Up Close: Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain “Only Watch”

Simple pleasures.

Independent watchmakers are a major presence at Only Watch 2019, accounting for almost half the 50 lots in the charity auction coming. Importantly, two of them will probably end up in the top five by value – the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue and the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain “Only Watch”.

While the Astronomic Blue is the most complicated wristwatch F.P. Journe has ever made, the Chronomètre Contemporain “Only Watch” is a time-only watch, with a suitably modest estimate of 40,000-60,000 Swiss francs, though it’ll probably sell for five to seven times the low estimate.

Hammered, and enamelled

The key element that sets the “Only Watch” edition apart from the standard Chronomètre Contemporain is the dial.

Completely unique because of the technique – used here for the first time in an Akrivia watch – the dial combines the surfaces finish of Akrivia’s two distinct collections: the hand-hammered decoration of the contemporary AK line and the vitreous enamel of the classic Rexhep Rexhepi range, named after the brand’s founder. Several attempts were required to get a perfect dial – Rexhep showed me one of the rejects with a cloudy finish in September – but the result is quietly impressive. Note that it is hammered and then enamelled, but not hammered enamel.

Ordinarily a new dial colour doesn’t mean very much, but because the Chronomètre Contemporain regarded, and Rexhep has kept his promise not to do variations or custom orders of the watch, the Only Watch edition is special.

In addition, the hammered, enamelled finish will not be applied to any standard production, or even limited edition, watches in the future, according to Rexhep. It might, however, be used on future unique creations for a special event, especially one for a good cause, like a future instalment of Only Watch.

The contours and surfaces of the enamel dial before it was installed in the case

Captured at Akrivia in September; the difference in colour is due to the lighting

At arm’s length the hammered finish is not evident; the dial just seems faintly textured, like a finely surfaced stone. Only up close are the tiny, irregular but fine hammer marks visible.

It’s a serene dark blue with white markings that are hand-painted fire enamel. Though the design of the dial is identical to that of the standard model, the enamelled markings are slightly taller. That, combined with the translucent enamel surface, makes the dial markings more prominent.

The dial was made by the same artisan responsible for the fired enamel dials on the standard Chronomètre Contemporain, Emaill’Art. Located just across from the newly built Patek Philippe building in Plans-les-Ouates, the artisan does work for numerous prominent brands large and small, including Chanel, F.P. Journe, Laurent Ferrier, Vacheron Constantin, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

J.P. Hagmann

Aside from the dial, the other distinguishing feature of the watch is the platinum case. The case pictured, however, is a prototype, though the final case will be almost the same.

Design-wise the final case will be identical to that on the standard model, save for minor tweaks to the shape of the case back. More importantly, the case is the very first production case completed by Jean-Pierre Hagmann since he joined Akrivia in June. In fact, Mr Hagmann only finished the case recently, which is why it was not ready for the Only Watch world tour.

One of the leading case makers of the 1980s and 1990s, the 78 year old was the maker of choice for complex or unusual cases.

His clients included Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, while his best known work was probably for Patek Philippe, for which he produced the cases for Star Calibre 2000 and various minute repeaters, including the ref. 3974 and ref. 5029.

The platinum ring that eventually formed the case back of the Chronometre Contemporain

The “JHP” hallmark on the back of the lower left lug

Now Mr Hagmann will be making most, and eventually all, of Akrivia’s cases, which were previously produced by a local supplier. The combination of the two, Mr Hagmann’s case and Rexhep’s watchmaking, is a poetic encapsulation of Geneva craftsmanship past and present.

And everything else

The key point of appeal for the Chronomètre Contemporain is the finely decorated movement, and it remains identical, save for the “Only Watch” engraving on the barrel bridge.

The movement decoration of the Chronometre Contemporain has improved markedly since the prototype, which is evident here as well. Amongst other things, the Cotes de Geneve is more lustrous, and the edge between the striping and polished bevels is more defined.

But being a movement that was completed in a hurry so it could be included in the Only Watch world tour, the movement does show some dirt and lint. But fear not, Rexhep will clean the movement before it reaches it final owner.

The price

The estimate for the Chronomètre Contemporain “Only Watch” is derived from its retail price of 58,000 Swiss francs. It’ll surely sell for more, but I hope not too much.

The likely outcome in between 200,000-300,000 Swiss francs, and probably towards the higher end of the range, which is the ballpark for comparable watches from more established names in independent watchmaking – namely the Philippe Dufour Simplicity and Roger W. Smith Series 2.

Less wouldn’t do the watch justice, but at the same time, a price substantially higher would be too much. Firstly, it would set too high a bar for a relatively new brand that was started only in 2012.

Next, it would not make sense for it to surpass the Simplicity, still the gold standard in this narrow segment; Rexhep is sometimes dubbed “the next Philippe Dufour”, but he isn’t there yet.

The Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain “Only Watch” is estimated at 40,000-60,000 Swiss francs, and it’s lot 49 in the auction that will take place on November 9, 2019, at Christie’s in Geneva. For more, visit Onlywatch.com.

Correction October 25, 2019: The case pictured is a prototype; the final case will be installed just before the Only Watch auction.

Update November 11, 2019: the unique Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain sold for 360,000 Swiss francs, with no fees since it was a charity auction.

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