically’ styled dress watch. As such, not only was the RRCC a new venture and experience for Rex, but also to two close friends.
Credit: (@initialjh)
In late 2018, we are treated a lovely surprise dinner with Rex and Annabelle, organised by The Hour Glass, during their visit to Sydney. In the subsequent days, I got a chance to catch up with Rex at a brewery to better understand his thoughts as well as his ambitions. Rex seemed to be inspired by his mentors in the industry (notably Francois Paul Journe) and was brutally honest about his own work, pointing out the flaws of the prototypes that he had brought along and identifying areas of improvement in both finish and processes. He further explained, that we would be able to see these refinements in the final production pieces. These discussions, slowly morphed into an hour-long lecture on anglage, as well as the perceived difficulties of different types of angles, including the much studied interior angles, as well as sharp exterior angles (horns). He went on to explain that the most difficult areas of finish were where shallow inflection points were created from a convex curve meeting a concave curve. It is evident after this lecture, Rex placed much thought into the architectural layout of his bridges, which allow for a showcase of all the different types of angles including the aforementioned shallow inflection points.
Credit: (@initialjh)
At the time, Rex mentioned that our watches were ready for testing at Besançon Observatory and should be due for delivery before Christmas. Unfortunately, as we headed into early 2019, delays started to occur in the testing process (something out of Rex’s control) and only two of the three pieces were ready in May. This came to the dismay of my friend, who, being the first to commit to an order, was originally scheduled to be the first to receive the RRCC. His watch would not arrive till later that year.
Despite this, and in good spirits, the friend came along to the presentation and delivery of our pieces. It was during this delivery that we got our first look at production improvements. The most notable included sunken sub-seconds with an additional metallic ring to improve dial depth. The movement, as promised, was vastly refined in its finish and stunning to stare at.
Credit: (@initialjh)
What about my experience with the watch after a year of ownership? Is the magic still there? I can unequivocally say yes! In the year of ownership, I ended up wearing the watch on most days, and sometimes would exclusively wear it for months on end. The small size and profile of lugs means the watch hugs your wrist in great comfort. Visually, the subtly concave bezel helps to further reduce the apparent size.
Credit: Haoming Wang (@h.m.uhren)
The RRCC has a few facets and quirks that I find interesting. First, and most prominently, is the texture of the dial. This is perhaps more apparent in black variants which, under most circumstances of indirect light, it appears as a glossy smooth surface, much like a piano. However, once there is direct overhead light (in similar circumstances that make the numerals of the Chronometre Bleu float) you quite evidently see the almost organic grainy textures of the enamel dial, which adds to the charm of the watch. This, coupled with the reflective and very subtly curved profile of the hands, is a joy to behold.
Credit: Haoming Wang (@h.m.uhren)
Despite being a time-only watch, the RRCC is wonderful to interact with. The well-proportioned crown engages what I like to call the ‘one-minute chronograph’ (zero reset seconds), winds butter smooth, and with a satisfying click. Rather curiously, unlike most other movements, there is no defined stop in the winding stem once the mainspring is wound. Otherwise, other small quirks include a notable lack of Besançon’s famed ‘Viper Head’ seal (as stamped on most watches tested at the Observatory); Rex explains that snakes are deemed unlucky in Albanian culture. Finally, the RRCC seems to feature a rather novel lightweight escape wheel that somewhat resembles Rolex’s Chronergy system. Hopefully this points to further development in this area of watchmaking for Rex.
Credit: Haoming Wang (@h.m.uhren)
The RRCC then, a project initially conceived to reinvent the Akrivia brand, seems to be a great success and a showcase of the young watchmaker’s ability and determination. The recent collaboration and integration of legendary case-maker Jean-Pierre Hagmann inside the small Genevan Workshop hopefully means further steps will be taken to ensure that all watchmaking processes will eventually occur under the one roof. It will be exciting to witness the developments for Rex, along with his brother Xhevdet, and for the Akrivia brand in the years to come.
Credit: Haoming Wang (@h.m.uhren)