Hands-On With The All New Formex Reef

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Formex has announced an overhaul of their brand this week, including a new logo, marking a shift in the Swiss based company’s approach to the market after 21 years in business. The first watch to feature the new branding elements is called the Reef, a robust dive watch with an impressive spec sheet to match. The Reef heralds a new design direction for the brand that we first saw the seeds of in the Essence collection, and marks a significant maturity in their dive watch collection. We spent some time with a prototype of the Reef to see just how far they’ve come in this regard.

$1670

Hands-On With The All New Formex Reef

Case
Stainless steel 316L with titanium grade 2 container
Movement
COSC certified Sellita SW300
Dial
Blue, Black, Green, or Silver
Lume
BGW9 Super LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
rubber or stainless steel
Water Resistance
300m
Dimensions
42x47mm
Thickness
11.4mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
3 Year International
Price
$1670

The existing Formex dive watch, the Diver, offers a brutal take on the genre, with a case measuring north of 46mm, and a design that looks to be Formula 1 inspired. What makes it unique is the case suspension system, which mounts the case upon 4 springs into a chassis of sorts, making for some serious shock absorption capabilities. While the Reef offers a far more approachable design, it forgoes the suspension case in favor of more manageable dimensions. This move, coupled with the rebranding which replaces the old racing inspired logo with a more sober and sensible execution, should appeal to a much wider audience than the Diver was capable of procuring. That’s not to say the personality of the old Formex has completely left the building. 

 

The Reef is a substantial watch, with hard edges and angles creating vast surface areas around the case. You could call the case a distraction to the dial, but it creates a platform showcasing the bezel and dial in a literal sense. The lugs and case walls originate from a flat surface under the bezel assembly, and where most watches make this a seamless transition, Formex has opted to pull that flat surface out beyond the diameter of the bezel, a choice that creates a third tier of surface area, as there is a chamfer from the platform to the lug and case wall. This creates a level of tension between case and dial, and provides a lot of drama on the wrist. Something that should appeal to old-school fans of the brand.

 

Viewing the Reef outside the context of a wrist you’d be forgiving for assuming it was at least 45mm in diameter, but strapping it on reveals a surprisingly wearable and comfortable experience. The case measures 42mm in diameter, and 11.4mm in height, with a lug to lug distance of just 47mm. The 22mm lug span feels large here, and the flat chamfer between the lugs is a focal point on the wrist, but overall this is an easy watch to wear all day. The curvature of the truncated lugs create a neat fit, while the short links of the bracelet drape easily and comfortably around the wrist. 

It’s worth noting here that Formex owns much of their own manufacturing capabilities, and even provide services for other, much larger brands in their region of Biel Switzerland. This knowhow is clear in the construction of the bracelet, which is secured via quick release buckle that houses a very simple solution for micro adjustments. A tab within the buckle can be pressed and slid to make up to 10mm of adjustment, allowing the wearer to quickly make adjustments on the fly for comfort. 

The dial and bezel are a bit more traditional in appearance, though are still quite modern in execution. The bezel is zirconium oxide ceramic, with the numerals and markers raised and polished within the otherwise matte surface. The assembly itself is a 60 click unidirectional rotating bezel with large lume pip at 12 o’clock. The effect of the ceramic is similar to what you’d see on a Yachtmaster and it provides a welcome transition point between the case and dial. The bezel can be had in blue, green, black, or stainless steel.

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The dial itself is vibrant with a sunburst texture atop a gradient that gets darker at the edges. Color options here are blue, green and silver, and the appearance is highly dependent on the lighting conditions. The blue sample we got to experience can move from black, to grey to full on blue with ease. The effect is quite lovely and urges quick looks at the watch throughout the day. When you do look, getting a read on the time is simple thanks to the highly legible hour markers and hands, each filled with BGW9 Super LumiNova. The hour markers stand tall against the rehaut, angling sharply toward the dial, each with brushed surfaces and polished chamfers. They catch a lot of light, but regardless of  the conditions, there’s enough lume present to never drop out of sight. Likewise with the hour and minute hand, which also feature a lot of dimensionality, but never reflect as black. 

A date window is carved into the dial with steeply raked cuts at 6 o’clock, where a color matched date wheel resides. The new applied logo appears at 12 o’clock while the southern portion gets the name of the watch with a heap of kerning applied, along with the chronometer and depth rating below. 

Formex is using a Selitta SW300 in chronometer spec for the Reef, which keeps the case dimensions in check and provides them a platform to obtain COSC specifications. This is a fact displayed in the full name of the watch, which is the Reef Automatic Chronometer COSC 300M, which is a bit of a mouthful, not to mention redundant. Thankfully, they’ve left the COSC bit off the dial and you’re left with the important parts: this is a dive watch with a chronometer movement, and a 300m depth rating. Pair that with the cutting edge case and home-built bracelet and you’ve got a compelling offering here from Formex. If you had a hard time getting on board with their designs of old, we’d encourage you to take a second look with the Reef.

The Reef is available for order now from Formex, with prices starting at $1,670 on rubber strap, and $1,790 on the bracelet. Shipping is scheduled to begin in December. More from Formex.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.