Let me open with this: Formex is one of the best values in watches right now. Their designs are original, their execution is tops, and they offer innovative hardware. Add to that beautiful dials and COSC certification, all for under $2000. Even if their designs aren’t for you, Formex should be part of any conversation about the best brands in the market right now.
After my experience with the Formex Essence 39, I immediately reached out to see if I could give their REEF diver a go. And I wasn’t disappointed: the REEF reaffirmed my feelings about the brand and its ability to make exceptional watches.
On the Wrist
With an amazing sunburst dial and blend of polishing and brushing on the hands and indices, the Formex REEF is a pleasure just to look at, never mind using it to tell the time. If you were so inclined, though, the watch is perfectly legible. In low light, however, the bezel can prove difficult to read, as it relies on contrasting finishes–instead of different colors or materials–to distinguish the markers from the base. Its an attractive bezel design, but not the most functional.
The biggest surprise from the REEF is its case, which while on the wider end of things, sits exceptionally well. Despite being over 10mm, it wears like it’s thinner. Some of this is visual: every edge has a bevel that slopes toward the wrist. Some of it is down to the movement, the SW300, which is a full millimeter thinner than the more common SW200.
Your guess is as good as mine. What I can say is that the REEF is great not just on its bracelet and stock leather (which features a microadjustable deplayant clasp), but ably takes other straps, including NATOs.
Maybe the logo represents the interconnectedness of all things. An immutable and transcendent oneness and harmony. Maybe it’s just a neato keen design. In any case, I like it. And I like that it’s restrained, not dominating its portion of the dial, letting the sunburst and other features do the talking.
Here you can see how the ceramic bezel itself plays with light, as it features polishing to make the hashes and numbers stand out against the matte base. As mentioned above, this can cause issues in low light, when visibility is already poor and the contrast is minimal. One can always rely on the 12 o’clock lume pip, though.
Killer applied indices. They call to mind the blade of the Halo Energy Sword. Except these won’t kill you in one hit and they feature a lovely combination of a brushed top with high-polish beveled sides.
The very intentional date window is a winner. Too often you get some sharp-edged cutout or a printed border. Those can work, but rarely do. This heavy bevel on the sides gradually introduces the color-matched date wheel with great effect.
Lume is good. Even across the entire dial, and even the bezel pip. Equally impressive is getting that bright glow from the truncated 6 o’clock marker.
Case, Strap, and Bracelet
Formex is doing awesome things with their cases. I loved the Formex Essence, and while the REEF lacks the case suspension system that makes the Essence so amazing, it’s still a banger. Sharp angles and crisp finishing, an easy-to-operate crown, and a thin, deep-grooved bezel make this one a winner to wear and use.
Here’s the bracelet clasp. It’s short. That’s a good thing, as are the beveled links.
Both the bracelet and the rubber strap feature Formex’s patented quick-release system. Push the tab toward the case, then remove the band. To attach, push and insert. It takes one or two tries to get it down perfectly, but the fit is snug and secure, so no complaints.
A similar tab is installed on the clasp, allowing for fine-tuned sizing (or on-the-fly hot day adjustments).
See the small silver button on the lower half of the deployant clasp? Microadjustments on the deployant. Brilliant. I usually don’t care for deployant clasps as they seem to always sit poorly on my bony wrist, but the adjustable length helped. And the clasp itself is made of carbon, which is the coolest thing to make things from.
I loved the bracelet and the rubber option, but I was tickled by some of the combos I put together with the REEF, particularly this one. Unlike the Formex Essence, the REEF can accommodate non-Formex bands, an important feature for a strap swapper like myself.
If you go to the Formex website (and I think you should), you’ll see a scrollable section called “Discover Our Watches.” The various Essence models and the Reef are presented first; if you scroll to the right you’ll see their older models, which are…not as good. When Formex released the Essence, they were making a clear decision to step up their game from their first releases. When they released the REEF, they were committing to that path, firmly setting themselves on a better track.
The Formex REEF continues the highly wearable, angular design language that Formex has embraced, and does so with little to no flaws and a beautiful dial. Factor in the chronometer movement and the price, and Formex has once again demonstrated they are one of the best in the game right now.
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Check out the Formex website
Formex REEF Specs
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal