The lure of GMT watches
Overseas travel prior to Wi-Fi and mobile phones was rather exciting. It was an era when commercial aircraft were gleaming silver metal; arguably more visceral as you were totally disconnected from the Earth until you stepped out into a strange new world. By contrast, when an aircraft touches down today you are surrounded by passengers turning on their phones, moaning about a lack of signal, followed by a cacophony of text alerts.
Boeing 377 Stratocrusier - Credit: Wiki-Common-Unrestricted
50 years ago passengers would listen to the Captain professionally advising local time and weather and then adjust their mechanical watches accordingly. I won’t say it was more civilized as that’s slipping into romanticism, but it was definitely more peaceful.
A generation ago part of my landing routine was to adjust the independent hour hand on my Rolex Explorer II. I always kept the 12 hour hands on local time and the red 24 hour hand on home time. It became very important to me as I could occasionally fly between India, Africa and the Middle East all in one trip. The little red hand pointing to home time was my link to normality, to family, and it’s one reason the watch remains important to me now.
Rolex GMT Master II
GMT dual time zone watches have always been technically interesting and the giant that is the Rolex GMT Master has dominated desirability for decades. The ultimate aim was to develop a watch that allowed pilots to change time zones quickly and easily when they landed and reset if they took off for another time zone the same day, while simultaneously displaying home time. There have been plenty of alternatives to Rolex, some equally good, but the heritage of the GMT Master stretching back to the 1950s and the “Pepsi” days of Pan Am present a compelling reason to buy.
But…. why is there is always a ‘but’ with Rolex? With the GMT Master we find ourselves embroiled in a very 2023 problem. Waiting lists, lack of product, significant prices. For example, the cheapest GMT Master II on Watchfinder UK today is just shy of £10,000. Best price for a 40 year old original GMT Master is over £10K. By contrast a one year old steel GMT Master II is £25,000. Regrettably these excessive prices are the new-norm for Rolex but thankfully Formex have a solution for those of us who want an exceptional quality GMT watch without delay or parting with a small fortune.
Background to the Formex REEF
One of the standout watch brands over the last few years has been Formex. This is not WatchGecko talking as the UK agent for the brand. Read any other independent review of the Formex portfolio and you will see the same observations. Outstanding watches, beautifully made, imaginative contemporary designs and competitive prices.
The Formex REEF - Image credit: Formex
The original 42mm Formex REEF Diver has been a hugely popular addition to the range. It takes all the expected design characteristics of a professional 300m diver and gives them a healthy reimagining. Through anti-reflective sapphire crystal, iridescent Dégradé dial colours including silver, green, blue and grey are reminiscent of the ever changing tones of the ocean and the blocky indices, hands and logo give a three-dimensional feel.
The REEF bezel is possibly the most striking design element. It is constructed from Zirconium oxide ceramic which is highly resistant to all elements. The graduations and numbers are engraved by femto-laser pulsations and all bezels are interchangeable by hand with no tools required to give your REEF an alternate look. 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. This thin well-constructed calibre, with a 56 hour power reserve, allows the REEF to be just 11.4mm in thickness.
Introducing the Formex REEF GMT Chronometer
Expanding upon the success and core concept of the original REEF diver, the Formex REEF GMT takes the range into a fundamentally new world. All the professional dive characteristics remain but in addition we have a 24 hour complication and a GMT bezel to facilitate time zone changes.
Formex REEF GMT - Image credit Formex
The REEF GMT allows the tracking of three different time zones, without sacrificing any build quality or the patented interchangeable bezel and bracelet systems. The watch is still 42mm in diameter, stainless steel and powered by an automatic COSC-certified SW330-2 GMT movement. Unlike the REEF Diver the decorated movement is now visible through the GMTs sapphire crystal display case back. The SW330 is the same height as the SW300 so the REEF GMT is also only 11.4mm in thickness making it perfect for travel, adventure and elegance. For any underwater activities, a double gasket construction and screw-down crown are tested to 300 m / 1000 ft of water resistance.
Formex REEF GMT - Image credit Formex
Being one of the most exposed and used parts, the new bi-directional rotatable GMT bezel with a unique sunburst finish continues to be made from extremely hard and scratch-resistant Zirconium oxide ceramic. Formex also offer a stainless steel option. The bezels with white numerals on the scale are filled with Super-LumiNova® BGW9 which allows alternate time zone reading in low light. The 48-click action is smooth and can be used to track a third time zone. All bezels can be changed without the use of any tools and the case can accept standard REEF Diver bezels.
Formex REEF GMT - Image Credit Formex
The sunray finished dial is manufactured in-house by Formex in the Jura mountains with the Dégradé colours graduated by hand. The REEF’s bold rehaut-style hour markers are also hand-applied and triangle shaped, pointing towards the broad hour and minute hands that share the same detailed bevelled polish and brushed top surface finishing. Hands and hour markers are deep-filled with Swiss Super-LumiNova® BGW9 to emit a long-lasting blue glow.
Formex REEF GMT SW330-2 movement - Image Credit Formex
The solid-link stainless steel bracelet, mesh stainless steel bracelet, leather and the rubber straps all feature a buckle with a Formex's patented fine-adjustment system as well as a completely re-engineered and patented quick release system that allows swapping straps without the use of any tools. The black military nylon strap available direct from Formex is the result of an exciting 2022 collaboration between WatchGecko and Formex.
Begin your journey
If you are thinking of buying a GMT watch then I recommend you take the plunge. If you already own one you’ll understand why. Whether you are a global traveller or prefer to stay close to home, there is something wonderful about looking at the dial and seeing the four hands moving as one yet all circumnavigating at different speeds. A minute, an hour or 24 hours. I like to think each hand represents a different form of world travel from the fastest aircraft to the slowest boat, all on a journey to the same point.
Formex REEF GMT - Image Credit Formex
The Formex REEF GMT is one of the most contemporary and well made GMTs on the market today. I recently had a chat with Raphael Granito, the CEO of Formex. He was wearing a GMT and I asked him how he could make and sell such a watch for £1830. He said simply that the guiding principle of Formex was always to provide the best quality watches for the best prices. With the REEF GMT Formex has certainly achieved that and I would suggest it is possibly the pre-eminent GMT available on the market today. See the entire collection here and begin your GMT journey.