Beyond the Mainstream: Three Independent Watchmakers Redefining Luxury

In the large landscape of watchmaking, while names like Rolex and Patek Philippe capture the limelight, a niche of independent watch brands exists, all of which are filled with unmatched creativity and craftmanship. This article uncovers three exceptional brands, revealing the world of horological artistry that thrives beyond the mainstream. Join us as we explore these hidden gems and the unique stories they convey through their extraordinary timepieces.



In the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, the windows of Rexhep Rexhepi’s workshop – Akrivia – directly face the street, and it is not uncommon for people to stop and observe the watchmakers assemble movements on their workbenches. This openness has a fundamental reason: authenticity.

On March 6th, 1998, war breaks out in Kosovo. Rexhep, 12 years old, must flee his country and join his father in Switzerland, who had been working there for several years already. When he arrives at Geneva airport, he is immediately captivated by all the posters that praise the most beautiful watches in the world. He has indeed arrived in “the Land of Watches.” A fascination that will never leave him.

In 2012, at 25 years of age, Rexhep launches Akrivia – taken from the Greek word for “precision” –. It will take him two years to sell his first model. Until 2017, he still has to subcontract work to keep his small business running. Then, everything starts to open up. Collectors start to take an interest in his work and orders keep coming. This turning point marks Rexhepi’s ascent into the upper echelons of watchmaking. 

His journey culminates in a groundbreaking collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which not only brings a new level of recognition to Rexhepi’s work but also represents the union of traditional watchmaking excellence with contemporary luxury fashion.


LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie @wristcheck


Philippe Dufour

In the 1970s, during the Quartz crisis, when Switzerland’s traditional mechanical watchmaking industry appeared to be facing a severe decline, a few dedicated individuals were striving to sustain this traditional craft.

One of them was Philippe Dufour. Born in 1948 in Le Sentier, a village in the heart of the Swiss Jura mountains known as the birthplace of fine watchmaking, Dufour completed his four-year watchmaking course and joined Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1967. This was a particularly challenging time, as the brand and the wider industry were struggling due to the rise of electronic watches. 

By 1978, Dufour had set up his own workshop. Driven by his passion, he ambitiously aimed to recreate Switzerland’s finest watches from its peak watchmaking era. Soon, he completed his first self-made watch movement. Dufour’s masterpiece was a Grande et Petite Sonnerie pocket watch, a complication that chimes the time passing. However, he needed to find a buyer for his creation. And one day, Dufour receives one of those crazy orders that make a career. Audemars Piguet asks for five Grande Sonnerie movements, which will take him 6 years to deliver. 

This experience will pave the way for his next significant achievement: the creation of the Simplicity, displaying only hours, minutes, and seconds, staying true to the manual craftsmanship tradition of the watchmaking valleys. He built 200 pieces, out of a total of 230 watches in thirty years. In 2020, for the 20th anniversary of the model, Philipps auctioned a special edition numbered 00/20, which ended up selling for a staggering 1,25 million euros.


Simplicity 20th Anniversary 00/20 @hondikee



Take off your watch, set aside your usual thoughts, and picture a world without watches. Imagine no chronographs, no timekeepers, no tourbillons, or digital displays. It is a strange idea, but that’s exactly where Belgian designer Benoît Mintiens started when he founded his innovative watch brand, Ressence.

Originally an industrial designer with experience in designing everything from luxury cars to fine furniture, Mintiens took a new turn about ten years ago. Prompted by a friend’s request to design a wristwatch, he ventured into the precise and detailed world of watchmaking for the first time. It was then that he discovered a particular truth: that most watches are designed in an almost identical way. He considered this as an opportunity. 

Rather than starting with the movement, Mintiens allowed himself to think about the basic functions of a watch. Instead of designing a traditional watch dial with hands, face, and subdials on distinct levels, the founder of Ressence chose to display all functions on a single surface. This design eliminates hidden indices, floating hands, and any other difficulty in reading the time. In this unique layout, each time unit has its own dedicated subdial, creating a harmonious view of time. The dial is also in perpetual movement, with the different subdials rotating around each other, embodying the idea that “On any Ressence, the dial will be different every time you look at it – just like time itself.”


Ressence TYPE 1° Round @La Clessidra


In the world of independent watchmaking, brands like these redefine the art of horology. Each brand brings a unique perspective the world, from Akrivia’s blend of classic elegance with modern design, Dufour’s mastery of traditional techniques, to Ressence’s futuristic approach. Together, they represent the vibrant and diverse spirit of the independent watch world, where creativity and technical mastery come together to challenge the norms and redefine luxury.

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