Following our 24th June feature on the Limited Edition Formex Essence Space Rock, we were unashamedly excited to get hands on with a promised sample of a new model in the Formex range...
This excitement stemmed from the fact that the watch would be, to many of us, first hands-on with the brand. True to their word Formex delivered and this week we unpacked an equally striking Essence Leggera Electric Blue Automatic Chronometer.
Before we dive into the stunning dial which transports you to the cobalt blue of a deep ocean let us take a quick look at where the watch design hails from and who Formex are.
Established in 1999 by two Swiss brothers as an independent family-owned watch manufacturer, with roots in high-end watch manufacturing, the early team developed platforms to meet high industry standards and equip them with smart engineering features. In the words of the current CEO Raphael Granito, early Formex designs were fuelled by both a passion for watches and a love for extreme motorsport. The brand name derives from the unique shapes generated by all forms of such sport, whether on land or sea, i.e. Forme Extrème (extreme shape). Granito himself is an accomplished extreme sportsman embracing the worlds of skydiving, downhill skateboarding, and surfing so it is hardly a surprise that his watch creations would have an element of the extreme about them.
Paying homage to the unique engineering and mechanics of high-performance racing cars, power boats and bikes, Formex developed the brand’s signature patented Case Suspension System. A cushioning system which protects the watch’s movement and considerably adds to the comfort on the wrist, while giving every Formex a very distinctive, robust look.
The 2020 range is comprehensive and covers the needs of most watch fans whether you require a clean uncomplicated chronometer for a black-tie event or a rugged partner for adventure. The current portfolio offers platforms which are subtle and could be used in a business environment such as the competitively priced Essence Black or models like the bold red Diver GMT with considerably more presence, also very competitive in priced, and would not look out of place on a snorkelling expedition.
Hands on with the Essence Leggera
First impressions are always important and the opening of the Formex leather box did not disappoint. You could almost fall into the dial. It is a compelling deep blue with a sunburst effect that changes light and tone as you look at the watch from different angles. It is hard to take your eyes off it – which is a good start!
As you pick the watch out of the box immediately you are stuck by the lack of weight. For those of us who own titanium watches you will be familiar with how light they feel but the Formex is in a wholly different technical bracket. The 50g case is made of Carbon Fibre Composite and ceramic and entirely developed in-house. The lack of weight makes it easy to wear the watch all day, indeed, it is so light you could forget you have it on.
In a thorough review of this watch it is important to analyse the weight and construction carefully. You may be surprised at the lack of weight and mass and conclude that build quality is in some way lacking. This could not be further from the truth. The Formex Essence is a highly robust and durable watch. In the traditional watch world, there is an association with weight translating into quality. This is a misconception.
The materials used to construct the Formex may be very new to you, but other industries have been embracing this style of construction for many years. I have a lot of experience of an identical situation in the world of military/law enforcement equipment where steel products evolved into lighter platforms made predominantly from fire-glass reinforced polymer. Experienced operators took a lot of convincing that the newer equipment was as robust and reliable as the old. Equally in elite and extreme sports, the use of ultra-light but strong material is commonplace, take for example Formula 1. The use of Carbon Composite is therefore a natural step forward in alternative watch construction.
The bezel and crown of the Formex are made from scratch-proof Zirconium Oxide ceramic which reflects a conscious material and manufacturing choice rather than a more typical DLC or PVD coating, thus ensuring that the watch will always retain its black lustre.
The COSC certified movement is visible through a crystal back and is well finished which makes it worth an admiring glance every time you take the watch off. The rotor is branded (always a nice touch) and the base for the movement itself is a robust Swiss Technology Production STP1-11 with 26 jewels and a pulse of 28,800 vph. It boasts a power reserve of 44 hours and accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per day.
The lume is blue and very subtle. There seems to be two schools of thought in watches today, huge amounts of super-bold lume or the more minimalistic approach. The Leggera is most definitely the latter.
The strap is not required to take any mass of the watch due to the case construction but there has still been no design compromise with the Essence Leggera being presented on a soft but strong colour coordinated fabric which reminds one of ballistic nylon. A full 180º revolution reveals a smart carbon fibre clasp which is branded and perfectly matches the case.
There is one unusual design element, unique with this watch, which is worth flagging up. It comes as standard with quick release spring bars which are curved to give a more precise fit to the strap. Straight 22mm spring bars do not fit in the carbon case. This is not in itself a major issue, but it will restrict what after-market straps you can put on the Essence Leggera. Not all Formex watches have this design characteristic, but it is worth bearing in mind that if you really want a Leggera and are a compulsive strap swapper. However, there is a way to fit our straps onto the watch.
In summary, there is no denying, The Essence Leggera Electric Blue is an impressive package. It is not the cheapest Formex at £1650 but the more you look at it and study it in detail you can really see the justification for the price.
Strap Suggestions for the Essence Leggera
Solza Quick Release
When a watch has a fully black case, it is only a matter of time before a black strap is picked to create an incredible matching combination. The Solza Quick Release Genuine Leather Watch Strap in Black was the strap of choice as the grey stitching subtly picks up on the indices all while keeping the overall look under the radar. Please note that we have removed the quick release spring bars that come with the strap and used curved spring bars. Click here to find out how to remove quick release spring bars from straps.
ZULUDIVER Classic Bond military Nylon Watch Strap
Falmouth Sailcloth Padded Water-Resistant Leather
Keeping the high-end look and matching the black carbon fibre case the Essence Leggera would hold a black strap well so why not consider one as robust as the watch itself with a sophisticated mix of leather and sailcloth. Whether at a social event or surfing this strap will always enhance the watch.
Note: As the Leggera has the afore mentioned curved spring bars these straps were fitted by using spring bars which had been altered by a bar curving tool which can be bought online.
A personal thought:
For those of us lucky enough to review and test watches you often get excited prior to a new arrival and this was indeed the case with the Formex Essence Leggera. I openly admit I had never seen a Formex before this week and during my extensive pre-review research, I identified a strong personal connection with the philosophy behind the watch creation and brand. Of course, there is always the risk that a watch will disappoint, especially when you put high expectations on it, but the Formex certainly did not. Opening any watch box for the first time is a magic moment and this model really was a head turner. The weight and construction of the watch ticked my technical boxes and its capability is all the more impressive given the materials used.
The watch industry is a tough market and it is hard to be genuinely innovative and original. Whilst superficially the design if the Essence Leggera seems subtle the detail elements and construction lift the model far beyond what many others, in a similar price bracket, are producing.
With Formex models beginning at just £375 this is a brand that deserves a much higher profile than it has. If they continue producing imaginative watches to the standard of the Leggera and further develop the cleverly pitched extreme activity marketing angle they will most certainly build an enviable reputation in the watch world.