Akrivia and the future of traditional watchmaking
We’re getting close to this year’s edition of Baselworld, the world’s largest watch fair, and since at Dalbiondo we’re all about craftsmanship and beautiful things, it’s time to discover some promising Swiss watch matchers that I recently had the chance to meet.
Today I present you Akrivia and its founder and master watchmaker, Rexhep Rexhepi.
WHO: Akrivia Genève.
WHAT: Exquisite Swiss timepieces, hand-crafted on a made-to-order basis.
WHEN: Established in 2012.
WHERE: The company is based and has its watchmaking atelier in Geneva’s old town.
WHY: Rexhep Rexhepi created the brand out of his passion for watchmaking and understanding of the craft, firmly believing that luxury timepieces can only be created with manual savoir-faire, top of the line components, highly skilled professionals and painstaking attention to the smallest detail. At Akrivia they believe in creating optimally beautiful and innovative expressions of traditional watchmaking.
I’m a passionate amateur of timepieces myself but no watchmaking journalist, with these lines I’d rather try and explain you what makes the brand and their timepieces so out of the ordinary, and how visiting Rexhepi’s atelier in Geneva old town has led me to understand why this brand and its founder’ are often considered the future of independent watchmaking.
First of all, the brand is young and dynamic, as it was founded by Rexhepi in 2012 when he was only 25 years old but already with an impressive watchmaking pedigree: accepted as a trainee at Patek Philippe’s watchmaking school at the age of 15, Rexhep spent 3 years of apprenticeship plus 2 more years working at the manufacture of the famed maison before joining BNB Concept, a workshop focusing on the production of highly-conceptual movements. Three years later he joined F.P. Journe and spent 18 months working side-by-side with Journe and team at the independent watchmaker’s manufacture, before deciding that 10 years spent working for others were enough and that he was ready to write his own story.
Since the establishing of Akrivia, Rexhepi and his team have put their detail-obsessed watchmaking minds to good work and have launched an innovative timepiece every year: a “first generation” series of timepieces centered around a common -and complicated- motif, tourbillons (Tourbillon Chronograph Monopoussoir AK-01, Tourbillon Hour Minute AK-02, Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour AK-03, Tourbillon Regulateur AK-04) was followed by the collection “Akrivia” (Tourbillon Barrette-Mirroir AK-05 and AK-06, the first timepiece to venture beyond the Tourbillon, a release of steampunk inspiration focusing on time-telling without complications and an impressive 100 hours power reserve) and as recently as last year the “Founder’s collection” was born, with the launch of the Chronomètre Contemporain Rexhep Rexhepi, a contemporary interpretation of the officer’s watches from the ‘40s.
A few minutes spent in the company of Rexhep and his team of 7 people are enough to understand that these skilled craftsmen share a common obsession for hand-made timepieces of uncompromising quality: wandering around the boutique atelier with open windows on the streets of the Old Town, one can observe young and passionate faces bent over the island benches that dominate the physical space, each of them working on a single timepiece with a set of ancient tools, re-enacting the gestures of centuries-old watchmaking tradition.
Let me precise this concept once more: every watchmaker is responsible for the assembly and finishing of a single watch at a time. The same person, from A to Z, all the pieces finished and assembled together, by hand, before starting over with a new timepiece.
All the timepieces are conceived, designed and built in-house and the company policy for outsourcing production and finishing is pretty straight-forward: all components that can be embellished by hand are hand finished at the atelier.
Production of parts -which are based on Akrivia’s designs and plans- is outsourced to qualified and trustworthy Swiss partners. To this regard Rexhep adds that they’re considering the idea of acquiring their own machines for the production of parts, in order to improve the workflow.
The name Akrivia is taken from the Greek word for “precision”, and it is precision that defines the beauty and functionality of their timepieces: all of these amazing watches are an evolved exploration of traditional watchmaking and are centered around an Akrivia movement, applying 21st century finesse to traditional construction.
Talking about beauty, I had the pleasure of experiencing on the wrist most of Akrivia’s timepieces, and my favorite is the brand’s latest release: the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain, winner of the 2018 GPHG prize.
Probably because of its more classical tones compared to the previously existing aesthetic approach, and yet still very Akrivia in its functional purity and symmetry, I simply find it astonishing.
Retailing for a fine CHF 55,500 to CHF 60’000, the new Chronomètre is available in white or black grand feu enamel dial with Art Deco inspired asymmetrical gold or blue lines. These lines frame and segment the Roman numbers in a rhythmic fashion, providing the traditionally handmade grand feu enamel dial with a contemporary touch. The large diameter of the sub-seconds counter at 6 o’clock is a tribute to the officer’s watch of the 1940’s.
The novel case of the Chronomètre Contemporain creates a fascinating visual tension through the interweaving of symmetrical and asymmetrical forms, as well as concave and convex details visible in the case sides and lugs. These aspects are enhanced by the alternation of brushed and polished surfaces. Rexhepi has also given special attention to the strap, so that it follows the fine lugs, to allow the design of the case to ‘breathe’ on the wrist. Last but not least, with an eye to modern lifestyles, the case and lugs have been specifically designed to be ergonomic, easy to wear and equally comfortable on large or small wrists.
The Chronomètre Contemporain is officially certified by the Besançon Chronometer Observatory and indicates the hours, minutes and seconds. The movement also features a stop seconds and zero-reset mechanism to allow a precise time setting. As soon as the crown is pulled out to the time setting position, the mechanism implanted stops the balance and instantly returns the second hand to zero.
Visible through the sapphire back case, the new and entirely in-house designed caliber RR-01 embodies all the values Rexhepi cherishes in watchmaking: the attention to every visible and invisible detail, purity, symmetry and functional reduction to the essential.
On the functional side, the brand deliberately provided a very long power reserve of 100 hours with only one barrel.
The RR-01 movement is a landmark of precision, fully embellished with handmade traditional finishing techniques such as anglage, black polish and Côtes de Genève: the final result, a breath-taking design of architectural inspiration, represents months of painstaking work of highly trained and experienced watchmakers.
Akrivia’s actual production capacity hoovers around 35 pieces per year, forcing the brand to turn down A LOT of customers’ requests: Rexhepi’s of course thinking of growth but he want it to be harmonious and in line with the company philosophy, which means that production numbers will always be naturally limited.
The idea of living in an era of social medias and online-driven awareness doesn’t bother him either, as Rexhep still believes in the importance of watch fairs and face-to-face meetings with customers, retailers and journalists.
Only seven years after the establishing of the company, Rexhepi has already built a name for himself in traditional watchmaking and a brand capable of pushing the boundaries of the industry, as Akrivia is knowing a meteoric rise and developing an eager community of watch collectors.
What’s even more impressive is that, having had the pleasure to chat with him, I discovered a down-to-earth person, a master watchmaker deeply in love with his craft, yet somebody with a clear vision, confident in moving forward and capable of gathering a pool of very talented people around his dream: it is no surprise that many seem to be placing the future of independent watchmaking on his shoulders.
What about you, did you already know Akrivia’s timepieces? Do you like them as much as we do?
Enjoy your weekend, beautiful people.