Editorial Formex Hands-on Reviews New Releases New Watches New Watches 2021

The Formex Reef Masters The Art of Perfecting Timepieces, One Detail At A Time 

Editor’s note: This detailed hands-on review of the Formex Reef has been photographed with the assistance of Markus from Formex watches. If you are strapped for time, check out our quick hands-on review here. For our other detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here

A Pound-for-pound Champion

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle,” said Michelangelo. 

If I was to summarise the generation 2.0 of the Formex Reef collection of watches, it would be the embodiment of the above sentiment. A perfect watch is a utopian concept, that perhaps may never fully materialise. It’s certainly not an easy task, and few watches can claim to come close to being perfect. But the devil is in the details; one thing that gets one up, close and personal with perfection is the art of paying attention to details. 

Formex Reef

The Formex Reef does just that. It takes whatever criticism the generation 1.0 might have received, works on it, pays attention to the tiny details or trifles that make a Formex watch wearing experience exceptional, adds a couple of extra flairs, and presents the watch community with a 3K AUD watch that is a masterclass in its segment.

Formex Reef

In the world of MMA and boxing, there is a concept of weight classes and sections. This often leads to some slugger being considered the best pound-for-pound fighter or the G.O.A.T of that division. The Formex Reef Green is my opinion is currently the best pound-for-pound — within the market category it competes in — timepiece south of the 3K AUD mark in the Swiss watchmaking industry today. 

Formex Reef

The Formex Reef takes what individually might seem to be trifle gestures — like changing the 60-click bezel to a 120-click one, introducing the option of interchangeable bezels sans tools, a COSC-certified and not base grade Sellita movement, a bracelet and strap quick adjustment mechanism that’s one of the best, if not THE best, in the market — and turns the watch into a whole that’s nothing short of perfection

Michelangelo would have been proud.

Formex Reef

Some Context 

The reason why Formex can listen to, and is willing to listen to its customers and watch enthusiasts, is that it is rather young — founded only in 1999 — and is an independent family-owned watch manufacture. It was taken over my Raphaël Granito (CEO) and team some 5-odd years ago or so, and both Raphael and Markus’ personal investment and exceptional customer service make this definitely a brand to reckon with.

Formex Reef 50 1024x682

The company is based in Biel/Bienne and its name stands for: “Formex = forme extrème, French for ‘extreme shape’”. 

Inspired by the world of motor racing, their signature style has been that of the patented Case Suspension System. While the Reef doesn’t feature that, it does have its own unique elements to boot. Since 2016, the brand has moved beyond the traditional brick and mortar set up with a focus on direct-to-consumer setup. 

Formex Reef

Recently in May this year the brand also updated their logo and branding. Replacing the italics and the red colours resonant of the racing era of the 90s, the new logo combines the ‘F’ and ‘X’ to form a  sort of infinity-loop hexagon. 

Appreciated on watch forums and by new brand enthusiasts alike, it is definitely another example of the brand’s willingness to learn and adapt, and is another trifle that makes perfection.

Formex Reef

Impressively, all watch prices listed online include free shipping worldwide and duties/taxes, and the watches come with a 3-year international warranty. They are also happy to  include a free cleaning towel in your order.

Formex Reef

Currently, there are five standard variants of the Former Reef — silver, black, white, blue and green — to choose from, along with a limited edition of only 33 engraved pieces in a bright orange laqué poli dial. The pricing of all variants is the same, and on the website, one can play around to find your perfect diver. 

Sculpting A Legacy 

Since I hadn’t handled a Formex in person before, the unboxing has been a sort of revelation. I didn’t know what quality to expect, though the reviews online have been favourable.

Starting with the packing, the Formex Reef comes inside a nice, modern, compact and sturdy black —  what appears to be leather — box with bold branding. Inside the watch sits nestled securely, and the package included extra strap options. 

Formex Reef

But then you look at the watch and time stops.

The watch design is a study in excellence. The Reef has certain design codes that from an architect’s point of view are very three-dimensional and sculptural. In the design of the Formex Reef, one can also see the inspiration from Formex’s own Elements and Essence collection of timepieces. 

Formex Reef

The brand may still be young, and the new Essence 39 and Reef just recently released, but they all bear the markings of a legacy in the making.

The non-conventional — rectangle, square or circular — 16-sided shape is not unique but still relatively different and features a mixture of rounded off and hand-finished mirror-polished bevelling. Especially when light hits it, I particularly like how the differentiating and alternating brushed, polished, brushed surfaces bring out the refined nuances of the timepiece. 

Formex Reef

Then of course there is that green fume dial that’s beautiful enough to be admired all day long. 

The bezel is very sculptural as well, thanks to its three-dimensional effect.

Formex Reef

Naked Desire

The 120-click unidirectional bezel is responsive and smooth to operate, has no unnecessary play, has a strong sound, and thanks to the inclusion of the hard and scratch-resistant Zirconium oxide ceramic insert, it is also practical. Please ignore the camera auto-focusing sound in the video below, but you can still hear the bezel sound.

Daytime legibility of the bezel is impressive, and its rather unique execution is welcome. The graduations and numbers are engraved by femto-laser pulsations and the brand’s website informs us that each bezel takes 60 minutes of precision engraving to achieve this three-dimensional effect. 

Formex Reef

But the most impressive part is that the case can be laid bare, with the bezel taken off with no tools required and swapped. You can then clothe this with any of the four bezel colour options, each retailing for 260 AUD: blue, black, steel and green.

Formex Reef

Cool has a new address. I am head over heels in love with their bezel swap feature. It’s like having a new watch everyday. It’s time to say goodbye to boredom and embrace the world of modification (officially). 

Formex Reef

Em(Brace) The Perfect Out(let) For Practicality 

It is such a welcome pleasant feeling of being able to adjust the rubber strap on the fly; my wrists change size considerably thanks to the weather fluctuations. And for someone who likes to wear his watches snug, the ever-changing wrist size is a genuine pain. Formex’s straps change that.

The bracelet and strap have got to be one of the best selling features of the Formex Reef. Both are designed with keeping in kind that the watch will actually be worn daily.

Formex Reef
Formex Reef

Adjusting the length on the fly is simple, and courtesy the quick release mechanism that’s not selfishly designed, one gets the opportunity to pair this with aftermarket straps with ease.

Formex Reef

I also appreciate that the neatly flushed end links provide a much in demand integrated bracelet look. And the ~10mm of adjustment on the (brushed and polished) buckle is super impressive.  

Formex Reef Bezel Sound x
Formex Reef Bezel Sound
Formex Reef

A Timekeeping Beast 

Inside the Formex Reef beats the ETA 2892-A2 clone, the Sellita SW300-1. 

The SW300-1 in itself is an advanced version of 2008’s SW300 with a modified lower bridge, reversing wheel and auxiliary reversing wheel. This ensures for improved winding. It beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz and has a minimum to maximum amplitude range of 200° to 315° degrees.

Formex Reef
A bit of a gap on the strap whereas the bracelet sits very snug

It is generally considered to be a premium version of the more commonly used SW200-1. The SW300-1 is 3.6mm thick while the SW200-1 is 4.6mm thick (with 25.6mm diameter). This decrease assists in featuring an only 11.4mm thickness for a 300m water-resistance diver, and adds all the difference. It sits comfortable under the cuffs, and is great for desk divers such as myself. 

Formex Reef

Sellita’s movements are generally available in different grades: Standard, Special (Elaboré), Premium (Top) or COSC-certified. I am glad that for 3’000 AUD Formex has decided to opt-in for the most premium version. The value that you get with the Formex Reef is truly impressive.

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Copyright 2021 © FORMEX Watch SA, all rights reserved.

While on the front sapphire crystal with anti-reflection treatment is used and not hardened crystal or easily scratch-able plexiglass, the case back is closed, with a flat — again for practicality sake it’s more useful — engraved plate with an etched logo. Underneath is Formex’s in-house developed and custom-built skeleton rotor with thermally blued screws.

Formex Reef Bracelet Adjustment
Formex Reef

And for those who may raise their nose to the use of Sellita movements, it is good to remember that other more well-known brands such as Sinn, TAG Heuer, Montblanc, Hublot, Tiffany, Bell & Ross, Baume & Mercier, and IWC among others use or have used this in the past. The only drawback of the movement is the low power reserve of 38 to 42-hours. In the world of Tudor’s 3-day power reserves, this is definitely something that perhaps the brand can work on. 

That said, if you have been to Sellita’s website of late, you will notice that they have updated the SW300-1 to feature typical 56-hours power reserve (and minimum of 50-hours). If the current or future Formex Reef’s can provide this, that would be superb. 

Formex Reef

Wondrous Sum of Its Parts – The Landscape 

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content,” said Leo Tolstoy. 

Personally, I honestly believe that the Former Reef despite its slightly high price tag is definitely a show-stopper within the 3k AUD dive watch market. But that said, for others out there this might or might not be the case. While the bezel inter-changeability is appreciated, the absence of lume on it is definitely felt. And finally the 3k AUD price tag sees a lot of action from a lot of brands. 

Formex Reef

So a better way to appreciate the Formex Reef is to perhaps not focus and look for perfection, but rather look at it as a solid offering with exceptional finishings, attention to detail and value for money.

We have done an exhaustive comparison below, but Seiko and other brands using non-Swiss movements are not included here, because frankly, if we start including Seiko and Miyota/NH35A bearing divers, the article is never going to end. 

Formex Reef

I have also used other timepieces as comparison that I have either personal experience with, or I know that their built quality and QC-standards are par excellence.

There are numerous other watches around the same price point (or lower) that I reckon compete with the Formex Reef. 

Formex Reef
Formex Reef 43mm next to the 42mm Formex Essence

And despite using the same movement with some being lower priced — Christopher Ward — and some higher — Hublot, TAG Heuer — I reckon the Formex Reef scores high based as a final product that is a wondrous sum of its parts.

Before we compare, here are the basic measurements of the Formex Reef. Due to the unique shape, the Formex Reef is a tough one to measure. 

  • Diameter = 42mm 
  • 12’o clock to 6’o clock = 43mm
  • 9’o clock to 3’o clock (ear to ear) = 47.8mm
  • Lug-to-lug = 48mm
  • Lug-to-lug with end links = 53.2mm
  • Bezel to bezel = 40.8mm
  • Bezel thickness = 6mm 
  • Bezel insert = 4.2mm 
  • Dial itself = 29.2mm 
  • Weight on bracelet = 164g
Formex Reef

Given the 9’o clock to 3’o clock is 47.8mm and lug-to-lug is 48mm, it is essentially a square watch (with cut-outs). But what’s interesting is that thanks to the slim thickness, it doesn’t wear like a 48mm watch.

So for reference sake, diameter is 42mm, height is 11.4mm and lug-to-lug is 48mm. For comparisons, I am not going to pass any judgment as all these watches are great in their own rights. Below are the basic specifications and you can choose yourself based on your wrist size and spec preferences. 

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Christopher Ward C60 #tide vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 42mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 14.1mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 49.3mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: SW200-1 (COSC-certified) vs SW300-1(COSC-certification)
  • W/R: 600m vs 300m
  • P/R: 38-hour vs 42-hour
  • RRP: 1’625 AUD vs 3’000
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: This CW is again exceptional value for money with higher water-resistance, but is an even thicker bigger watch

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C60 #tide next to 39mm Tudor BB58
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Doxa Sub 300 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 42.5mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 13.4mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 45mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: SW200-1 (COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Same 300m
  • P/R: 38-hours vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 3’990 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: Existing icon vs icon in the making 

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Tudor BB58 next to Doxa SUB 300 Carbon
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Laventure Marine II vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 40.5mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 13.5mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 48.8mm vs 48mm 
  • Movement: SW200-1 (non-COSC Premium (Top) Grade) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: 200m vs 300m
  • P/R: 41-hours vs 42-hours
  • RRP: CHF 3’850 before taxes (~6’500 AUD) vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: Marine II does impressively feature a solid 18K Gold Au750 3N Brushed finish “sandwich” type dial! Both the Laventure Marine II and Formex Reef feature that ‘ear’ style case design.

Formex Reef

Longines HydroQuest ref. L3.781.4.06.6 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 41mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 11.9mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 51mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: L888 vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Both 300m
  • P/R: 72-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 2’400 AUD vs 3’000
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: It’s the one that really gives the Formex Reef a run for its money. Here, it would boil down to personal preferences. 

Formex Reef

Maurice Lacroix Aikon Venturer ref. AI6058-SS002-430-1 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 43mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 12mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 49mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: ML 115 (most likely modified Sellita SW200-1) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Both 300m 
  • P/R: 38-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 1’990 CHF (~3’000 AUD) vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: Can’t confirm but might actually have the clasp or bracelet made by Dexel SA (which is owned by the family of Raphael).

Mido Ocean Star 600 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 43.5mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 14.6mm vs 11.4mm 
  • Lug-to-lug: 50mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: COSC-certified Caliber 80 Si (base ETA C07.821) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: 600m vs 300m
  • P/R: 80-hour vs 42-hour
  • RRP: 2’675 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes
Formex Reef

Monta Oceanking vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 40mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 11.9mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 49mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: Caliber M-22 (most likely SW300-1 but non COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: 304m vs 300m
  • P/R: Same 42-hour 
  • RRP: 2’140 USD (~2’950 AUD) vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Oris Aquis Date ref. 01 733 7766 4157-07 8 22 05PEB vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 41.5mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 12mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: Similar 48mm for both 
  • Movement: SW200-1 (non COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Both 300m
  • P/R: 38-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 3’100 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: The Oris Aquis Date with their new CALIBER 400 is definitely way too impressive in specifications, but also retails for a higher price of 4’800 AUD. 

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© Oris 2021
Formex Reef

Rado Captain Cook ref. R32505318 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: Both 42mm
  • Thickness: 12.2mm vs 11.8mm
  • Lug-to-lug: ~49mm vs 48mm 
  • Movement: C07.611 (based on ETA 2824-2 on which SW200-1 is based (non COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: 200m vs 300m 
  • P/R: 80-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 3’500 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: Captain Cook also features Rado’s EasyClip System for strap changes

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Formex Reef

Sinn U50 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 41mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 11.15mm vs 11.4mm 
  • Lug-to-lug: ~49mm vs 48mm 
  • Movement: SW300-1 (non COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: 500m vs 300m
  • P/R: 80-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: ~4’000 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: U50 features a bead-blasted German Submarine Steel case and a captive bezel with TEGIMENT technology

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A similar Sinn U50 S Mother-of-pearl S on my ~16cm wrist
Formex Reef
Sits low and snug

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 ref. WBP201B.BA0632 vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 43mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: ~12.2mm vs 11.4mm
  • Lug-to-lug: ~49mm vs 48mm
  • Movement: Calibre 5 based on either ETA 2824-2 or SW200-1 vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Same 300m
  • P/R: 38-hours vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: 4’350 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: Brand heritage, recognition would work in favour of TAG Heuer. Bracelet includes a diving extension, and also three points of micro adjustment in the clasp. It is more expensive though.

Formex Reef

Tissot Seastar 1000  vs Formex Reef

  • Diameter: 43mm vs 42mm
  • Thickness: 12.7mm vs 11.4mm 
  • Lug-to-lug: 49.6mm vs 48mm 
  • Movement: POWERMATIC 80.111 (base ETA C07.111 that is based on the ETA 2824-2 on which SW200-1 is based (non COSC-certified) vs SW300-1 (COSC-certified)
  • W/R: Both 300m
  • P/R: 80-hour vs 42-hour 
  • RRP: ~1’200 AUD vs 3’000 AUD
  • Customisable: No vs Yes

Note: No doubt Seastar is a fantastic value for money buy. But I would say it’s more geared towards those with bigger wrist sizes and generic dive watch aesthetics. In comparison, the Formex Reef comes with a longer warranty of 3-years, and a smaller case. There is also the extra personalisation option.

Other Higher-End Competitors vs Formex Reef

My personal Heuer Monaco 1969-79 Limited Edition also features the SW300-1 base movement (aka Heuer Calibre 11 with a chronograph module on top). It retailed for about 9K AUD and is now selling for about 25k AUD. 

Formex Reef

Last year’s Hublot Classic Fusion models in yellow gold, titanium and ceramic feature the same Sellita SW300-1 movement, with the reference 511.NX.1270.RX.MDM40 retailing for 7’900 CHF (~12’000 AUD).

New Hublot Classic Fusion 44 819x1024

So pricing vs movement ratio doesn’t really make sense here. That said, the Formex Reef is very competitively, and might I add reasonably, priced. 

The Sellita SW300-1 is a trustworthy movement. In the end, it boils down to what you as a watch enthusiast like and appreciate. 

Formex Reef

Humble Suggestions 

  • A lot of people take issue with the 42m diameter, but given how it sits on my ~16cm wrists, I would urge them to try on the watch in person. I know that’s hard given it’s an online brand, but Formex as far as I know does offer 30-day returns

Though there are numerous hands-on videos online (and this our detailed hands-on review) with plethora of photos for enthusiasts to make up their minds. 

Formex Reef

One other feature I would like to point out is how it sits against one of the best divers out there, the Tudor Black Bay 58. The BB58 measures in at a smaller 39mm diameter, but a larger 12.5mm thickness. The lug-to-lug is very similar, coming in at 47.2mm.

Tudor Black Bay 58 Blue 1 768x1024
Formex Reef

Personally, both fit nicely, and I honestly don’t see a reason to create a smaller version.

  • Given both Longines and Christopher Ward are offering 5-year warranties, I would humbly suggest that the brand should consider this as well
  • As much as I am a fan of the distinctive bezel execution, lume on the bezel would be nice. But there is lume at the 12’o clock pip. Also, the engraved bezel can gather some dust
Formex Reef
Formex Reef 15 682x1024

Comparison Verdict

All the divers listed above are great, and you won’t go wrong with any. I am obviously impressed and in awe of the Formex Reef. There is so much to like, and much value packed. It is truly a wondrous sum of all its parts, and all its trifles make perfection.

Formex Reef

That’s All Folks! 

“Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time,” said the French writer Voltaire. 

The Formex Reef generation 2.0 may or may not qualify as a perfect watch for some, but given this has evolved over time compared to the first generation, I am confident that with the hand of time the Formex dive watch will slowly but surely attain perfection (for all). 

Formex Reef

I reckon the attention to details is one of the most impressive aspects of the Formex Reef. Take for instance the rubber strap and its carbon fibre deployant clasp with its intuitive micro adjustment system. Not only is it simple and easy to use, but it also ensures that watch sits comfortably and snug on my slim wrist.

Formex Reef

I also like that with each variant, the colour of the date wheel is matched to that of the dial. I like how the second’s hand goes all the way to the end of the minutes track, while the minutes hand goes almost to the middle of the appliqué indices. All three hands are different in sizing, making the art of reading time a breeze. 

Formex Reef

The Formex Reef is a textbook example of listening to the watch enthusiast and delivering a watch that takes cares of any pet peeves anyone might have. Even the date window location is at 6’o clock rather than being at 4.30. Not only that, it is sort of cut into the dial and framed by sloping sides. As much as Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the father of all modern dive watches, this is something even they can learn from the Formex Reef. (Sorry but I just can’t stand 4 or 4.30 date window placements).

Formex Reef

Given legibility is of course crucial for a diver, not only is there plenty of lume (thanks to BGW9 Super-LumiNova on hands and indexes) but the presence of bold appliqué indices ensures that even ageing eyesight will have no issues with telling the time.

Formex Reef

I also the like the complementing brushed steel aesthetics that is found on part of the hands and the case. In a rather unique way, this ties in the body with the hands, a feature we don’t usually get to see. 

Formex Reef

Continuing the attention to detail, for only 3’000 AUD, one also gets a multi-finished & hand-applied dégradé green dial. If I am not wrong, Formex to some degree should benefit from Dexel SA and Cadranor SA, two companies Raphael’s family is associated with. I not surprised that the former’s expertise in bracelets and clasps and the latter’s in dials gives Formex watches an edge.

Legend has it that ‘if we chase perfection we can catch excellence’. The Formex Reef is a product of the brand’s quest for excellence, and while I will leave the conclusion on your judgement, I can definitely say that it is watchmaking excellence. 

Formex Reef

The new Formex Reef Green 2.0 masters the art of perfecting timepieces by taking important trifle details to create a wondrous sum of parts, and in turn, what the watch community gets is a beautiful timekeeping beast that’s surely a pound-for-pound horological champion

It allows collectors to em(brace) any burning desire for wanting a perfect out(let) of practicality; witness a legacy being sculpted. 

Formex Reef

For more information on the Formex Reef and other Formex timepieces, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.

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