When you think of Formex, the distinguishing characteristic of the brand that pops immediately to mind is likely the unique Case Suspension System used throughout their Essence line, or perhaps the bezel exchange functionality found in the Reef diver. Either way, it’s clear that in recent years they’ve been leaning hard into unique case design platforms that rethink what a watch can do in the first place. These watches, of course, come with a price tag that is reflective of some pretty ingenious engineering, so the news this week of an entirely new collection from Formex with watches starting well under $1,000 is welcome, and frankly a breath of fresh air in a watch climate that is generally seeing starting prices heading in the opposite direction. The Formex Field Automatic Collection is on the one hand exactly what it sounds like, but there are surprising details here if you look closely. And even without a trick like a suspended case, there’s still plenty of Formex ingenuity.
The 41mm case is made from grade 2 titanium, and has the recognizable profile of a modern field watch. There are hard angles here that give it a contemporary look and keep it in line with Formex’s house style, but from the photos we’ve seen it seems to wear discreetly (like a field watch should) thanks to short and compact lugs. Formex tells us it measures 47mm lug to lug, and is just 10.6mm tall. The coolest thing about the case might be the finishing. It’s plenty industrial, as you can tell from these shots, but Formex has applied a hardening treatment to the surface of the titanium taking it from 145 Vickers all the way up to roughly 900. According to Formex, this makes their new case virtually impervious to scratches and fingerprints, a solid and not insignificant bonus on a titanium watch, prone as they are to picking up little nicks here and there.
Typical of Formex, they’re giving their customers plenty of choices when it comes to dial color. A total of six options are available at launch: Charcoal, Petrol Blue, Ash Grey, Mahogany Red, Ultra Violet, and Sage Green. When I began reviewing the images Formex sent us, I initially thought these were sandwich dials, but the Arabic numerals and markers are actually deeply recessed into the case. This is an interesting effect that I’m curious to see in person at some point. It would appear to give the dials an additional depth and complexity, and they still appear quite legible. All of the recessed surfaces are lume coated, so this watch should offer plenty of legibility if you need to use it in low light situations, which of course is a large part of the brief of any field watch.
These watches run on a Sellita SW200-1 movement, and it should be pointed out that unlike pricier Formex watches, these have not been COSC certified. It will be up to consumers to decide if that’s a fair trade off to keep these under $1,000 (there are certainly other brands with comparable watches at similar price points with chronometer certification), but it seems to me that the charms of the Formex Field Automatic sit squarely in the case and dial design anyway. The SW200-1 is a solid and reliable movement that customers can feel confident in, and its nondescript nature keeps the focus on the design of the dial and case, which is clearly what Formex intends.
The Formex Field Automatic is available to order now, with a retail price starting at $795. It can be purchased on a lightweight nylon velcro strap, or on leather straps with the brand’s unique carbon composite clasp, which allows for on-the-fly micro adjustments of up to 7mm. More information can be found here.