Why I Bought It: Rexhep Rexhepi/Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain
Hindsight is 20:20, isn’t it? As I sit here writing at the end of 2021, nothing seems more obvious than having bought one of the 50 available examples (51 if we count the 2019 Only Watch example) of one of the hottest watches of recent times from a maker who is now widely acknowledged as a present and future star of the horological world.
From that perspective, this could have been my shortest-ever article: “well, just because” or “that’s pretty clear, isn’t it?” would have easily explained “why I bought it.” There’s a bit more to it than that, though, and in any event it’s a pleasure to be able to share with you my experiences in acquiring this piece and both wearing and photographing it over the past several weeks.
Why I bought a Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain and how it fits
It’s coming up on five years since I first wrote here on Quill & Pad about Akrivia and its young founder, asking the still-open question of whether the promising signs to date would turn into full-fledged success for him.
I was (and am) a big fan of the Akrivia AK-06 with its slimmed-down take on the brand’s assertively shaped case design, and when I heard that Rexhepi planned to introduce a round-cased watch at Baselworld 2018 I was hoping for an open-dialed piece with the AK-06 movement.
What we saw was a more traditional treatment with a version of the AK-06 caliber, including the zero-reset seconds and 100-hour power reserve features, but with a solid enamel dial. And as I departed Basel on that Saturday, I missed out on seeing the pink gold variant with black dial, which to my eye (with all due apologies to owners of the platinum piece) turned out to be “the one” to have.
The platinum version I did see also had the initial prototype dial lacking the two-layer treatment and accent ring around the subsidiary seconds dial of the production watch. I’ll confess that I wasn’t completely convinced at the time and it wasn’t until November of 2018, after I’d seen a second-generation pink gold prototype in person, that a good friend of mine and I begged our way onto the allocation list of one of Rexhepi’s retailers for the last of the available pink gold pieces.
Fast forward three years, and it was time to take delivery of a long-awaited piece that I am confident will stay in my collection for a very long time indeed.
During those three years, the way that this watch fits into my selection migrated to some extent. At the outset, it was very much a “patronage” piece, bought in support of an outstanding independent maker and his craft. With the growth in recognition for independent makers and Rexhepi’s own continued rise in stature, I think it’s also fair to classify the Chronomètre Contemporain (or RRCC for short) as a foundational piece that can serve as a worthy cornerstone of any collection.
It’s also foundational in the sense of being the reference that collectors see as moving Rexhepi into the upper tier of makers. I’ve now developed a new rule of collection management: whenever possible, never sell a watch that “made” its creator’s reputation.
So far I’ve violated that rule a couple of times, selling my Kari Voutilainen Observatoire (oops) and F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain (double oops). But I’ll think long and hard before allowing the RRCC, Philippe Dufour Simplicity, or Vianney Halter Antiqua out of my clutches – and even have hopes that the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1 will eventually get the recognition it deserves.
Why I love it
Enough about collection dynamics: let’s get back to what’s so great about this watch.
Special delivery: repeat after me: it’s all about the people! If there’s anything better than taking delivery of a new watch directly from its maker, it’s doing so in the company of good friends. And the cherry on top is if one of your pals is also collecting his watch at the same time.
So it was that four members of our “NorCal Gang” ventured to the Akrivia workshop during the 2021 Geneva auction week to meet with Rexhepi and take delivery of two RRCCs. If you’ve never experienced an atelier delivery, one thing to know: you will be treated to a tour of the facility before you sit down to receive your watch.
Happily, I enjoy those tours, and the new auxiliary Akrivia workroom across the street from the original facility in Geneva’s Old Town contains a fascinating array of old-school manual and mechanical watchmaking tools – otherwise the wait would have been almost unbearable. Soon enough, though, we sat down for the formal presentation of our watches and the joy of strapping them on for the first time.
It pops, it glows: there are nice-looking watches, there are crisp-looking watches, and then there are watches that emanate an otherworldly glow. The RRCC falls into the third category, so much so that it became a running joke during the weekend’s slower moments for one of our group’s members to pantomime a “smelling salts” motion as a signal for me to pull up my sleeve and jolt him back to attention.
That special glow extends to the rear of the watch as well. Philippe Dufour once told us that the secret to the glow was the liberal use of curved bombé surfaces throughout to ensure that areas of smooth, bright light were visible regardless of the position of the watch. The RRCC movement has these beveled shapes in abundance, and the other eye-catching finishes including the Geneva stripes, polished sinks, and perlage are also executed to a very high level, adding to the effect.
Working the angles: crisp interior angles are a hallmark of exceptional finishing, and they are everywhere on the RRCC, including both on bridges and plates and on each side of each spoke of the beautifully made wheels. The degree of difficulty on many of the interior angles is increased by the presence of perfectly rounded bevels at the joining points: if making a straight line is hard, making it on a curved surface is an even greater show of mastery.
Just in case: the RRCC does depart from past Akrivia practice by utilizing a round case, but it’s not just any “round” shape. A careful look reveals that the bezel is actually an oval with narrower profiles on the sides and longer ones at the top and bottom to match the eccentric case shape, which is at its thickest at 3 and 9 o’clock and tapers down at top and bottom to blend into the lugs.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to confess that I hadn’t noticed this feature until a particularly observant friend pointed it out to me; and he only recognized it once he had seen a disassembled RRCC case at the Akrivia workshop. It’s a lovely touch that both adds visual interest and is a tip of the hat to the shapes of the earlier-generation Akrivia cases.
I’m also a big fan of the scratch-reducing concave front and rear bezels. Once you start considering the watch at length, things like the subtly tapered crown shape jump out at you as well. And those lugs! Certainly inspired to some extent by classic, stepped Patek Philippe designs but with their own super-smooth profiles.
Dial me up: how did I get this far in without mentioning the black fired-enamel dial? The black-with-pink look is one of the most appealing parts of this watch for me, and I’ve long been a fan of true oven-fired enamel dials. The Greek-temple line that winds over and under the Roman numerals gives a certain flair, and the printing of the indices and logo is in a luscious grainy gold that looks like sugar-crystal cake frosting.
I’m also a fan of the organic shapes of the hour and minute hands, and even more so of the second hand with its cylindrical counterweight. The polished sinks on each of the hands are a treat when seen close-up, in addition to adding to that “glow” I mentioned earlier. While I wasn’t so sure at first that the addition of the gold accent ring around a sunken subsidiary dial for seconds would work for the pink gold version of the watch, I’m now fully convinced about that as well.
Functional appeal: you can’t see the underlying heart-shaped cam mechanism that powers the zero reset of the second hand when the crown is pulled, and the 100-hour power reserve isn’t visibly indicated with a rack-and-spring arrangement as on the AK-06, but both mechanical features are just as much a part of the RRCC as of the AK-06. And while my initial fantasy had been for an AK-06 in a round case, the idea of the mechanical sophistication of that movement hidden beneath a beautiful solid dial has its own appeal.
Symmetry and depth: Rexhepi has taken on symmetry as a hallmark of his design ethic, and it’s very much in evidence in the butterfly layout of the RRCC movement. In addition, even though the watch is relatively thin, the movement gives a real sense of depth with the balance and drive wheels in a recessed area at the bottom of the movement and the thick mainspring enclosure visible at the top.
A proper chronometer: the chronometer certification of the RRCC from the Bescançon observatory was originally offered as an option, but by the time I joined the waiting list my retailer had made it a required feature – which was just fine with me as I would have opted for it in any case. I enjoy having the certification in hand, and while I haven’t done my own timing tests yet I haven’t yet needed to adjust the time on the RRCC during the course of a week to sync back up with the official time.
Satisfying feel: one of the great sensations in our hobby is winding a watch whose keyless works, click, and barrel mechanisms combine to yield a positive feel and satisfying sound. The RRCC, with its straight razor click that brings to mind the similar mechanism on the Dufour Simplicity, passes this test with flying colors.
And it wears great: it’s a great watch, but how is it on the wrist? In my experience, it’s highly satisfying: the classic 38 mm diameter and longish lugs make it sit well, and my watch came fitted with the newest-specification ultra-thin quick-release strap, whose buttery feel makes donning and wearing the watch a pleasure. And when it comes to reading the time and shooting wristshots, the highly effective and seemingly colorless antireflective coating on the crystal makes viewing a snap.
The perfect watch has not yet been made! This one comes very close indeed, but if I’m forced to search for imperfections I’ll modestly suggest the following.
- The black enamel dial is enchanting and free of any pits or inclusions, but at certain light angles displays just a touch of orange peel that places it a notch below the mirror-smooth finish of the Patek Philippe Reference 5370P.
- I’m such a fan of the concept of symmetry as executed by Rexhepi that it did catch my attention when a friend pointed out that the shapes of the black-polished balance cock cap and the corresponding third wheel bridge that mirrors it on the other side of the center line of the movement are somewhat different in proportion, as you can see at bottom right in the image below. Having stared at it for a while, though, I’ve concluded that the third wheel bridge is correctly shaped for its included jewel and its interior angle and beveling are so killer that I don’t really care.
- Is it a Rexhepi or an Akrivia? Both, it seems, if the crisp logo on the dial and sharp engraving on the movement are to be believed. I’d prefer that the “classic” watches from Rexhepi carry only his name or that the Akrivia name be promoted at some point to refer only to the organization rather than the watches, but now that I’ve confessed that publicly I suspect that I will spend zero seconds the rest of my life thinking about it.
Is it right for you?
The short answer: if you love excellent watchmaking and want to own a foundational piece by a brilliant artist who will be delighting us for years to come, it’s right for you. A couple of reasons why you might choose otherwise are as follows.
- You are a dyed-in-the-wool sports watch wearer and don’t have anything in your collection that approximates the RRCC in form or style.
- Current owners aren’t selling, and when they do it seems pretty clear that they will be demanding substantial sums for their pieces – and you feel that your hard-earned cash is better spent on several watches that in aggregate give you more pleasure or in searching for the “next Rexhepi” whose pieces haven’t yet achieved broad acclaim.
And, of course, one final question
How does the RRCC compare with the legendary Simplicity from Philippe Dufour? I promise to consider that topic in depth at some point in the future, but for now I’ll leave you with one final photo to whet your appetite as you consider the question for yourself.
For more information, please visit www.akrivia.com/watch/chronometre-contemporain-rexhep-rexhepi-2.
Quick Facts Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain
Case: 38 x 9.5 mm, platinum or pink gold with polished concave bezels and case band; oval front bezel and eccentric profile case band; front and rear sapphire crystals with antireflective coating
Dial: black (pink gold) or white (platinum) fired enamel dial with recessed subsidiary seconds dial surrounded by gold or platinum ring; printed indices and logo
Movement: manually wound Caliber RR01 with 100-hour power reserve; 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency; chronometer certification carried by Besançon observatory
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking subsidiary seconds with zero reset
Price: CHF 55,000 (gold), CHF 58,000 (platinum)
Limitation: 50 examples in total (25 platinum, 25 pink gold) with one additional watch with custom dial and JP Hagmann case made for Only Watch 2019
Production years: 2018 to 2021