What We Know
Ten years ago, a young watchmaker named Rexhep Rexhepi decided he wanted to do things his own way. Only 26 years old at the time, he left his comfortable job as a watchmaker for F.P. Journe and established his own company and workshop, named Akrivia, after the Greek word for precision. Ten years later, and a lot has changed. Now 36 years old and the leader of a thriving 13-person team, Rexhepi has become one of the most hotly discussed watchmakers in the world, generating international acclaim for his dedication to artisanal handcraft, his incredible eye for finissage, and a friendly demeanor that welcomes all to his atelier in Old Town Geneva.
Rexhepi wasn’t an overnight sensation. It took him years of hard work and practice to get where he is today. But if it’s possible to identify a single moment when and where his career took off, it’s easy. Everything changed for Rexhepi and Akrivia after the 2018 release of the original Chronomètre Contemporain, which signified a new, more classical aesthetic for Rexhepi’s watchmaking and eventually went on to win the Men’s Watch prize at that year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Rexhepi has spent the four years since then working on the tough task of creating a sequel to his breakthrough watch, and today we finally have it. Meet the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCCII), an evolution and improvement on the award-winning original in every way.
Announced this morning, the new watch takes nearly everything Rexhepi has learned over the past four years and applies it to the watch that helped make him a star. Available in a pair of 50-piece runs, in either platinum or 5N rose gold cases, the Chronomètre Contemporain II features an updated case as well as an entirely new movement with a dead-beat small seconds mechanism that ticks in one-second increments in the six o’clock sub-dial. The reengineered and improved manual-wind caliber in the RRCCII does, however, retain the zero-reset seconds mechanism of the original Chronomètre Contemporain, as well as share a similar overall architecture that emphasizes visual symmetry.
“I wanted to do something aesthetically the same but totally different,” Rexhepi told me recently, when I interviewed him for a feature profile in the next issue of HODINKEE Magazine (which goes on-sale, tomorrow, June 1, 2022). “The first Chronomètre Contemporain had hours, minutes, and seconds, and the second still only has hours, minutes, and seconds – but it’s twice as complicated as the first.”
The cases are each crafted at the company’s new casemaking workshop, overseen by the legendary specialist Jean-Pierre Hagmann (who formerly crafted cases for prestigious names such as Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and Patek Philippe), who was persuaded out of retirement by Rexhepi in 2019, and who now, at the age of 81, leads a small team at Akrivia that focuses on crafting cases by hand on antique machinery, the traditional way. Compared to the first edition of the Chronomètre Contemporain, the case of the RRCCII has been tweaked and improved. It’s now crafted out of 15 total components, with a slightly thinner profile that measures 38mm × 8.75mm (without including the domed sapphire crystal), and features elongated lugs soldered to the caseband and an upsized crown, for ease of grip when winding the movement.
If you aren’t closely examining the Chronomètre Contemporain II, it would be a fairly easy mistake to confuse the RRCCII for its predecessor. The dials, after all, are still crafted out of delicate grand feu enamel, in either white (for the gold case) or black (for the platinum case), with a layout that riffs on the classical look and feel of mid-century officers’ wristwatches, featuring alternating Roman numerals and what I’d describe as a “sector-adjacent” dial orientation.
Outside of the dial color and the case material, there are two further slight differentiators between the two RRCCII options. You’ll notice that the slightly sunken small seconds register on the black grand feu enamel dial, seen above, has a slight texture to it, while the sub-dial on the white dial is expectedly smooth. This texture is actually a pattern that the Akrivia team describes as “gratté,” hand-engraved on the base enamel surface before being coated in a layer of translucent grey enamel. (The gold retaining ring found on the small seconds of the RRCCI has been removed this time around.) The steel hands are another notable area of difference between the two options – they’re tempered to a unique purple hue on the rose gold example, while remaining untreated and polished on the platinum watch.
What We Think
For those with an appreciation for high-end independent Swiss watchmaking, today’s announcement of the Chronomètre Contemporain II will likely be one of the year’s highlights. The greater watch world has been patiently waiting for Rexhepi’s next move since 2018, and I think the Chronomètre Contemporain II is effective and successful in its role as a sequel watch.
It takes what made the original Chronomètre Contemporain such an interesting and attractive timepiece, and improves every aspect of the case, the dial, and the movement.
I hope to dig a bit deeper into the more technical aspects of the new RRCCO2 caliber in a future Hands-On story with the watch, which I unfortunately have yet to view in the metal, but it’s worth noting that the addition of the new dead-beat seconds mechanism was no simple task. Rexhepi effectively built an entirely new movement from scratch, adding a secondary gear train and mainspring barrel that drives the jumping seconds system, in combination with a star-and-flirt mechanism, ensuring that the energy required to power its dramatic one-second tick has zero impact on the movement’s chronometric precision and operating efficiency.
The movement’s free-sprung balance wheel was even given a slight makeover; it’s now fixed with a total of eight inertial and four poising screws that enable more precise regulation. The Akrivia team goes so far as state that, compared to the movement in the RRCCI, the new design of the balance wheel operates with 60 percent more inertia, while the new mainspring format delivers up to 40 percent more torque, allowing the watch to maintain a more consistent timekeeping rate over longer periods of time.
On the topic of movement decoration, it’s inherently difficult to determine the quality of a hand-finished movement without examining the watch for yourself, so I hesitate to dwell too much here until I have that opportunity, but I did want to point a few things out, especially the following figure that has been emphasized by the Akrivia team. Each of the wheels found in the watch’s dual going trains, they say, feature “hand-polished bevels on their spokes and inner edges, resulting in 140 inward angles across the wheels of both trains.” (Emphasis mine.) Wow.
Outside the labor-intensive hand-decoration found on those minuscule gears, the watch features a number of finishing techniques that we’ve come to recognize as Rexhepi’s characteristic style. Just look at the sheer amount of bombé-style anglage on the bridges, limited only by the sweeping sharpness of the interior angles; it almost feels indulgent in its beauty and extensiveness. I believe the presence of visible black-polished steel elements in the movement has also clearly increased, which I’m sure provides an attractive bit of contrast against the silky côtes de Genève waves that are spread across the bridges. If you can’t tell, I simply can’t wait to inspect every visible element of the movement with a loupe.
The visible improvements on the case, movement, and dial of the Chronomètre Contemporain II all represent just how dedicated Rexhepi is to perfecting his particular horological perspective. Where a less confident watchmaker might have felt the need to go in a vastly different direction and make a big splash as a follow-up to the original Chronomètre Contemporain’s success, Rexhepi decided he wasn’t finished with his award-winning watch; he knew he could still make it better.
And that relentless drive for perfection is what makes me – and so many others – so excited for Rexhepi’s future.
Brand: Akrivia // Rexhep Rexhepi
Model: Chronomètre Contemporain II
Reference Number: RRCCII
Thickness: 8.75mm (excluding crystal)
Case Material: Platinum, or 5N rose gold
Dial Color: Rose gold case, grand feu enamel in ivory with markings in black enamel; Platinum, grand feu enamel in black with markings in ivory enamel, with seconds sub-dial in translucent grey enamel over a hand-engraved gratté pattern
Indexes: All markings on dial are fired enamel; printed in liquid enamel before being set through the firing process
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Calfskin, with two-tone finish, hand-stitched in Geneva, and attached to matching platinum or 5N rose gold pin buckle
Functions: Hours, minutes, dead-beat small seconds, zero-reset seconds
Power Reserve: 82 hours
Frequency: 3 Hz // 21,600 vibrations per hour
Additional Details: 214 components; Swiss lever escapement with solid banking studs; Free-sprung, adjustable mass balance with eight inertial and four poising screws, fitted to a balance-spring with Breguet terminal curve; 15-component case crafted with traditional methods and manually operated tools, including restored antique equipment, at akrivia under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Hagmann; each case features “JPH” hallmark on the interior of the lower left lug
Pricing & Availability
Price: On request
Availability: Through Akrivia
Limited Edition: 100 examples to be produced; 50 in each case metal
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You can learn more online, at Akrivia. You can also learn more about Rexhep Rexhepi and Akrivia in Vol. 10 of HODINKEE Magazine.