Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC II): Despite Looking Similar to its Predecessor, Everything is New
In one sense this story has taken me about a year to write. I visited Akrivia’s workshop in the summer of 2021 in the hopes of getting some information and a glimpse of the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II as founder Rexhep Rexhepi had announced a one-off piece of the successor to his wildly successful Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain (aka “RRCC”) for Only Watch 2021. I didn’t get to see any drawings or a trial dial at that time – Rexhepi is very careful about showing his work too early – but I did get a tour of the workshop and a long conversation.
It is worth noting that the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain is the watch that sealed the reputation of both Rexhepi and his creative brand Akrivia in the minds of collectors as belonging to the tip of the independent pyramid, perhaps one day even becoming a successor to the legendary position that Philippe Dufour holds. That’s a big shadow to be in, and those are very big shoes to fill. But Rexhepi does it with grace and composure, as always.
The Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain, introduced in 2018, won the Men’s category at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. No other watch by Akrivia had even made the final six in a GPHG category until that point.
Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC II): similar, but different
This summer, I once again stopped in at Rexhepi’s workshop in Geneva’s Old Town for a chat and a few pictures. The watch had been launched, and I was more than ready to see it!
It’s hard to find someone who is simultaneously as humble and as sure of himself as Rexhepi. I feel like he has known who he is from day one and has done everything possible to follow his path without apology – but also without stepping on toes or making a fuss. He just does it. And this is how we end up with watches like the RRCC II in our world.
The most important thing to know about this watch is that it seems the same as the model it’s replacing, but definitely is not the same. It’s similar to the original RRCC in one respect only: the way it looks from the front, crisp (as GaryG would say) and traditional with nothing confusing or “progressive.” I mention the word “progressive” because Rexhepi’s brand Akrivia is normally all about being progressive. On its debut in 2018, the RRCC was a major deviation in Akrivia’s style, which is why it was given its own line – the “Rexhep Rexhepi collection.”
It’s entirely like Rexhepi to not be satisfied with just repeating something, even if that something was beyond successful. So, aside from its looks, this watch is different in big and magnificent ways. “Built on the same principles, but taken to the next level,” as Akrivia’s press release aptly describes it.
The very classic design of the RRCC II’s dial finds its roots in Rexhepi’s vision of high-quality nineteenth-century pocket watch dials adorned with high-fire enamel combined with a modern twist based on “sector” dials of the 1930s and ’40s.
Like the predecessor RRCC, there are two variations of the RRCC II to choose from. This time they are platinum with black enamel dial and pink gold with white enamel dial.
Let’s start with the outside. The high-fire enamel dial also has a recessed subsidiary seconds dial, but on the platinum version the enamel is translucent grey over the same hand-engraved gratté pattern that we found on the one-off piece auctioned at Only Watch 2021. That watch, by the way, was the sixth-highest earner of the charity auction, bringing in an incredible 800,000 Swiss francs for the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The white enamel gives the pink gold variation a dreamy quality thanks to its translucence, which is pleasing in all the right ways.
The pink gold variation boasts another detail that takes a trained eye to see quickly, but one I noticed immediately: the stainless steel hands, which are heat-treated in Akrivia’s workshop, are not tempered the usual way (of course not), which would give them a cornflower blue hue, but rather heated to just 800°C so that they are purple instead of blue. The hands of the prototype that I handled had an interesting color, not quite full purple, which is why my eye was drawn to them so quickly.
Another dial differentiation between the first and second editions is the absence of the gold ring around the recessed subdial for a more seamless look. The hour markers are also slightly “heavier” to give them more presence.
Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC II): the case
There is another big difference in the habillage of the RRCC II that no one will see from the outside: this time it is in the eccentric “round” case (that is actually slightly ovoid), a hallmark of the RRCC line.
This starts with the announcement that Akrivia took over the case workshop of Jean-Pierre Hagmann in September 2019. Hagmann, a Geneva original, still makes his cases by hand. And Rexhepi was very interested in harnessing that knowledge for his own handmade watches. So Hagmann agreed to stay on and teach the young watchmakers at Akrivia what he knows. Win-win in my book.
RRCC II is therefore the first serial beneficiary of handmade Hagmann cases that come from the heart of Akrivia’s workshop and whose manufacture is overseen personally by the master. Though they might not look like it, these cases comprise 15 individual components that are individually soldered to the case band. “The case was one of the most challenging parts of the new watch,” Rexhepi said with a smile. “It took us almost two years just to put the workshop in place!”
They are more refined than the cases of the first edition – Rexhepi explained that the cases are designed to be both modern and timeless – though spotting that is perhaps difficult for the casual observer; it is a slight redesign made to perfect overall proportions. According to Rexhepi, it resulted in having to tweak every single aspect of the case, making it wholly new. “None of the components are interchangeable between the first and second editions,” the 35-year-old watchmaker explained.
Even the sapphire crystal has a slightly more pronounced dome. And the lugs, which were widely lauded on the first edition for their shape and smooth profiles, are now slightly elongated on the RRCC II for a more graceful downward sweep. “The bezel is oval but the case is round,” Rexhepi explained, “but it follows the lugs perfectly.”
The crown has become slightly larger for easier grip – which I can attest to – a very sensible tweak.
Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC II): Caliber RRCC02
But now we come to the meat of this watch: the entirely new caliber that is equally as focused on chronometric precision as the first model was. “This was the hardest part of the new watch,” Rexhepi admitted to me as we discussed the RRCC II in his peaceful conference room while I handled prototypes of the two new watches. “This movement represents evolution, but not better than before,” he explained in an excited way, obviously proud and happy to finally be talking about the new watch after such a long development time.
Symmetry is a hallmark of Rexhepi’s work, and in keeping with this Caliber RRCC02 is outfitted with two gear trains and twin barrels, all arranged symmetrically to ensure a precise and consistent motion of the deadbeat second hand, which makes one jump per second – much like the motion of a quartz watch. That hand has center stage in its own subsidiary dial and is very much the star of the show, as it should be on a chronometer.
Driven by components called a flirt and a star, the chronometric precision of the second hand is powered by its own gear train, thereby eliminating energy drain on the timekeeping and regulating organ, which also has its own gear train. This results in unbelievable accuracy, even if it seems like a lot to get there.
Rexhepi told me that since 2018 he has been working a lot on the balance wheel and inertia in particular; Caliber RRCC02 therefore has a new free-sprung variable-inertia balance, the gold standard for especially precise movements.
The amount of work done by hand that goes into this movement is astounding, mainly because Rexhepi’s workshop uses traditional hand-driven equipment like lathes and milling machines to make components. These are authentically handmade movements.
Then there’s the finishing. The base plate and bridges are made of German silver, a notoriously difficult material to work with. These components and all others are hand-finished using traditional techniques including Geneva waves, perlage, black-polished steel parts that include screws and the balance bridge, and polished countersinks for jewels and screws. The anglage includes inside angles, which is most stunningly illustrated by just the wheels of the dual gear trains, which have hand-polished bevels on the spokes, resulting in 140 inner angles!
The overall result of all this is an incredible lightness that becomes apparent when you look at the back of the watch, which is very justifiably entirely transparent to reveal every square millimeter of the gorgeous movement – a movement that is absolutely radiant, glowing with honesty and talent. Even my own pictures of it still strike me this way.
To list all the various new elements of the RRCC II as they relate to the movement of the RRCC here would be a somewhat uninteresting exercise in “Spot the Difference.” But the main distinction is the addition of the deadbeat function to seconds that already hack and reset to zero when the crown is pulled and the second gear train that powers it with the goal of more accuracy. Going to this much trouble to make an already very accurate watch even more precise is pretty astounding for a watchmaker and a brand who are experiencing the degree of success that Rexhepi’s Akrivia is currently experiencing.
The Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II is limited to just 50 pieces each – a total of 100 watches – which will take Akrivia a few years to complete. And the workshop has been inundated with requests for the watch. “The demand is about 20 times more than we can accommodate,” Rexhepi confirmed.
If you’re not one of the lucky potential buyers allotted an Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II, you may want to see what Akrivia brings out next. I think we may be graced with another edition from the super-interesting AK series, but we’ll have to wait to find out if that’s true. Rexhepi wasn’t spilling the beans this time. But I’m sure by my next visit, there could be a bit more to tell.
For more information, please visit akrivia.com/watch/chronometre-contemporain-rexhep-rexhepi-2.
Quick Facts Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II
Case: 38 x 8.75 mm, platinum or pink gold
Dial: black oven-fired enamel dial with recessed subsidiary seconds dial in translucent grey enamel over a hand-engraved gratté pattern (platinum case); white enamel (pink gold case)
Movement: manually wound Caliber RRCC02 with 82-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, twin gear trains, German silver base plate and bridges, free-sprung variable inertia balance
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking deadbeat subsidiary seconds with zero reset
Limitation: 50 pieces in each metal
Price: CHF 125,000
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