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If you’ve read my review of the Formex AS1100 or Formex Element, you’ll realise that whilst they’re a bit more expensive than the usual watch, they still offer staggering value for money. The level of craftsmanship is genuinely excellent for what you pay, and those two watches are two of my favourites in my entire collection.

Hence why I was very excited to learn that they’re releasing a new model, even cheaper (mainly as it’s an auto rather than a chrono), but with the same level of detail and design. Coming to Kickstarter this month (25th September 2018) – please note this is a press model, so it’s travelled a fair bit. Please also note that the dial is different on the two different models (standard auto vs COSC) – this is the COSC version, whilst the standard auto alternative does not have the CNC machined lines, but rather a sunburst effect.

Let’s check it out.

Video Review

The specs

The case

Keeping to their patented “suspension” system, the case on the Essence is rather remarkable for the price. Completely disguised, you’d be forgiven for not even realising how intriguing the case is. You can see the inner section divide from the outer case from underneath, but from above it’s not even noticeable – the base of the bezel is what raises when the suspension is activated. Watch the video review above to see it in action.

Considering this is a press loaner, the case is still in good nick; and the machining is very neat and precise. There’s a mixture of finishing – brushed sides and lugs with a polished slither at the top shoulders, and a polished rim to the bezel; with the top brushed. All angles and edges are crisp.

The push-pull crown has a polished ridge with toothed edging, providing good grip. It has a plain end with an embossed hexagonal.

As I’ve always found with Formex, one of the key things to create an eye-catching, luxurious feel is by having an amazing crystal with anti-reflective coating. It’s the same here – the AR coating is superb, and far beyond what I’d expect on a watch starting at £300.

What’s also of note is what’s not visible, the inner container is made of titanium grade 2, keeping the inner workings light and strong.

The exhibition caseback has a ring surrounding the window with all the details deeply engraved within.

Really the only thing to keep in mind is that it’s actually pretty large at 43mm in diameter, and the lugs are also quite wide so it does wear that big, albeit rather slender in height.

The dial

The dial is available in black, blue, brown or silver (this one). It’s a simple yet modern design, thanks to the shape of the hands and the style of the logo alongside the font.

The printed logo on the final version will be one row lower, creating better balance in the top half.

The main feature of the dial of the COSC version is the vertical brush with horizontal CNC machined channels. The rehaut is steel to match the dial base, with a subtle minute track printed within. Please note that the standard version will not have the lines, but rather a sunburst effect.

The machined hour markers and hands are filled with BGW9 lume, in a style that is similar to the Element – which I think is a good thing; not only are they cool and unique; it also keeps a theme through all the families.

The date window is neatly inset within the dial, with a ramp to the left and right.

The lume strength is pretty standard, nothing too outstanding – however I have been informed that this press loaner is not loaded with BGW9 lume; so it’s not as strong as the final production model. It’ll also glow a cool blue rather than green.

The strap

Available in black, blue, or brown; the strap is made of soft, supple leather with matching stitching. on the final version, it’ll hug the case more creating a more seamless experience. It’ll also have quick release pins and the buckle will be removable without tools which is cool.

The clasp is the same as on the Element, a very clever, light carbon fibre style butterfly clasp with an intuitive micro adjust. The buckle itself will have the Formex logo engraved on the end with a more stylised finish.

The movement

It’s very impressive that Formex has selected these movements for the price. The standard auto houses the ETA 2824-2; whilst the COSC version boasts the Sellita SW200-1 (COSC certified of course).

The version here isn’t officially COSC certified as it’s just a sample, but it’s the same Sellita that’ll be used, with the same cool customised rotor.

Final comments

Without a doubt, it’s a watch worth buying. The build quality is brilliant, and it’s a striking design too. Personally, the non-COSC version is such impressive value for money I’d not bother with the COSC version for nearly double the price. A Swiss Made watch housing the ETA 2824-2 with an undoubted build quality and stunning anti-reflective crystal for ~£300? Sign up now, it sure ticks all the right boxes.


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View comments 6


  1. Brian

    Great review as ever, Josh. But you’ve missed a subtle difference between the dials of the COSC model and the non-COSC.
    The COSC has a dial “vertically brushed with horizontal lines and angles so sharp that they had to be cut into individually”.

    Non-COSC has a dial with “Sun ray finishing”. However, you are correct in stating that they are both incredible value for money.

    To me, the COSC dial is the more striking. So I have signed up for one of these

    1. Joshua Clare-Flagg

      Hi Brian, a very important observation, thanks for sharing!

  2. Coming to Kickstarter - Formex Essence - Wristwatch Review UK

    […] noticed the Formex essence on social media, and it comes highly rated by Watch It All About so we thought we’d take a closer look at their new model – a Chronometer grade Swiss […]

  3. Rich

    Thanks Josh. Interesting that your review shows a push pull crown but the formex site specifies screw down. I wonder if that’s another difference with the pre-production model or a typo on their website.

  4. Jason White

    “The main feature of the dial is the horizontal brush with vertical CNC machined channels.”

    Isn’t that vertical brush with horizontal channels 😉

    1. Joshua Clare-Flagg

      ? whoops!

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