August 6, 2015
by Rob Nudds
Like any parent will tell you, one of the greatest joys in life is watching your child mature into a unique personality. The development of a brand is a similar ontogeny that must be just as exciting and intimidating for its owner. It seems strange to consider that the global behemoths likes Rolex, Omega, or Cartier ever had a first watch. We take their universally recognised ranges for granted, as if the brand sprung fully formed from the mind of its founder. This was not the case. The first is important, sure, but the second, and the third, and the fourth… It takes time for consumers to understand a brand, to pigeon-hole it, to digest the message and see it realised in many rather than just one piece. With the Akrivia Tourbillon Regulator, the latest watch in this fast-growing family, it is just about possible to say that the DNA of this small brand has blossomed into a pleasingly homogeneous range.
There are two main things we look for in range consistency: a unique case shape and an identifiable dial arrangement, pattern, or texture. When you put these two things together and just tinker with the complications displayed within this format, the way in which the same old complications are displayed, or the mechanism powering the watch, you can feel confident that your brand will become known by consumers. Rexhep Rexhepi has scored on both fronts. His matte-polished dials are a thing of artisanal beauty – a muted finish achieved by painstaking labour, it could barely be a more appropriate metaphor for class if it tried.
Some may find it dull (although it might be a good idea to reserve absolute judgement until it’s been seen in person), but it is definitely unusual. I am a huge fan of circular grained dials, as seen on some of Thomas Prescher‘s pieces. AkriviA watches take bare-metal backgrounds to the next level. For me, it is a similar, although much more visually appropriate, technique to black polishing in terms of the time and skill it takes to perfect.
The AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator’s simple chapter ring adds depth to an otherwise plain dial. Dots for minute markers as opposed to lines certainly make the dial feel more hand crafted, probably because they are a much easier and satisfyingly profound shape to produce using traditional tools such as a tower or lathe-mounted drill and a dividing head. What is not in anyway easy to produce, however, are the black-polished bevels seen on the sub-dials. Black polishing this kind of angled surface must have taken extreme patience, dead-eye precision, and a lot of trial and error.
But these are the things we have come to expect from Rexhep Rexhepi’s brand. That in itself is a triumph. To so insistently launch a brand at such a level of craftsmanship is a testament to his ambition. One must question, though, how much can one man do? Given the volume and complexity of his current ranges, it seems unlikely the young protégé who leaned at the collective knees of Patek Philippe’s maestros with whom he began his apprenticeship aged 14, does all the work himself. Even if he is forced to delegate some of the responsibilities to others in the present or near future, it is clear that his vision shines through in every component. Even the parts he must invariably outsource are of a high quality and produced by esteemed companies in their own right.
And when we talk of components, how can we overlook that fantastically complicated case? Thirty parts go into housing Rexhepi’s delightfully symmetrical movement. He’s succeeded in creating a consistent case silhouette, but I must admit I love and loathe it in the same breath. I think you should always ask three things of a watch case: Is it identifiable; is it simple; and will it last? The first question is easy enough to answer. It’s also probably the most important. Simplicity is key, because silhouettes stick better than superficial ornamentation (for an example of a case that gets its identifiability from its surface complexity, think Linde Werdelin – then stick a light behind it and tell me what brand it is).
Thirdly – and this one is my number one personal gripe with watch case designers – will a watchmaker be able to refinish it, or is it only good for a few weeks out of the box? There are loads of things that can shorten the lifespan of a case: Coatings that can chip or wear, finishes that require highly specialised equipment or cost too much to make touch-ups viable, materials that chip or deform irreparably, or angles that are unreachable by any logical means.
The case of the AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator is identifiable from the crowd and is also identifiable as a member of its family. The case can be refinished, but only because it is anything but simple. I prefer it this way than no chance of refinishing at all, but 30 pieces is an awful lot for a case (that’s more than half the total components of a standard Swatch Original – even though that’s a quartz, that’s still a crazy stat). That said, he satisfies the first and third of my own personal criteria, so I have to give it a thumbs up, even if assembling each one would drive me insane.
Now, all that successful branding talk aside, let’s look at the in-house movement that has been employed for this AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator. It is a 21,600vph tourbillon with a discreet striking mechanism, a 12 o’clock-located hours sub-dial, a centrally-mounted minute hand, and a nicely blued, generously counterpoised seconds hand set atop a 13.70mm tourbillon cage. The cage itself weighs in at 0.36g and completes one revolution every minute. The balance wheel held within the cage measures 11.60mm across and features an inertia poising system (which is much neater for a balance wheel contained within the confines of a tourbillon cage). Pleasingly, the AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator has 100 hours of power reserve, which helps keep all 229 components ticking away for more than four days off the wrist.
The AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator actually looks bigger in the press photos than it is in real life. It only measures 43mm at its widest point, which is barely over average for modern standards. The 30-part case is water resistant to 30 meters, has front and back sapphire crystals with anti-reflective treatment, is made of stainless steel and is 12.90mm thick. The strap is hand-sewn blue leather and affixed by a hand engraved deployant clasp sporting the AkriviA logo.
Not only does the AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator match its three older brothers in style, so it does in functionality. The hour chime (seen in the above photo at the top of the movement, just above the ratchet wheel and two neat plaques displaying series number and the words “hand made”) can be silenced by the monopusher mounted at 3 o’clock. I am hugely impressed by Rexhepi’s commitment to his brand’s aesthetic. This is the fourth instalment in a watch family that is rivalling the football-playing Mannings for stand-out performers. The case shape is maintained unless deviation from the norm is absolutely necessary, and even then, he has modified it only slightly. Great vision; great design.
What remains to be seen, though, is how many more watches can Rexhepi churn out before this gets old? He’s already shown us his clever eye for diversification, but can it go much further before familiarity breeds contempt? If that’s what he’s got in mind, shifting a few of these units first would probably help! The AkriviA Tourbillon Regulator has a price of CHF125,000. akrivia.com