Regular readers of MONOCHROME will already be familiar with the name Formex. We’ve previously written about the brand here, here and here. Known for its rugged action watches, the company has continued to refine its offering since Raphael Granito took the reins a few years back. Its latest offering, the surprisingly refined Essence Automatic Chronometer, continues this evolution. And offers great value for money too! We recently spent some hands-on time with this entry-level model that delivers a COSC-certified chronometer for under USD 700, now launching on Kickstarter.
This is without question the most understated Formex watch we’ve seen so far, yet it still retains the brand’s core DNA. Presented in a steel and titanium case measuring 43mm in diameter and a reasonable 10mm in height, it wears comfortably on the wrist. It’s no shrinking violet though. The detailed brush finish on both the base and bezel contrasts nicely with the hand-finished mirror-polished bevels, ensuring this watch draws its fair share of attention.
Incorporated into the case is the brand’s patented Case Suspension System. This unique mechanism provides shock-absorption to protect the movement as well as adapting to the movements of your wrist for added comfort. Holding the watch in place will be your choice of either a leather or rubber strap or a steel bracelet, all of which are fitted with Formex’s patented Carbon Fiber Composite Folding Clasp. This specially designed clasp allows for fine-adjustment of the strap length, perfect for those warmer days when things tend to swell a little. The straps also feature a quick-change system, meaning they can be easily swapped in and out without tools.
What really draws your eye on the Essence Automatic Chronometer though is the dial. You just don’t expect this sort of attention to detail on a watch that costs under USD 1,000. The vertically brushed dial (available in blue, black, brown or silver) features distinctive horizontal lines that have been machined into the dial individually by a CNC machine. It’s hard to do the end result justice in photos, but the lines are very clear and crisp and catch the light beautifully. Around the periphery are machined indexes, which along with the central hands, are filled with BGW9 Superluminova. There’s no doubt this watch has a bit of an AP Royal Oak flavour to it but it’s still very much its own watch.
It’s what inside this watch though that many will find intriguing. Not so much from a complexity point of view, but more for the price-to-value ratio. On display through the sapphire glass back is a self-winding Sellita SW200-1, which has been officially certified as a chronometer by the COSC. The movement has been decorated in-house by Formex and features thermally blued screws and a custom-built skeletonized rotor on the back. Offering time and date functionality, it has a max power reserve of 38-hours.
These days it’s not uncommon to see micro-brands operating in this space, offering nicely designed cases equipped with outsourced movements. Formex is not a micro-brand, however. They have been around for two decades and have a number of models under their belts. This knowledge and experience show in the Essence Automatic Chronometer, which takes all the good things about a micro-brand watch and engineers them to the next level. This is legitimately great value for the money.
In keeping with the micro-brand approach, the Essence has just been launched on Kickstarter – see the campaign here. This helps keep costs down, which Formex is passing straight on to the end customer by initially offering the watch at a 40% discount on expected final retail. Plus, you get the peace of mind of knowing that the company already has an established supply chain and track-record in manufacturing. Early-Bird prices start as low as USD 680 for the Essence Automatic Chronometer. There’s also an automatic version (without COSC certificate and with sunray dial) available from USD 385. After Kickstarter, the models will later be offered on Formex’s Online Shop at about USD 1,100 and USD 650 respectively.