Visiting Rexhep Rexhepi
A peek into the world of a genius
The horizon, unlike the equator or North Pole, isn’t a static property or location on Earth. It is a local phenomenon, where the convexity of the earth limits visibility distance. If you take a 6ft tall person for example; Their 'visible distance' would stretch just over 3 miles (~5km); whereas a bird flying at an altitude of 1 mile would have visibility stretching about 100 miles in every direction. The point being... when you are unable to see your destination as you travel on your journey, this doesn’t mean it is not there. It simply means that you are unable to see it ... yet.
After speaking with Rexhep Rexhepi, this analogy seems to perfectly describe his approach to living his dream. Rexhep first held a tourbillon in his hands around the age of 17, and in that moment, felt within himself that he needed to create his own. He recalls stealing his dad's Tissot at night, to try and open it up and failing to do so... each time trying to satiate the curiosity he had about the ticking sound coming from within.
Growing up in Kosovo, family values are something ingrained in his heart. What is also interesting about Rexhep's upbringing, is that he and all the other kids he grew up with, used to make their own toys too. They were raised in a creative environment, with a culture of turning their ideas into reality. This obviously fuelled an innate curiosity, to better understand how things worked, before they could be made a reality. This is a useful insight into the man we know today, because it explains a lot about how he got to this point at such a young age.
Rexhep moved to Switzerland at the age of 12, eventually joined Patek Philippe in an apprenticeship which is notoriously selective, and continued working there for a couple of years post-internship. As most will be aware, he also spent some time working under F. P. Journe too. Fast-forward to 2012 and he had taken a leap of faith to start his own brand. By his own admission, he was naïve about what was possible at the time... imagining how he would create a beautiful watch and people would immediately appreciate its beauty and buy it. This wasn't immediately the case, and it wasn't until his fairly recent success at the GPHG, that things really took off. He reflects on how this was a hard lesson, but a necessary one. He repeatedly expresses gratitude for those who supported along the way, for being able to do what he loves daily, and to have no constant worry or fears about keeping the lights on or paying staff. Honestly, for a superstar watchmaker, his humility and self-awareness is truly delightful.
Just to set expectations at this point; There has been a lot of ground covered by others on the history of the man, the technical excellence of his creations, the inspiration for his ideas and so on, so I will instead focus more on my own experience above all else. Here's an old SJX article if you want to start at the beginning and a more recent one on the RRCC2 specifically.
"He has a desire to do things as they were done before"
Jean Pierre Hagmann (speaking about Rexhep Rexhepi)
Quick shout-out to my friend @changingtimes001 who was single-handedly responsible for making this dream visit happen - I can't thank you enough. Of course, a heartfelt thank you to Annabelle and Rexhep, for such generosity with their time, and for hosting us on what I would describe as any horological enthusiasts' wildest dream coming true. This sounds hyperbolic, but I assure you, it is not. Anyway, enough of the soppy stuff!
What became clear to me from the short time I was able to spend with Rexhep, is that every cell in his body is programmed around watchmaking. "I am not a CEO, I am a watchmaker", he said, after discussing how challenging and heartbreaking it is for him to turn so many people away today, now that his work is in the spotlight.
As we talked about the RRCC2, and Rexhep described any particular detail, his face would light up when I replied with a technical question. As he explained that the case alone had 15 separate parts... he smiled when my face lit up in awe of this achievement. Feeding off my excitement, he continued to explain extremely 'unnecessary' technicalities about the dial symmetry, the movement symmetry, the preference of five indices over three ... you name it, and I have no doubt he considered it while designing and creating the watch.
It is therefore unsurprising, that shortly after visiting him, the RRCC 2 was nominated in the Men's category by the GPHG for a 2022 award. I have always been outspoken about the jury mix in the GPHG, and how there are so many conflicts of interest there... but notwithstanding that problem, this is going to win. Deservedly so.
So instead of boring you with a 'play by play' of the visit, which I would encourage you to do for yourself, I think I will share some of my most memorable takeaways following the visit.