There are few brands in the sub-$5,000 segment that are really doing their own things, and Formex is certainly one of them. Founded in 1999, the brand took on an entirely new look when now-CEO Raphael Granito acquired it in 2016. Gone are the brand’s days of making oversized watches with almost industrial designs, replaced by sleek, angular cases that create cohesion across its three modern collections: Essence, Reef, and Field. What pushes Formex past most brands, though, is the innovative technology it employs, from a patented case suspension system to interchangeable bezels. While its models have never shied away from color and texture, Formex has just announced the release of a captivating malachite dial for its Essence 39 model. I’ll be the first to say that new dials are not new watches, but that doesn’t mean that new dials can’t be exciting. The Formex Essence 39 Malachite proves that to be true.
The case of the Essence 39 is exactly what you’d expect: the Essence case brought down to 39mm, measuring just 10mm thick with a lug-to-lug of 45mm. Predominantly brushed, it has a polished bezel slope and a thin chamfer running along its edge, but the finishing communicates an unwaveringly sporty watch. This is driven home with the angularity and faceting employed, which is especially visible in the bracelet’s endlinks. One other element that is polished is the bolts securing the case suspension system. What is a case suspension system? Formex has engineered the case to allow the movement, dial, and bezel to be housed separately within the larger midcase, with a suspension system allowing the subcase to move with the wearer’s wrist. The upshot? A tiny bit of added comfort and a truly excellent wrist presence. The case (including the bezel) is stainless steel, but the container that facilitates the suspension system is grade 2 titanium (though you’ll scarcely be able to see it).
At 3 o’clock, the pull-out crown has great grip, and while I didn’t struggle with it, I did find it a touch undersized in my fingers. Despite it not being screw-down, the watch still achieves 100m water resistance. The bracelet is quite comfortable, with shorter links that allow better articulation. While it has a butterfly clasp, it’s no ordinary butterfly clasp. The brand has managed a micro-adjust link that folds out, eliminating the challenge of finding a perfect fit that often plagues such clasps. In addition, the endlinks feature exceptionally sturdy quick-release tabs, though the 20mm lugs are short enough that you’ll have trouble fitting any strap without using curved springbars. The watch is also available to order on rubber or leather, both of which come equipped with another Formex novelty: a micro-adjustable carbon folding clasp.
Under a flat sapphire crystal, the star of the new Formex Essence 39 Malachite shines. The malachite dial is resplendent in its wavy striped patterning, and what the dial loses in dimensionality, it makes up for in the beauty of having a natural stone in your watch. In a sense, each piece is also unique, in that the malachite’s coloration and patterning will vary depending on the cut of the dial. The stone is accented by Formex’s faceted applied markers and coordinating handset, all of which feature brushed tops, polished bevels, and plenty-bright Super-LumiNova BGW9. The dial borrows the sloped chapter ring from the green Essence 39, which is serviceable as a color match for the malachite. The one drawback of the natural stone dial is that the usual beveled date window no longer exists as part of the dial but rather a separate polished date frame, which is disruptive at 6 o’clock. Dials like these are great opportunities for brands to offer no-date versions, which allow the joy of a stone’s patterning to exist without interruption. That said, I love how the malachite’s striations maintain the horizontal striping of the original dial’s “garage door” design.
Like all Formexes aside from the Field line, the Essence 39 Malachite uses a chronometer-certified Sellita movement, in this case, the SW200-1. The movement, seen through a sapphire caseback, features a customized skeletonized rotor, blued screws, and some basic perlage on the plates. The specs are likely familiar at this point: 26 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 41-hour power reserve. There’s a reason this movement is so popular—it’s reliable and goes toe to toe with every other comparable mass-market movement. The back of the case also reveals the quick-release system and the separation of the suspended case container and the main case. Technologically, the caseback is every bit as impressive as the dial side.
Now for the first time, Formex has taken one of its models and added a twist. I’ve long been of the mind that the green Essence 39 was the best Essence 39 (if not one of the best Formexes), but this takes that color and turns it up to 11. Much like its carbon-dialed sibling, the Formex Essence 39 Malachite adds a little extra to an already beautiful watch. If the dial weren’t enough, the watch is packed with the features that define Formex as an innovator in watchmaking. The Formex Essence 39 Malachite is priced at $1,650 on rubber or leather and $1,750 on bracelet and is available directly from the brand and authorized dealers. While the model is not limited, production constraints allow for just 100 pieces to be produced per year. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.