This archetypal modern dive watch is showing the big boys how it's done...
Formex was established in 1999 by two Swiss brothers with roots in high-end watch manufacturing. Lead by a dynamic young CEO Raphael Granito, early Formex designs were fuelled by his passion for watches and a love for extreme sports such as skydiving, downhill skateboarding, and surfing. The brand name derives from the unique shapes generated by all forms of such sport FORme EXtrème (extreme shape).
Fast forward to 2021 and Formex’s comprehensive range covers the needs of most watch enthusiasts whether you require an uncomplicated, ultra-modern, carbon fibre chronometer for a black-tie event or a rugged chronograph partner for critical timing during intense sport or adventure.
The company produced a 200m diver watch in their formative years which is no longer available. It is fair to say that their early underwater offering was an extreme design indicative of an era where big-was-best and sport watches had a distinctly “Point Break” feel. However, their new REEF could not be further from this concept. It is a fully mature creation which sets a strong benchmark for all forthcoming Formex watches bearing the new logo.
The commercial decision for a watch company to introduce a new 300m diver model is not something done lightly. The primary goal and challenge are originality and at all cost’s worthy designers try to avoid being influenced by veterans like the Rolex Submariner and Omega Seamaster.
However, there is a complication. To use a motorsport analogy, there is a reason all F1 cars look the same. The laws of physics and aerodynamics are fixed for every team. To do the job well, parallel race car evolution is inevitable. And a parallel problem is applicable to serious diver watches. They must have certain design characteristics to function in a professional environment. The challenge is how to make those characteristics look exciting, fresh, and unique.
Fortunately, ‘exciting’ is a concept hard-wired into the very fabric of the relatively new watch company Formex, and their 2021 new edition REEF 300m Diver is no exception.
The Formex Reef - What it does
The 42mm REEF takes all the expected design characteristics of a 300m diver and gives them a healthy dose of reimagining. And let us be clear, this is not reinventing the wheel. The design of the REEF is genuinely a step forward in the overall look of professional diving and outdoor watches in this price bracket (and beyond).
Your new watch is configurable via Formex’s online boutique. This ever more popular purchase system allows you to see, and ultimately choose strap, bezel, and dial combinations to create your prefect watch. Through the anti-reflective sapphire crystal, four dial colours are available including green, blue, grey, and black, all of which have an iridescent, hand-applied, Dégradé finish. WatchGecko had the cobalt blue model on test which looks by far the most aquatic. The dial has a real depth to it which is reminiscent of the colours seen on a deep ocean dive and the raised indices and logo add to the three-dimensional feel.
There is much play with light on the dial and from every angle, it looks subtly different. The model name REEF announces its presence under the hands in a bold font. Attention to detail has clearly been paramount to the Formex design team, even down to a stylish recessed date window.
Stubby 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 indexes for low light visibility in a blue glow. The sweep 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 distance.
As we move out past the dial the diving bezel is possibly the most striking 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 which is surprisingly legible when you consider that the markers on the ring are not differentiated by colour. The bezel is available in blue, black, steel, or green.
As we explore deeper on the REEF the steel case back is a simple design with an engraving showing the new company logo proud against a stylised wave pattern, surrounded by the traditional essential technical information of the watch. Well protected by the 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 allowing it to slip effortlessly under clothing – not a design characteristic all manufacturers of serious dive watches manage to achieve.
The watch is supported by an extremely comfortable retro-style steel, flat link, bracelet (nicely reminiscent of a vintage Seiko SQ) or alternatively a very flexible branded rubber strap
Both straps feature propriety buckles with patented, highly effective, fine-adjustment clasps. Also, both are of the quick detach variety with mechanisms allowing swapping without tools. A key change to this watch is that Formex have reverted to lugs which accepts standard straight spring bars rather than their propriety curved bars as found on the Essence. Of particular note is the fit of the bracelet end pieces to the watch case. It is outstanding with not a fraction of a gap and zero play.
The watch wears as well as it describes. At 90g it is not particularly heavy when you consider the Omega Seamaster 300m starts at 110g+. The bracelet and rubber strap are both high quality and there is nothing to choose between them. The micro-adjustment clasp is a very welcome addition making the watch extremely viable for hot and humid conditions.
Watch Straps for the Formex Reef
Whilst the REEF comes with highly competent straps there is always room for a style change and here are some suggestions:
ZULUDIVER Vintage Tropical Style FKM Rubber Watch Strap
While diving with the REEF why not consider the new ZULUDIVER Vintage Tropical FKM Rubber watch straps. These models were created to pay homage to the original tropic straps that were sold with dive watches back in the 1960s with a tapered tail with a squared end, classic style keepers, and that signature tropical texturing. This classic package comes in highly resistant FKM rubber with modern quick-release spring bars, and a premium ZULUDIVER stainless steel buckle.
SEAQUAL® Upcycled Fabric ZULUDIVER Watch Strap in Black
A modern watch like the REEF requires a modern outlook on materials. ZULUDIVER has made this strap using SEAQUAL® responsible manufactured woven fabric which is made from upcycled marine plastic found on the ocean floor and surface. The lining material is made from apple skins and core waste recovered from the food industry. Fitted with quick release spring bars, this eco-friendly watch strap makes it easy and quick to change. Currently available in 20 and 22mm lug widths and a choice of 3 colours, black, dark blue and khaki green. The watch strap has a 2mm taper in width to the buckle end which is fitted with a solid stainless steel pin buckle, which is etched with our ZULUDIVER logo.
Premium ZULUDIVER Bond Herringbone Military Nylon Watch Strap, Satin Hardware – Grey/Blue
No diving watch looks out of place on a Bond-style strap and the REEF would be set well against the Premium ZULUDIVER Bond Herringbone. Made from high strength seatbelt nylon webbing and fitted with premium-grade stainless steel satin hardware, which includes the ZULUDIVER etching on the buckle and the keeper at 6 o'clock. The nylon we have used on this range is silky smooth providing a softer feel, and its reflective iridescent quality means the colours seem to change when seen from different angles.
Things we would change.
At this point in a review, we would traditionally proceed with the “what would we change” section but in truth no obvious improvements spring to mind. Therefore, if you are in the market for a 300m diver watch then the Formex REEF demands your attention and it should definitely be part of your consideration process. As with all recent Formex watches it is well priced for the specification and we can confidently say that that the REEF will be a worthy challenger in a competitive genre.
Conclusion and personal perspective
I have said it before and will continue to maintain it. Formex is a brand to watch. Their design gurus seem to have found the sweet spot between highly functional professional watches and contemporary Avant-Garde aesthetics. The company rebranding in 2020 was a critical step in the next stage of Formex’s evolution. It was a brave move as there is always the risk that change will alienate existing fans, but the transition has been done with sophistication and clearly much thought. The creation of the company’s first logo allows that symbol to appear on case backs, strap buckles and the inevitable merchandise.
The REEF represents a seed change for Formex, and it is a thoroughly impressive foundation to take the company to the next level. We will be there to follow every step.
We’d like to thank Formex for sending the Reef to us on loan. The Formex Reef is now available starting from £1,520. To find out more and to order your very own be sure to head over to the Formex website here.
As always, many thanks to Markus at Formex for the loan watch and technical advice.