First Impressions: Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Antimagnétique for Only Watch 2023
Rexhep Rexhepi releases a magnetism-resistant chronometer with an impressively and elaborately constructed movement.
Having mastered the art of excellence in a time-only watch with the RRCC I, Rexhep Rexhepi went on to release the RRCC II for Only Watch 2021, which while still being time-only, incorporated an independently driven dead seconds. Continuing with this same approach of time-only watches that shoot for the sky in their quality of design and finishing, the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Antimagnétique (RRCA), made for Only Watch 2023 and unveiled a day ahead of Geneva Watch Days, proves to be exceptionally impressive, exceeding expectations on many levels. The watch is cased in steel and features a brand-new movement with a seconds reset function, along with a highly elaborate indirectly driven central seconds.
Rexhep drew inspiration from the antimagnetic watches of the midcentury, which was an era marked by discoveries in places like the Earth’s poles and within the burgeoning field of nuclear plants as well as rapid technological advancement and industrialization. In response to the challenges posed by environments rich in magnetic forces, antimagnetic watches featuring soft iron Faraday cages or antimagnetic escapements surfaced to serve the needs of professionals traversing these magnetically charged settings. This wave of watches introduced notable models such as the Rolex Milgauss, engineered to endure magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss, alongside offerings like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic, the Omega Railmaster, the IWC Ingenieur, and the Patek reference 3417.
The RRCA showcases a sector dial featuring an inner hour scale composed of alternating blocks, symbolizing the contrasting polarities of a magnetic field. Though it appears to be a classic glossy gilt dial, it is in fact executed in Grand Feu enamel. The hour and minute scales are engraved on a silver dial base and filled with gold enamel before undergoing the firing process in an oven. The hands are all made of solid gold and are attached to their own steel hubs that are beveled and polished.
At 38 mm by 9.9mm high, the RRCA retains the same diameter as the RRCC I and II but is slightly thicker. For reference, the RRCC I measures 9.5mm while the RRCC II is 8.75mm. This is due to the method with which the RRCA achieves an indirectly driven central seconds as well as the case construction. The case is made of antimagnetic stainless steel, distinguished from standard stainless steel by its specific alloy composition, providing increased resistance to magnetic fields. It represents one of the few instances of antimagnetic steel cases made by the Jean-Pierre Hagmann workshop and the first for Rexhep Rexhepi. Within the case is a movement ring and dial made of ferritic stainless steel, forming a Faraday cage that protects the movement from magnetism.
Composed of 30 parts including individually soldered lugs, the case features a multi-stepped bezel that is finished with alternating polished and brushed surfaces and is accompanied by long and slender chamfered lugs. It also has an outer screw-down steel back that can be completely removed to reveal the movement through a sapphire case back.
The movement within has been meticulously attended to with the same level of dedication evident in the dial and case. It has a very unusual centre seconds construction for a movement that was built from the ground up, and was clearly intended to recall the earliest centre seconds movements in watchmaking, which were indirectly driven. One of the earliest examples was the Patek 12-120 SC which was converted to a central seconds by installing three additional gears driven off the fourth wheel, with the intermediate wheel supported by a pivoted lever.
Such solutions in time-only movements are rarely seen in modern watchmaking today as most central seconds movements are designed with a straightforward approach, using a directly driven seconds hand (where the fourth wheel is positioned directly in the center) or an indirect approach that takes height into account particularly for automatic movements (such as having the third wheel drive a pinion for the central seconds). Rarely are these many wheels added from the very beginning, if not to recall an earlier time in watchmaking history.
With the mainspring barrel located at 12 o’clock under a large barrel bridge and the great wheel underneath in the centre, the RRCA movement incorporates three additional wheels that sit above the path of the gear train with an extension wheel at four o’clock mounted directly on the pivot of the fourth wheel. It’s hard to see from the pictures but a setup of this nature, or any auxiliary train in a movement for that matter, requires the use of tensioners to minimize any potential backlash.
Each of the three additional wheels are supported by their own bridge; the second wheel in the auxiliary train is secured by a full bridge that sits a level below those supporting the first and third wheels. Additionally, a traversing bridge supports the balance wheel at six o’clock, resulting in a satisfyingly dense construction. As such, the escapement appears to adopt a sideways lever for compactness, which is made of 14k gold. The balance pivot has a circular, black-polished steel hub that is secured by three screws – a traditional design commonly found in movements prior to the invention of shock absorbers. It is an attractive detail but naturally, the balance also incorporates a shock absorber.
The mirrored bridge at eight o’clock supports a lever that pushes against a heart cam on the pivot of the central seconds wheel when the crown is pulled out, returning the seconds hand to zero like in a chronograph. As usual, the movement was designed to demonstrate the highest level of finishing. It preserves the symmetrical layout found in the RRCC I and II, with a polished, rounded steel bridge taking center stage. This bridge gracefully ascends at its center to accommodate the zero-reset mechanism.
All told, the Chronomètre Antimagnétique for Only Watch is an incredibly fascinating proposition, distinguishing itself, in its aspirations and execution, not only amid the assortment of timepieces contributed to the charitable auction but also within the collection of watches crafted by Rexhep Rexhepi/Akrivia and within the wider watch world. It has an estimate of CHF 100,000 – CHF 150,000 but if recent performance is anything to go by, these numbers will add up to very little.
Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Antimagnétique for Only Watch 2023
Movement: Manual winding with hacking, zero-reset seconds for precise time setting; protected by a Faraday cage formed by a movement ring and dial made of ferritic stainless steel; frequency of 3 Hz or 21,600 vph; 72-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and central seconds
Case: 38 mm by 9.90 mm (excluding sapphire crystals); stainless steel with screw-down outer case back; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Black enamel Grand Feu with stainless steel hands
Strap: Ripstop Fabric
Price: Estimate CHF 100,000 – CHF 150,000
FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date|
|Case||41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m|
|Dial||Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices|
|Strap||Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp|
|Limited Edition||Limited edition of 50 pieces|