What seems like a lifetime ago–2018–I was at Worn & Wound’s Wind-up Watch Fair in New York City. Tucked into the left corner of the upper section of the Chelsea Market event space was the Formex Watches booth. They were showing off their new Essence watch. The watch was eye-catching and the presentation was engaging: Formex provided snap bracelets (cool) to allow attendees to use augmented reality (super cool) to see what the Essence and the brand’s other models might look like on the wrist.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the original Essence was 43mm–it was, after all, near the peak of jumbo watch mania. At that size, the beauty of the watch was somewhat overshadowed by its dimensions. Not ones to miss an opportunity, though, Formex made the smart decision to size the Essence down. Enter the Formex Essence ThirtyNine.
On the Wrist
The Formex Essence ThirtyNine enters an increasingly crowded market of not just wearable and well-designed sports watches, but green ones. But it does so with a number of exceptional features that make it killer on the wrist. The dial is an amazing thing to gaze at, whether idly or while checking the time left on a Zoom meeting.
The case suspension system, plus two unique microadjustment mechanisms make this one of the more comfortable watches I’ve ever worn. The suspension system meant that every time my wrist shifted, the watch adjusted itself. Like a SteadiCam for your watch.
As a strap hound, one of the very few drawbacks of the Essence line is the limitations it has on swaps. Due to the case curve and the shallow lug box, you’re going to be stuck with the proprietary straps, the bracelet, or custom. (I tried curved spring bars without luck, though you may have success with very thin straps.)
What a dial. It’s available in four colors (including a lovely brown dégradé), but I think none shows all of the dial off better than the green. Like the case, the dial is executed to near-perfection. Look above and below at how the dial can catch light differently, varying from a brushed matte-metallic to a deep shining emerald.
While I love the depth and shaping of the applied markers and especially the logo, I wish there was something a bit more to the brushed hands. There’s nothing wrong, but they seem as though there were the last thing Formex designed. Not rushed, but not given the same amount of attention or time.
The brushing: the hands, the logo, the dial, and the chapter ring all feature it and it works well, especially to let the hour markers pop with their polish.
Color matching a date window to a textured dial is not a good idea, as you’re going to have weird texture difference. So it makes sense that it’s been forgone here. Instead, the wide bevels descending towards the black date wheel make for a very intentional looking date window that fits well. And the stubby marker it necessitates is inoffensive.
Case, Bracelet, and Strap Details
Not ones to let the dial do all the talking, the case on the Formex Essence ThirtyNine is just as remarkable. Strong angles, distinct and defined finishing, and crisp transitions make for a case that is just as enjoyable to gaze upon as is the dial. I did notice myself trying to unscrew the push-pull crown, and I think that’s owing to the sportiness of the watch; my brain wanted it to be a screwdown crown, even if it wasn’t functionally necessary.
Perhasp the most remarkable feature of all Formex watches is the patented Case Suspension System. Four springs between the upper and lower case allow for a degree of movement, meaning improved shock absorption and a more comfortable wear. Above, you can see the gap between the bezel and the midcase created when pressure is applied; below, the edge of the caseback demarcates the moveable area. Also take notice of the built-in quick-release tabs (not just a springbar).
And with all of this proprietary tech, Formex could’ve put an abundance of superfluous text on the case back. They didn’t and I thank them for it.
The butterfly clasp bracelet is exceptionally executed and easy to size, with screw pins and shorter links that provide finer sizing than, say, an oyster bracelet. One of the most common complaints about butterfly clasps is the struggle to get a good fit, as the style usually only allows sizing by link removal/addition. The Formex Essence bracelet does more: the push-button portion of the clasp can fold out to provide about 4.5mm of extra bracelet. Another brilliant innovation…but not the last one.
The black leather strap threw me off at first: it’s matte, very smooth, and very pliable. Nothing wrong here, but it initially felt a little budget-brand to me. Getting it on the watch, though, I realized that wasn’t the case. While I’m no fan of straps being thicker than the lugs (as above), I cannot deny the comfort of the leather option.
The proprietary carbon composite deployant clasp adds no weight, and includes yet another patented feature. The silver button you see above operates the micro-adjustment slide on the clasp. Because I’m an idiot and don’t “read the manual” before I use things, I couldn’t get a comfortable fit. And then I discovered the slider…et voilà!
Green seems to be the new blue. And as a fan of the color, I’m a fan of the trend (though I’m still waiting for the perfect purple dial). The Formex Essence ThirtyNine is competing against some heavy hitting green watches (I see you Rolex), but the Formex has the edge in price, innovation, and design. It is one of the few watches I’ve reviewed where the case, the dial, and the bracelet are all equally engaging.
There’s no denying that the ThirtyNine is more dramatically styled than other options in the category. But it’s style with class and substance, as opposed to some vapid exercise in ostentation. For a beautiful watch that truly does it’s own thing, you can’t go wrong with the Formex Essence Thirty-Nine.
Check out more sports watch reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Formex website
Formex Essence ThirtyNine Specs
Sellita SW200-1 COSC
$1,390 (with bracelet)