The Formex Essence Automatic Chronometer is the microbrand company’s take on the minimalist watch category. They stripped down their sporty timepiece DNA and kept only the essentials, but with thoughtful design cues. Think no-frills robustness.
The Essence comes in a variety of dial and straps options, but the piece being reviewed here is the Dégradé dial version. This French word means degrade, but in dial terms it means fade or gradient. Formex created this look by hand, against horizontal lines that were individually CNC machined on the dial.
The look may make you think of a cross between an H. Moser et Cie Fume and a Patek Phillipe Nautilus. It’s absolutely stunning and the anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal ensures a clear view into its beauty. Even our photography cannot do it justice.
The lume is BGW9 Super-LumiNova which let’s them keep the hands and markers clean while still giving enough glow in low light conditions.
On the wrist, the watch is ultra comfortable and the 10mm height is perfect for a dress shirt. For comparison, a Rolex Sub is 12mm tall.
The 43mm diameter is what makes it more than a dress watch, and the 49mm lug-to-lug gives it balance. On steel, the Essence weighed in at 167 grams / 5.9 ounces.
The Essence can be ordered on rubber or leather, but if like watches on steel, you can’t go wrong with the bracelet option. It’s one of the most robust bracelets we’ve seen from an independent brand, from the double push-button deployment clasp with patented micro-adjustment system to the tool-free endlinks.
Brands like Cartier and Panerai have built quick release systems into their strap options, but the tool-free system Formex uses makes the most sense. It is fast and easy, simply requiring a pinch of the two tabs. And most importantly, the system can also accommodate regular springbars so that you are not stuck using proprietary straps.
While the watch is flipped over, it’s a great time to talk about the engine within. When most independents go Swiss, Sellita is a popular choice, specifically the caliber SW200-1, which is what Formex opted for in the Essence.
Like the ETA caliber 2824-2 the Sellita SW200-1 comes in four grades. The maxed out level is Chronometer, which most brands do not opt for do to cost and availability. Formex went all the way to the top with the Essence and made COSC part of the package.
Funny enough, the custom rotor on the Essence is reminiscent of the one on the Miyota 8200 series, not that it’s a bad thing since it lets you see more of the nice finishing that comes with the Chronometer grade Sellita.
Part of the DNA mentioned at the top of this review is Formex’s patented Case Suspension System. For the Essence, they managed to keep this feature in the case, but made it fit seamlessly with the design. From this view you can also see the crown, which is not screw-down, but the watch still secures a depth rating of 100m/330ft.
The Essence Automatic Chronometer retails for $1,160 USD on a strap or $1,265 on the bracelet, but you can also get it without the COSC for as low as $785. We may be biased because the watch we have in the shop fully loaded with COSC and a bracelet (ref: 0330.1.6324.100), but at this ultra competitive price point, it’s definitely the way to go!
In Formex’s Own Words:
“The Essence combines elegance and robustness in a Swiss mechanical high precision timepiece. With its patented Case Suspension System, waterproof case, COSC-certified Swiss Automatic movement and flawless hand-finished surfaces, the Formex Essence is a study in what it means to have the best of both worlds. On top of that, unique features, such as our patented Micro-Adjustment System, will make the Essence wear exceptionally comfortable on your wrist.” –Formex