The wristwatch has been with us for a little over one hundred years now. It has seen a lot of evolution since its inception in the trenches of WWI. One might argue, however, that after much experimentation and tinkering, the wristwatch has settled into a dozen or so iconic forms around which watchmakers huddle creating variations on a theme. Those bold enough to strike out on their own path—Ludovic, Vianney, MB&F, or Van Cleef & Arpels, for example—excite the imagination, but often do not transcend the enthusiast barrier into colloquial parlance, either because they are too strange, or far too expensive for the common man to own. And for every Richard Mille, there are hundreds of pretenders along the way. The path to originality is littered with the weird, the ugly, and the utterly forgettable.
Enter Formex. The brand takes its name from the French term “forme extreme,” meaning “extreme shape.” They have been independently producing watches in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland since 1999, and I would argue that they have also been contributing to a new aesthetic that is both original, and just familiar enough to fire the imagination of the everyday watch wearer. Unlike the brands mentioned earlier, they are also producing watches within reach—watches like the REEF 2.0.
Raphael and Markus Granito, the brothers behind the brand, have patented a number of design elements–including the Case Suspension System that is inspired by the engineering of high-performance vehicles. While this unique Case Suspension System, which lies at the heart all of many of their watches, is noticeably absent from the REEF, this timepiece is not without its own technical innovations–its bezel, its clasp, and its overall finishing techniques. All of these elements, including a fine eye for visual design, contribute to creating a comfortable, robust inventive that is sporty—and more importantly—distinctive.
The Formex REEF is a true flagship for the watchmaker and was the first to bear the new logo and branding back in 2020. Far from a vintage reissue, this watch represents forward-thinking horology, and is contemporary in both its appearance and materials. The stainless steel case, which measures 42mm in diameter, might be cause for concern to those with smaller wrists; however, this concern would be largely misplaced. The more important specs here would be its conservative 47mm lug to lug measurement and its positively svelte 11.4mm in thickness. The shorn away lug design—which angles back toward the case—also makes for a smooth bracelet drape, despite the use of male end links. In fact, when on wrist, the perceived height is actually closer to 9.4mm. However, there is more to the fit of this watch than meets the eye.
Inside beats the Chronometer-grade, COSC-certified SW300 from Sellita. This relatively slender, high-precision movement allows the diver to achieve its thinness, despite a beefy bezel and muscular case construction. The self-winding calibre also offers a laudable 56-hour power reserve and comes equipped with a Glucydur balance wheel (non-magnetic, and non-corrosive). As a COSC-certified movement (a process undertaken by only 3% of Swiss calibres), it is engraved with a unique identification number and comes with a certificate of authenticity. While you cannot see it through the solid, screw-down caseback, the movement is also decorated and fitted with their in-house skeletonized rotor.
From a finishing standpoint, the symmetrical case is a complex mix of planes, varying from mirror-like polish, to areas of vertical and horizontal brushing. The transitions are equally complex. Some are smoothly rounded, some are sharp and definitive. Others involve delicate chamfering and beveling that belie the craftsmanship necessary to produce the REEF. Nowhere is this more evident than in the bezel.
The 120-click, unidirectional bezel is fashioned from scratch-resistant, Zirconium oxide ceramic. The numerals and indices are engraved by a Femto laser (similar to that used in eye surgery), leaving a precise, three-dimensional relief. The machined, gear-like edge is easy to grip, even with gloves. As an added bonus, the Reef bezel can be changed without the use of any special tools, allowing the wearer to customize his/her experience. Extra bezels can be purchased from the brand after the fact, or during the initial purchase—using the online customization tool.
The blue sunburst dial, featured here, is manufactured in-house at the Formex headquarters in the Jura mountains—as are all dials—and the painting process is done by hand. The REEF dial also sports distinct, arrow-shaped hour markers that are sloped inward and fitted—like the custom hands—with BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova.
The REEF comes with a choice of rubber strap or stainless-steel bracelet. Both have a quick release function and a smooth, carbon fiber micro-adjustment system. The bracelet, like the watch, is a fine mix of beveling and brushed planes. It is also features screwed links for easy sizing.
True to its name, the watch is built with a double gasket construction and offers 300 m water resistance.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
47mm Lug to Lug
22mm Lug Width
Screw Down Crown & Caseback
120 Click Uni-directional Bezel
300m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Flat Sapphire Crystal|
Sunburst Dégradé Finish
COSC Chronometer Grade
Date Complication @ 6
56-Hour Power Reserve
Stainless Steel Bracelet with Milled Clasp
& Quick Release
Rubber Diving Strap
The 2022 REEF (or REEF 2.0) is available in five dial colours, ranging from the blue(featured here), to green, grey, black, or white. It is also offered in a special edition of orange–the DW LE Automatic. As mentioned above, the watch is now also fully customizable through the brand’s online app. Essentially, prior to purchase, you are given the opportunity to select not only your strap, bracelet, or dial, but even to mix and match your dial with opposing colours of bezel. But the fun does not end there. As the bezels are removeable without the use of tools, you can purchase multiple bezels and swap them out as you see fit.
Unique design elements. State of the art materials and design. Superior finishing. A high precision movement. Affordable pricing. Please.
If you were to slap the name of a heritage brand on the Formex REEF, it would easily retail for two to three times the price. The technical specifications and the attention to detail evident in every aspect of this watch are equal to or better than anything else its bracket. People bandy about the term “affordable luxury” a lot. In the case of the REEF, it’s actually merited. But beyond this, the REEF looks and feels original without being strange or odd in any way–which is a difficult achievement. While it represents contemporary watchmaking at its best, however, it also carries enough hallmarks of a rugged tool watch as to emerge sprung from some platonic ideal of a diver–and, as such, appears both new and familiar at the same time. Very few other modern divers can say the same–the Oris Aquis, perhaps. The Sinn U-50? The REEF is a powerful design. Visually, it exudes strength and confidence. Under the hood, it backs up those impressions.
The Fomex REEF retails from $1725USD (on rubber) to $1850USD (on bracelet) . For more information, please visit the brand website.
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