A titanic battle at 300m
The design of a genuine 300M diving watch is not something you conceive overnight. Despite the challenges, there are many models on the market but as a minimum, they must be qualified to ISO 6425 to be classified as authentic diving watches. But what does this actually mean?
First published in 1982, now issued under a subsequent amendment dated 2018, ISO 6425 sets out the technical requirements a watch must satisfy if it is to be considered water-resistant to 100 meters where the absolute water pressure is 11bar or approximately 160psi. To put this in context for non-divers the average car tyre pressure is just over 30psi.
The principal aim of ISO 6425 is to clearly differentiate between truly capable underwater tools and watches that look like dive watches but have little or no capability.
Other than being able to resist water, technical characteristics 6425 watches must exhibit are:
- A 60 min diving time indicator, such as a rotating bezel, that's protected against accidental manipulation.
- Legibility at 25 cm in the dark for at least 180 minutes after exposure to light.
- Overpressure test to 125% of the stated pressure capability
- Magnetic Field, impact shock, saltwater, thermal shock, and external force testing
The criteria are far more stringent (and wordy) than these bullet points, but in essence, the main role of 6425 is to allow you to buy a capable dive watch with confidence.
Which neatly brings us to the two watches under consideration here. They both fully meet ISO 6425 specifications, yet they are offered at vastly different price points, with the Formex REEF retailing for £1740 and the Boldr Odyssey for £579. So how can such diversely priced watches both meet the ISO specs and what differentiates them to justify the price gap?
Boldr Odyssey Freediver 202Legibility and contemporary style work together making the 300m Odyssey 202 a watch for all occasions. The 316L case and bracelet are pure Boldr design; evolved beyond so many similar watches on the market today. The striking angular case and textured screw crown are reminiscent of essential scuba equipment. The textured green dial is uncluttered with good legibility; the colour perfectly mirroring the dark green so often seen in the ocean. Blue Super-LumiNova lume applied at all the essential points gives the watch excellent low light visibility and a bright orange second hand allows for accurate timekeeping. The lume equipped 120 click dive-compatible unidirectional bezel is made from ceramic to withstand scratches and long-lasting exposure to water. Flip it over and the Odyssey Freediver has a custom case back depicting the mythological Kraken sea monster, perfectly illustrating confidence to face the mysteries of the deep.
Within the 40mm case beats an anti-magnetic Miyota Cal. 9015 automatic movement with 42 hours of power and Parashock capability. The small diameter of 25.6 mm and height of 3.9mm allow the Odyssey to be a medium size dive watch which is always preferable to larger 46mm offerings if your choice is destined to double up as an everyday watch. 24 jewels and hand-wound capability round off the spec of a decent movement.
The attention to detail follows round to the dive bracelet with the Odyssey being worn on custom 316L stainless steel with quick-release spring bars and screw-pin links.
The Boldr Odyssey Freediver 202 fully meets ISO 6425 and is very competitively priced at £579, especially when you consider the impressive specs that come with this watch (indeed with every Boldr). A generic diver watch this most certainly is not.
Like the Boldr, the slightly larger 42mm Formex REEF Automatic Chronometer takes all the expected design characteristics of a 300m dive watch and packages them in a wholly reimagined product. The look of the REEF is genuinely a step forward in the overall aesthetics of professional diving and outdoor watches in this higher price bracket (and well beyond).Immediately striking, through the anti-reflective sapphire crystal, the green dial has an iridescent, hand-applied, Dégradé finish. Thanks to superior craftsmanship, the dial has a real depth to it with raised indices and logo adding to the three-dimensional feel. There is much clever play with light on the dial and from every angle, it looks subtly different. Attention to detail has clearly been paramount to the Formex design team with no element left unexplored.
Contemporary short hands give the watch a purposeful and strong look showing that functionality and legibility have clearly been considered along with aesthetics. BGW9 Super-LumiNova is generously applied on hands and indices for low light visibility. The sweeping second hand is a lollipop design, again with a touch of Formex flair. The luminous dot is almost right at the end of the hand. In pitch blackness, the dot passes across the luminous indices marking off the seconds with purpose rather than orbiting at a more traditional mid-distance.
The changeable diving bezel is possibly the most beautiful design element of the REEF. It is constructed from Zirconium oxide ceramic which is highly resistant to all elements. The graduations and numbers are engraved by Femto-laser pulsations with each bezel taking an astonishing 60 minutes of precision engraving to manufacture. The recessed bezel base, which allows the numbers to stand proud (but no higher than the watch), is a superb design that is surprisingly legible when you consider that the markers on the ring are not differentiated by colour.
Well protected by the unique design case and a double gasket secure crown beats a self-winding COSC-certified Sellita SW300 25 jewel movement with a custom-built skeleton rotor and thermally blued screws, offering a 42-hour power reserve. This thin, well-constructed calibre allows the REEF to be just 11.4mm in thickness letting it slip effortlessly under clothing.
The watch is supported by an extremely comfortable retro-style steel, flat link, bracelet or alternatively a very flexible high quality Formex branded rubber strap. Both options feature quick-detach mechanisms and propriety buckles with patented fine-adjustment clasps.
The Fomex REEF is in every measurable way a superb watch that genuinely gives the big Swiss brands serious competition when you consider the technical specifications, contemporary design, and price. It also fully meets ISO 6425 and is available for £1740.
Boldr VS Formex
If you were to judge these two watches purely against ISO 6425 the Boldr would, on paper, appear to be the better buy. Fortunately, in the WatchGecko office, we are in the enviable position to be able to hold them next to one another and really see how they stack up.
When you place the watches side by side there is no question the REEF looks and feels the most expensive. There is a high-end lustre to the Formex that the Boldr just cannot replicate. That said the Boldr feels perfectly robust when worn and arguably delivers better value for money than the Formex if you are looking for a decent, dive capable, tool watch. The elephant in the room is that the REEF has a chronometer-certified movement which of course commands the higher price and only you as a buyer can decide whether that really matters. However, when you consider that the REEF, in our opinion, is really giving the Omega Seamaster 300M a run for its money one can argue that the Formex is the better buy. You will certainly struggle to find this level of craftsmanship and style in a comparable watch under £2000.
The truth is that both watches in this comparison are worth owning. Both meet the spec you would need to take them underwater, and both offer value for money within their bracket. If you are in the market for a new Citizen Diver or Seiko Prospex, or even a used TAG Heuer 200M Professional, then take a good look at the Boldr Odyssey. Against those brands, it is a superb and thoroughly viable choice and will really generate interest thanks to its unique looks and impressive spec.
If, on the other hand, you dream of buying a high-end Swiss diver, then dream no longer (and possibly save yourself thousands of pounds). The Formex REEF is one of the most striking dive watches on the market today and when held against some of the sub-aqua giants it really hits above its weight.