At Baselworld in 2018, a well-respected yet relatively unknown 31-year-old watchmaker named Rexhep Rexhepi debuted the Chronomètre Contemporain, an elegant time-only watch with a completely mesmerizing grand feu enamel dial. When I first saw photos of the Chronomètre hitting the internet, my heart started racing.
Not expecting a reply, I submitted a form email on the website of Rexhepi’s brand, Akrivia, to inquire about purchasing one. The Chronomètre isn’t cheap ($60,000 for the platinum version)—however, it was clear to me that this watch had a quality you can’t put a price on. It has an insane movement—which boasts a 100-hour power reserve, among other innovations—and a case design that is smarter and more considered than any I’ve ever seen. It gave me a feeling that no big-name five-figure watch has in a long time.
To my surprise, I received a reply, offering me the last platinum Chronomètre available for preorder. I didn’t hesitate.
Rexhepi was born in Kosovo and moved to Geneva, the watchmaking capital of the world, at age 12. When he was 15, his prodigious talent began to emerge when he apprenticed at Patek Philippe, where he would go on to launch his professional career. In 2012, as a 25-year-old, he founded Akrivia out of his apartment in Geneva. Today he and his small team make only about 40 watches a year.
Rexhepi came to L.A. shortly after our email exchange, and over coffee at my house it became even more apparent how important and special his project is. His philosophy is all about total independence: He answers to no one and is a master of watchmaking from top to bottom. Like good art, his designs are part of the larger narrative of watch-design history. And he’s absolutely relentless—every detail of this watch is thought out and obsessively finished. It’s all the more remarkable considering that Rexhepi is so young. It feels like we’re witnessing the early work of a long-term legend.
When my Chronomètre finally arrived, it was everything I’d imagined. When you put on the watch, it glows. They will always be rare—just 25 made in platinum and 25 in rose gold. But unlike plenty of other pricey, limited watches, the Chronomètre transcends hype and ostentation. Rexhep Rexhepi’s watches are not about that. He’s a true artist, the most rare and special thing of all.
A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue with the title “Pure as the Driven Snow.”