6 Minutes with Rexhep Rexhepi of AkriviABy Darren Ho
To say it’s been a crazy year for Akrivia and its founder, Rexhep Rexhepi (it’s pronounced ‘rǝh-jep rǝh-jep-e’) is to put it mildly. The 31-year-old founder, who’s spent half his life making watches, moved into a new atelier late last year, introduced a new collection bearing his name and won a Grand Prix last month. That’s three for three, business-wise.
Reception has clearly been great, judging from the cheers he received from the crowd at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) awards ceremony. His entry, the Chronomètre Contemporain, won the Best Men’s Watch award, against a range of established big brands and independents. At a lunch hosted by The Hour Glass in Singapore for him, he looked relaxed and confident, but still exuberant about future plans.
Rexhepi is an unusual watch entrepreneur. While most other watchmakers his age are looking at developing highly modern mechanical watches, he’s crafting classical, yet contemporary watches. From the complications he’s designed to the finishing he delivers, it’s clear it is classical watchmaking that he has at the forefront of his mind.
He’s the Alexander McQueen of watchmaking; at age 15, he opted to go apprentice at Patek Philippe instead of continuing with an academic education. He spent three years as an apprentice and two more as a watchmaker, before he left to join the now-defunct BNB Concept. Then he went on to work at F.P. Journe for three years before he decided to establish his own atelier at the age of 25.
Over lunch, he explained how much of a struggle it was at the start. “There’s a lot of pressure as an entrepreneur, when it’s your own name, your own brand,” he said. “I considered shutting things down every two or three months, to be honest. When I started the atelier I was still working on the AK-01 and also taking commissions from other brands. I had to in order to have an income. The atelier was at home, so it was really difficult. In fact, for the first two years, I did work for other brands so I could keep the business going. It was exhausting. As things were picking up, it became more difficult to juggle both so finally I decided to stop the commissions and focus fully on my own brand.”
In the video, he talks about how his pride and youth led him to kick off the brand with the Tourbillon Monopoussoir Chronograph AK-01, which was an incredibly challenging watch to build. “It took eight months to design the watch, and two years to complete the first piece,” he recalls. “I think now that I’m older, I’m more confident and I feel like I need to prove myself less to those around me. That’s maybe why I ended up making the Chronomètre Contemporain, which is a very classic, Art Deco inspired watch.”
He credits Michael Tay, the group managing director of The Hour Glass which distributes his watches in the region, as the man who convinced him to put his own name on the Chronomètre Contemporain. “I think I finally felt confident enough to put my name on a watch, to sign it as my work in full. But Michael was really the one who convinced me that it was the right time to do it, and to have it different from the rest of collection.”
Watch the video and find out more about this wunderkind who will be next to Patek Philippe at the Baselworld fair in 2019. And if you’re going to be at Baselworld, make sure you don’t skip seeing Akrivia.