An unaltered customer review by Robert Block, California, USA – software executive and passionate watch nerd…
My watch collection — like most, I suspect — covers all the bases: the chronograph, dress watch, sports watch, watches for work and weekends as well as some vintage pieces. For me, each watch tells more than just the time. They are my personal style statement and represent craftsmanship, tradition and passion. Each addition has been chosen with care and there is a story and a reason behind each timepiece I collect. As a software executive in Silicon Valley, California, I spend a large part of my time solving problems with the latest hardware and software technology. I also love the user experience in my new car, the latest model of carbon fiber mountain bike, the latest cellphone. But in watches, I am old-school and committed to analog only.
I have been looking to add to my collection, because as any watch aficionado knows, there is always room for something unique and different and a small Swiss brand has caught my eye. Formex Swiss Watches have been around for 20 years but they have been in the news recently for shaking things up in the normally traditional world of watchmaking. The brand’s new, young CEO, Raphael Granito, took the brand in a radical new direction by moving the company from the brick-and-mortar retail model of old to an innovative direct-to-customer approach. Of course, Formex is far from the only watch brand to realize that by jumping over the middle men, it can offer better prices (look at all the countless new Kickstarter brands). However, it is the first established Swiss watch brand to switch completely to online and pass on these saving to the consumer.
What sealed the deal for me…
I do have a sports watch in my collection but I am drawn to Formex’s Automatic three-hand Pilot limited-edition model, with its carbon fiber elements, clear readability, date window, and sapphire exhibition caseback. This watch is rugged and sporty, mixing traditional watchmaking with modern cutting-edge design and material. Besides its obvious visual appeal, the unique and unusual case is what caught my attention. Formex’s approach was to look to the engineering and design of high-performance bikes and racing cars and, based on this, to integrate four tiny springs between the lower and upper watch case. This cushion concept is a clever mechanism that provides shock absorption to protect the mechanical movement. It might sound like a gimmick, but it makes this rather rugged watch wear surprisingly comfortably, as the case adapts to my wrist’s motion. With the four hexagon screws on top of the watch and the visible springs on the side, the suspension system gives a distinctive and incredibly sporty look to every timepiece.
Besides being an avid mountain and road biker, paddle boarder and airplane pilot, I’m not sure if I engage in any activities that would seriously test my watches; Formex, however, most certainly does. CEO Raphael Granito is an avid sportsman who pursues many high-octane pursuits, from motorsports to surfing, skydiving and snow sports. And to showcase his watches’ credentials he has partnered with some exciting athletes, all of whom put their Formex watches and the case suspension system through their paces across a variety of adrenaline-fueled pursuits. That such talented sportsmen have embraced these watches speaks to the success of the case, the protection it provides for the watch movement, and the comfort it offers to the wearer. I met Granito in person when he and his team were exhibiting at a watch fair in San Francisco in May 2018. I guess I was expecting a suited up, stiff, Swiss boardroom executive and was instead surprised to see a young, ambitious dude with trucker hat and beard. When he showed me his Formex app, which lets you try on watches in AR with your smartphone, I knew this brand is not stuck in the past but focused on innovation and able to shake up pinned down principles in the industry. The same applies to the brand’s newest development, the Essence Automatic Chronometer, which I saw in prototype form in San Francisco. It’s a slightly smaller and beautifully designed COSC-certified chronometer. Formex integrated the Suspension System into the case to make it look more sleek, and added a nifty carbon fiber composite folding clasp that allows for fine-adjustment of the strap length on the go. As for the price tag, I can’t think of anything comparable on the market that’d be able to match up. In line with its new and innovative business model, the company will release this model on Kickstarter in late summer, which I think is a great idea.
My Formex became one of my top wrist choices for basically every occasion: it’s bold and sporty but doesn’t feel oversized or tacky. However, what seals the deal for me is the unique case and suspension system — and while I will probably not be taking up skydiving or testing my biking skills on the nearest cliff to prove its resilience, it’s reassuring to know that I don’t have to treat my latest acquisition with kid gloves. All my watches have something interesting or unusual about them, and this clever mechanism is a great talking point and a very valid reason to add this striking watch to my collection.
I know this might sound insincere, but this endorsement came about from me offering to Raphael that I write down and share my Formex experience. Formex doesn’t sponsor me in any way nor did they offer me any discounts or vouchers (how about it, Formex?); I genuinely love its watches and its business model and appreciate the direction its team is taking the brand. I secured myself the Kickstarter Early Bird Special for the Essence Chronometer by putting down a small deposit on the Formex website. I truly believe that if you don’t need to shine with a flashy brand name but instead look for a unique and high-quality everyday watch that looks elegant and casual at the same time, that’s probably the best deal you can land these days.