As the Formex brand – which is dedicated to solely selling watches online – grows, they need more “me too” watches than they need totally original ones. If only because the group who admires original designs are much harder to convert to paying customers, and those looking for a timepiece that fits a theme they are looking for will more readily be a buyer.
The long case of the Element makes it jut a bit off for my relatively small wrist, but the watch is rather comfortable. If your wrists are medium to large in size, then you won’t have an issue wearing the Element. It has a cool look to it overall, with a sort of tonneau-shape and angular pushers with a nice big polished steel crown. I’m not in love with the large hexagon logo, which fits the theme of the brand, but for some reason doesn’t seem to fit the theme of the watch from my perspective.
Looking at the dial, I feel as though I am mostly met with elements I’ve seen before – but nothing feels out of place or of a low quality. Formex did a pretty good job making sure the dial felt spirited, sporty, three dimensional, and legible (even if the hands could be just a bit longer). Also, if you are a fan of brushed finishing, I recommend the Element because the dial (including the face itself) is full of various brushed components. The mostly matte black face serves as a nice frame for the rest of the dial, which I like overall (despite, again, it lacking what feels like enough originality or distinctive personality).
As of writing, Formex does not offer a rubber or sports strap for the Element, which seems like something they should change. Then again, the quick-release spring bars for the lugs encourage you to swap out the straps. The leather strap options are a black or brown alligator print or a more traditional black leather strap with white contrast stitching. It is important to note that more pleasant details exist in the deployant clasp construction.
If the case itself is heavy, then the strap deployant compensates by being very light. The majority of the deployant assembly is produced not from metal, but from a hard carbon fiber composite, with some steel parts. There is also a small fine-adjustment system in the deployant which is handy. I recall when I first saw this particular style of micro-adjustment system in another watch a few years ago. I had almost missed it, and wasn’t even sure exactly how to use it. Seeing this system in the Element, I came prepared with the knowledge of how to use it – which is to press a small pusher that moves the connection point with the hinge up and down in order to give or pull back small increments of wearing size.
In addition to the mostly black-dialed version of the Element (as pictured, the reference 1200.5.8027.311), Formex offers the Element (black ceramic as well as a steel bezel version) with a white dial. I haven’t seen that model in person, but I would worry about overall legibility because of the steel hands and hour markers.
The watch industry is changing in many ways, and part of that is a new price paradigm set forth by brands like Formex and its increasing number of colleagues. These brands are using traditional watch industry suppliers and design minds, but eschewing the bloated distribution system still relied upon by the big brands which probably acted to double watch prices in many instances. While it isn’t true that all brands can benefit from a direct to consumer model, for the brands that it can benefit (such as Formex), retail prices can typically decrease by about 20-50% when they don’t need to have a third-party retailer in the middle.
Formex is thus able to reach watch lovers seeking this type of design theme, with these types of components, and who know that at this price, there isn’t too much out there quite like this. Without the bigger brands making these items appealing, Formex would have a much harder time, but today when the big luxury names are still un-affordable for most watch enthusiast audiences, the “mere” approximately $1,300–$1,500 price range for the Formex Element easily comes across as a solid, smart deal. Price for the Formex Element watch with the steel bezel is $1,260 USD, and with the black ceramic bezel the price is $1,490 USD (each with shipping included). formexwatch.com
>Model: Element (reference 1200.5.8027.311 as tested)
>Price: $1,490 USD
>Size: 46mm wide, 14.mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, especially in my younger days.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch enthusiast looking for a big, modern-looking mechanical chronograph timepiece whose budget maxes out at $1,500.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great value to price ratio. Formex gets a lot of the little details right, and the case suspension system is genuinely cool.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Struggles to find a distinct personality aside from being a really well-priced entrant in a crowded room of other modern, macho sport watches. Not necessarily a good option for those with smaller wrists, and the case itself is rather heavy.