April 26, 2021
by Ariel Adams
In late 2020, Swiss Formex announced both a company rebranding and the debut of its first modern diver’s watch — the Reef Automatic Chronometer. The Reef watch was launched as a mini-platform that allowed consumers to personalize some of the aesthetic options, including case components such as dial and bezel color. I personalized this particular Formex Reef Automatic Chronometer was with a blue dial and green ceramic bezel. I thought the colors would be a unique combination, and I found that they worked really well to remind me of the colors I enjoy seeing while hiking – the blue of the sky and the green of local flora.
In many ways, the Reef builds upon Formex’s success with the Essence. That latter model (which is still very popular for the brand) was the company’s first modern all-purpose urban leisure watch that combined sporty sentiments with an elegant, timeless style. Formex has now done the same thing in a diver’s-style watch, combining the company’s focus on value and features with an original design that fits into a trendy package.
In general, the Formex Reef watch is an excellent product. From the outset, Formex has watch enthusiasts in mind, which helped inform every aspect, from the overall design to the materials used. Priced at under $1,800 USD, Formex has also used an aggressive pricing strategy that assumes once enthusiasts learn about the product, they will appreciate the good looks and good deal to be had.
In a sense, the Reef is Formex’s trendiest product to date. It more or less combines today’s hobbyist interest in classic diver-style watches and steel watches with integrated, tapering bracelets. The product fits an established mold, but once you examine the details, it’s clear that the Reef is an original product that wants to nurture its own appeal, as opposed to trying to stand in for a more expensive or popular product.
On the wrist, the Reef has excellent proportions and does not wear too large at all. That said, I am confused about how Formex rates the size at 42mm-wide. The bezel and dial together are about 40mm wide, and with the expansive case (given its flanks and crown), the case is around 48mm-wide. That makes it wider than it is long (given a 47mm lug-to-lug distance), allowing it to be very comfortable for smaller wrists. The case is also just over 11mm-thick, but given how the watch wears, Formex says it appears to be only about 9mm thick. The case is also water-resistant to 300 meters and has an AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial.
Ceramic is used for most of the rotating bezel insert options, but there is also a silver steel insert option available. Given the scratch resistance of ceramic, I preferred it. The olive/forest-green color of this ceramic bezel is nice, giving the watch a very “foresty” look. The matte with polished cutout-markers bezel contrasts elegantly with the shiny sunburst polished blue dial. Formex did an excellent job with how the applied dial markers reflect light but also offer excellent legibility. The true sign of many high-end-feeling watches is their ability to mix excellent readability with the ability to attract visual attention (usually by refracting light).
The Reef Diver dial also bears the new Formex brand logo. The logo is a bit more timeless and luxurious than the outgoing logo – and I think it suits the brand well. This still feels like part of the Formex watch family, even if the design of the logo and font are a bit different.
Inside the Reef watch is a Swiss Made Sellita SW300-1 automatic movement that has been given a COSC Chronometer certification. The movement operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve and is an analog to the ETA 2892. Watches like the Essence saw Formex offer consumers choice as to whether to order COSC Chronometer-certified movements or those that have not been sent to COSC. I believe that all versions of the Reef have movements that are COSC-certified for accuracy – with a label attesting to such on the dial.
One of the interesting tests that the Reef watch passes with good marks is in how it feels when you run your fingers over it and close your eyes. The watch feels solid, with parts that are smooth to the touch, yet it features a diversity of angles and finishes. This also goes for the bracelet — and this is an area of refinement you don’t see in too many watches at this price point.
Formex offers the Reef with a steel bracelet (very similar to the bracelet on the Essence — or it actually might be that bracelet) that has a fold-over deployant clasp and a wonderful micro-adjust system in the clasp. The bracelet also has a bit of a taper near the end-links, which helps the overall visual experience of the watch. The Reef also includes a quick-release system for the bracelet or strap that allows the wearer to easily swap them out — though when you purchase the Reef, you do need to choose between the strap or the bracelet.
The straps is custom-made for the Reef, in black rubber. It comes with Formex’s mostly carbon fold-over deployant that, itself, also has a micro-adjust system. I like the Reef diver on the strap, but I wish the color matched the rest of the watch a bit more. Here, the strap is black, while the predominant colors on the dial and bezel are blue or green. A green rubber strap would have matched this color combination well.
As a medium-sized dive watch that wears boldly, the Formex Reef Automatic Chronometer (reference 2200.1.6330.100) has an attractive design, a good list of components, and a more than fair price given its long-term wearability and versatility. Formex was able to create a familiar-feeling mechanical dive watch with a fresh face — something not easily accomplished. They were also able to use it to launch a new face of the brand while extending the modern personality of the Swiss watchmaker in what is supposed to be a natural and expected direction. The little bits of personalization are nice, but the brand could easily have taken that further with additional options. Overall, this is the latest and best product from a company that is keen to earn market share away from more complacent watchmakers in this space. Price for the Formex Reef Automatic Chronometer COSC 300M watch is $1,670 USD on the strap and $1,790 USD on the bracelet. Learn more or order at the Formex website here.
>Model: Reef Automatic Chronometer COSC 300M (reference 2200.1.6333.100)
>Price: $1,670 – $1,790 USD
>Size: 40-48mm-wide (depending on how you measure it; Formex claims Reef is 42mm-wide, 11.4mm-thick, with a 47mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As configured in green and blue, the Reef makes a nice outdoor adventure or trekking watch but that also looks nice if you hike up into a seated dinner.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Conservative sport watch lovers seeking to support up-and-coming brands with products that have mainstream appeal.
>Best characteristic of watch: Suitable daily-wear watch with the right blend of comfort, style, fashion-sense, performance, and pizazz. Well-priced for what you get. A successful gamble for the Formex brand that extends its appeal.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Cosmetic variation options are a bit of a tease, leaving some choice but really leaving the consumer wanting more.