I’ve reviewed a couple of Formex watches in the past: the AS1100, and the Element. Both are stunning automatic chronographs, showcasing their intriguing suspension case system at a very competitive price.
I have also already reviewed this model, the Essence – albeit a pre-production sample, and it was also the COSC version with a different dial. Check out that review here.
Now, the Essence is fully available, so I was desperate to get my hands on the final production version of the standard non-COSC model. Let’s check it out.
- Dimensions: 43mm diameter x 10mm height x 49mm lug to lug
- Weight: 102g
- Water resistance rating: 10ATM / 100m
- Movement: ETA 2824-2
- Accuracy: +1.8 sec/day
- Lug width: 22mm
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: £710 / $785
- Buy here: Use this link to get a free strap – https://bit.ly/324wMnI
The video review
The diameter of 43mm is quite possibly on the larger side for some, however, due to the slender height of 10mm and reasonable lug-to-lug length I don’t find it wears that large.
The svelte height is a surprise due to the patented case suspension system built within the case, a remarkable feat of engineering that is subtly hidden away – yet is obvious once you know how it works. Some may feel it’s just a marketing ploy and it doesn’t actually do anything – however, Formex insists it is an excellent shock absorber, for both the protection of the mechanical movement and also for comfort.
The suspension system is fully integrated inside the case, but the four struts are visible in the corners of the case. The secretion is cleverly done, the split between the inner and outer sections is at the base of the bezel – you’d never know. The crown also moves up and down, but you can’t see the void as it’s kept behind the crown itself.
On the caseback, the split is most obvious, a shapely line following the perimeter of the case.
As you’d expect, the Essence utilises sapphire crystals on the front and back. The anti-reflective coating they use is quite simply, the best I’ve ever come across on an affordable watch. It’s so gloriously clear, it makes such an incredible amount of difference to how the watch appears, it portrays it as a much more luxury timepiece. It takes the watch to the next level and provides an even more luxurious appearance.
The caseback itself is rather shallow, it’s simple but has an industrial feel to it due to the 8 screws and various specifics deeply engraved around the outer edge, such as the model number and year of manufacture.
The crown features super thick grip, along with angled sides for a decent purchase. The size is just right in terms of ratio to the case, and it features a polished finished outer edge with an inset hexagon.
The finishing is flawless throughout, with a vertical brushed finish on the front of the bezel, flanked by a polished bevel which is cut out by the suspension struts. The case is more or less fully brushed, bar a polished bevelled edge around the outer edging. The fit and finish are excellent.
Funnily enough, the main complaint I read on comments on video reviews etc is Formex’s name itself – people saying it sounds like a chemical kitchen cleaner, construction company, or even worse – a condom brand. Personally, I’m not fussed at all. People would have probably said the same about Rolex if it was a new brand wasn’t the most widely recognised watch manufacturer in the world. The print work on the dial is all delicate and accurate.
The dial on the non-COSC version rocks an eye-catching sunray finish to it. The COSC version features horizontal lines; however, I think I prefer this version due to its simplicity.
The hands are rather utilitarian in design, whilst still maintaining a slender semi-elegant look. They could be described as a modern take on the alpha or leaf type hand,
The machined indices are styled similarly – and are remarkable when viewed up close. Raised batons, with angled corners and bevelled polished edges containing a lumed channel in the centre. They are all the same, bar a double at 12 and a shorter one at 6 for the date window.
The lume on the hands and hour markers is BGW9 Super-LumiNova. Whilst it’s not out of this world, it’s as you’d expect and performs reasonably.
The date window is located at 6, which I always like to see as it keeps the dial symmetrical. Perhaps the wheel could have been blue to match the dial, but the white definitely helps legibility. Either side of the window is a slope towards the wheel, so it’s not just a simple square cut out of the dial – it’s always good to see attention to detail like that.
The strap is made of deliciously soft Italian leather, with a supremely comfortable rustic charm to it. The top grain is apparent and provides plenty of character. I’m a big fan of the matching blue to go with the dial.
The strap features curved quick release spring bars, which result in a very snug fit to the case – which is a positive visually in my books.
The folding clasp is another work of art, one that may not get much attention as it is well hidden. It’s made of carbon fibre composite and boasts a patented micro-adjust mechanism which is very easy to use: you simply depress the button and slide it to adjust.
The only thing that I feel is a slight negative is that the strap “feels” the wrong way round – when looking at the watch, the long tail is sticking out the bottom rather than the top. It is all visual, I have no criticism regarding construction or build quality.
The movement is hard to beat: the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2. Solid, dependable, and highly regarded by many as the best automatic movement going; this movement is the benchmark all others are set against. Formex uses the elaboré grade, which comes out of the factory slightly better regulated.
Specs include 25 jewels, 38 hours power reserve, a high-beat rate of 28.8k bph (8 ticks per second), and hand and automatic winding capabilities.
There’s a small amount of customisation in the form of the Formex logo printed on the standard rotor.
I’m not going to lie, I’m an all-put Formex fanboy. Each of the watches I’ve reviewed of theirs has exceeded expectations and portray sensational value for money. Whilst £710 isn’t “cheap”, it’s still a beautiful feat of engineering for the price.
The fit and finish are spotless, the design and construction are flawless; you truly are getting a luxury watch without the price tag.
I adore the anti-reflective crystal – it makes the watch stand out. And the suspension case may be portrayed as a marketing gimmick, but it certainly impresses.
The only real “issue” I have, albeit very minor, is the tail of the strap pointing the opposite way to normal. It doesn’t affect the comfort of the watch in any way; it’s more of a visual niggle.
However, I can certainly look past that and say that the Formex Essence is one of my favourite new releases this year, hands down.