July 24, 2022
by Matt Reudink
Formex has been on an absolute tear over the past few years, releasing everything from carbon-cased versions of its Essence watches to an accessibly priced titanium field watch. That said, one of the most popular recent releases has to be the Reef dive watch. A large reason for the Reef’s success is Formex’s emphasis on customizability and the user experience. The watch features quick-change straps and interchangeable bezels, so you can order exactly the watch that appeals to your personal tastes but also switch up the look entirely in a matter of minutes. In releasing the Reef GMT Automatic Chronometer 300M, Formex has not only added more functionality to the Reef by being able to track two additional time zones, but it has also provided users with even more options for customization.
The design language of the Reef GMT is unreservedly Swiss, mixing strong lines and robust construction with just enough polish and flair to be dressy and versatile. Starting with the case, the Reef GMT clocks in at 42mm in diameter. However, that one number can be deceiving, both in terms of how the watch looks and how it feels on the wrist. The protrusion (or “ears”) at 9 o’clock provides symmetry to the case, as it mirrors the crown guards on the 3 o’clock side. While this doesn’t affect the feel on the wrist, it does increase the visual weight. While that description may lead you to believe that the Reef GMT wears larger than its 42mm diameter, the reality is just the opposite. The short, 47m lug-to-lug distance, slim 11.4mm case height, and sloping lugs result in the watch wearing extremely well on the wrist and feeling like a smaller watch. To be fair, a large part of the wearing comfort also comes down to the outstanding strap and bracelet options, but more on that later.
The case on the Reef GMT is an interesting juxtaposition between sharp angles and chamfers on the lugs and the soft smooth lines on the sides of the case. The “ears” on the case are reminiscent of those found on the Patek Philippe Nautilus, which was originally designed to emulate the portholes on a ship. I’m sure that similarity will bother some watch fans; however, the rest of the watch differs so much from the Nautilus that it falls far from the homage line. Regardless of inspiration, the case shape provides a nice symmetry and continues the unique look and feel that unites the entire Reef lineup.
Rounding out the case details is an exhibition caseback, signed screw-down crown, and a bi-directional, 48-click bezel. The bezel action is solid with no backplay. It’s not the easiest bezel to turn, as the action is on the stiff side and the sloping, smooth texturing on the bezel edge can be a bit slippery. Luckily, this is a GMT watch, so most users will likely appreciate the fact that the bezel won’t be easily displaced. Plus, the watch feels smooth and soft to the touch, which is appreciated. Formex utilizes the same quick-change bezel system found in the Reef dive watches, allowing you to easily customize the look of the watch with six different 24-hour bezel options. You can even swap from one of the GMT bezels to a 120-click dive bezel. If you do swap to a dive bezel, however, keep in mind that it will still be bi-directional. Not a problem for the vast majority of us, but worth keeping in mind.
Green watches are having their moment for good reason, and the deep sunburst green on the Reef GMT demonstrates exactly why. Sure, green may not be the most versatile, but it’s gorgeous in direct sunlight, yet subdued enough that it’s easy to wear in most situations. Plus, given all the options Formex provides, the green dial could easily be toned down with a black or steel bezel. Whichever color you choose, the dial on the Reef GMT utilizes large, applied indices, a stocky handset, and a minimalist, red-tipped GMT hand, color-matched to the GMT text on the dial. In addition, Formex added 24-hour indicators inside the hour markers, allowing you to easily track three time zones at once or, if you swap out for the dive bezel, retain the GMT functionality in a classic dive watch form. In fact, the Reef GMT with a dive bezel could be a perfect match for someone primarily interested in a dive watch but looking for an unobtrusive way to read a second time zone. With 300m of water resistance, the Reef GMT would certainly be up to some underwater adventures.
Overall, the dial and bezel feel elegant but sporty. The applied markers do a great job of catching the light and upping the dressy vibes. While the inner 24-hour track adds functionality, it does result in a slightly busy dial, especially when coupled with the 24-hour bezel. For those only needing to read two time-zones, a smaller case with a smooth bezel or more spartan dial option would be welcome down the road. The only other quibble is that the handset, particularly the minutes hand, feels a bit too short. It makes sense why Formex opted for this handset, as it came down to compromise needed to maintain the slim case height and angular applied indices. However, when you’re used to the minutes hand brushing up to the minute markers, it can take time to get used to.
The Reef GMT is available in six different dial options and six different interchangeable bezels. Once you add in the different strap and bracelet options, you end up with quite a few variations. Perhaps most impressive, especially once you consider the price, is that all the dials are made in Switzerland in Formex’s own dial factory. The Super-LumiNova BGW9 is applied crisp and even on the hands and markers (and the zirconium oxide ceramic bezels) and the printing is clear and precise. It’s just another reminder of the effort Formex is putting into each of its watches. Choose your overused watch cliché: value proposition, bang-for-your-buck, punching above its weight — it’s hard to deny that the Formex Reef GMT is a lot of watch for the money.
The Reef GMT is powered by a Sellita SW330-2 automatic movement. Largely indistinguishable from the ETA 2893-2, the Swiss made SW330-2 features 56 hours of power reserve, a date function, and runs at 28.8kbph. What sets this particular movement apart, however, is the fact that Formex opted for the top-of-the-line COSC chronometer-certified SW330-2, meaning that you get some extras in terms of decoration and finishing, but more importantly to the user, the movement is regulated to -4 to +6 seconds/day. Note that this movement is a caller, or office, GMT, meaning that the 24-hour hand is independently adjustable by pulling out the crown to the second position and adjusting in 1-hour increments.
Typically, brands will put a fair bit of thought and effort into a bracelet, ensuring that it works seamlessly with the case design. Formex is no different, and it has certainly done so with the three-link bracelet we received. It’s smooth, articulate, mixes brushed surfaces with polished chamfers, and utilizes screws for easy link removal. The clasp also features tool-free microadjustment and, rather than traditional spring bars, the Reef GMT uses a quick-change system. But here’s the difference: Formex has designed the Reef GMT to look and feel just as good on rubber, leather, or mesh — the latter being a new option to just added to the lineup. If you’re a fan of rubber, you’re in for a real treat. The rubber strap option is sublime. Soft and pliable, not too thin or too thick, and perfectly integrated with the case, the rubber is a must-have if you’re even remotely a fan of rubber straps. What puts the strap over the top, however, is the carbon composite deployant clasp that features on-the-fly micro-adjustment. On rubber and adjusted to exactly the right fit, the Reef GMT feels incredibly comfortable and is easy to simply forget. Until, of course, you look down and see that brilliant flash of sunburst green.
The Reef GMT is a worthy follow-up to the Reef diver, providing added functionality and ever more customizability options. The fact that Formex is offering the Reef GMT, complete with its COSC-certified movement, with prices starting at $1,800 USD is truly impressive. Whether you opt for flashy green or gilt-accented model or a more subdued black (or perhaps a combination of both), you’re getting an extremely well-built and well-finished watch with class-leading bracelet and strap options. When you throw in the added versatility of being able to easily swap out bezels, the Formex Reef GMT becomes even more intriguing. For more information on the Formex Reef GMT and its myriad color combinations, be sure to visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Reef GMT Automatic Chronometer 300M
>Price: $1,800-$2,250 depending on strap and bracelet options
>Size: 42mm diameter, 47mm lug-to-lug, 11.4mm height, 22mm lug width.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Travelling on an outdoor-oriented vacation, but I would bring along both the rubber strap and bracelet.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who enjoys changing up the look and feel of their watch, but wants to do so with elements that are custom-fit to the watch and retain the watch’s intended design aesthetic.
>Best characteristic of watch: Copious customization options and outstanding rubber strap and clasp.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The case shape with the “ears” won’t be for everyone.