Rexhep Rexhepi of Akrivia, the winner of GPHG 2018 in the Men’s category, talks the new product line, his love for traditional techniques and complications, and ‘one watch – one watchmaker’ philosophy.

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How many people work at Akrivia and how is your day-to-day work organized?

We are a team of 5 watchmakers including me and my brother. We have one technical engineer who works on the movements and the watch construction overall which is all done in-house. Then we have one person assisting me with all aspects related to logistics, sales administration and foremost the daily clients’ and press requests. A small and highly efficient team.

Is there such thing as Akrivia DNA?

Akrivia is about bringing watchmaking to its essence of artisanship, precision of timekeeping, but also in the execution of the handwork. Everything which can be embellished by hand is meticulously enhanced. Basically every watchmaker is meant to decorate, assemble and regulate his watch from A to Z: one watch – one watchmaker. That’s what makes our job so fascinating at Akrivia and I want everyone to be capable of doing any work required as a qualified watchmaker.

Why have you used Rexhep Rexhepi logo on the dial of Chronomètre Contemporain and not Akrivia’s?

I chose to launch a new product line with a more classic approach, and it bears my name on the dial while the movement is signed Akrivia. So now we basically have two product families: Akrivia for contemporary designs and Rexhep Rexhepi for the classics.

The Chronomètre Contemporain is a time-only piece, but still it’s full of technical tricks like single barrel 100-hour power reserve, second-hacking function and so on. What was the inspiration behind it?

I love the old marine chronometers and I wanted to create a contemporary interpretation of a wrist marine chronometer. The other root of inspiration comes from my love of officers’ watches from the 1940-50’s with their refined lugs and so nicely rounded shapes. I love the idea of adding subtle technical details which are making sense in terms of function, such as the stop seconds and zero-reset which allow for a precise time setting. Using one barrel and putting it on a pivot with a ruby to avoid friction is again a technical feast for watch connoisseurs.

How much does it usually take from the first sketch to the first fully assembled piece?

Months…. in some cases, years. I need to reflect a long time on each single aspect and when the first piece is assembled the creative process is not finished yet. Once you see the watch in the flesh you start seeing small, intricate details, and they really make the difference.

What’s the story behind this perfect symmetry in all of your movements?

I conceive the creative process as integrated. The symmetry for me represents harmony. I think a human eye can be better concentrated on harmonious lines. But I also like to create a tension between symmetrical and asymmetrical aspects like in the Chronomètre Contemporain where the dial is inspired by asymmetrical elements and the movement but still is totally symmetrical in the design of the bridges. The bezel is however asymmetrical and concave, with a nicely rounded sideline.

How do you manage your time between production and designing new timepieces?

The creative process is ongoing so it’s difficult to quantify. But I spend a lot of time working at my bench on my own, this is the place where I’m the happiest man in the world.

Do you take some suggestions/bespoke orders from your clients?

Of course, I do that, but based on our own criteria. Whatever I do, must be in line with my product philosophy and I would never compromise on that. The idea is that a bespoke or made to order timepiece has to be genuinely unique.

What aspect of watchmaking technique, complication, concept, etc. currently seems the most appealing to you and why?

My goal is to perpetuate traditional techniques and complications. I innovate in the way of how we apply all of this horological heritage. My latest timepiece the Chronomètre Contemporain is a fine example of this philosophy by its chronometrical essence.

We frequently ask masters to give some advices for starting up watchmakers. This time its especially valuable as we’re talking the time when the industry was more or less similar to its current state. Can you name three biggest mistakes or misconception every young watchmaker should avoid?

First of all, I would like to say that each watchmaker has to find his own way. One advice is to stay humble and consider that you can learn every day. Secondly always try to understand why something is done in a certain manner, before trying to change it. And last but not least: try to take inspiration from experienced people, because they have a lot to share based on their experience.

What was the best profession-related advice ever given to you?

Always try to improve your work at the bench.

What do you consider the most beautiful or meaningful horological invention of the past and why?

The tourbillon by Abraham-Louis Breguet was probably the most disruptive idea at a time where his fellow watchmakers – at least most of them – would be satisfied with the existing movements. A tourbillon escapement is also a spectacular mechanical ballet and it still has a meaning and a purpose.

Can you name the wildest watch design you were totally won over by in recent years?

F.P. Journe Vagabondage 3 is technical and audacious in terms of display. It's a treat for the eyes.

Are you a collector yourself? If yes, tell us about your general preferences and your current grail.

My collection consists mainly of the prototypes that I have made for Akrivia, but I also own a few other watches. My grail would be Philippe Dufour Duality. For me Philippe Dufour is the perfect example of independent watchmaking, in terms of quality, exclusive production and keeping its own identity.