MICRO MONDAYS: The Formex Essence 39 is a stylish daily wearer at a competitive priceTime+Tide
Formex can be seen as an independent brand, but is one of the few that borders the independent and regular watch markets. Independent because it operates, well, independently and outputs loads of innovative technologies and unique designs, and regular because the quality of Formex watches rivals that of established Swiss brands. The Formex Essence 39 — released in 2020 following a successful 43mm version in 2019 — was a true revolution in the independent watch market. Unbeknownst to the brand, the Essence set new standards for all micro and independent brands in existence today.
To quickly explain the brand’s 20-plus year history, Formex was created in 1999 and was known for making large and bold sport watches. In 2016, the brand was taken over by Raphael Granito, its current CEO, and was officially relaunched in 2019 by way of a Kickstarter campaign and the Essence 43mm. The latter borrowed one key innovation from the previous iteration of Formex, the case suspension system, but showcased a brand new approach to design. The Essence 39, which we are putting under the loupe here, is the smaller sibling of the original Essence and one which has taken the independent watch market by storm. The case of the Essence 39 is the first reason why the model became so popular, displaying sharp angles, modest proportions, and a rather outstanding finish.
Dimensions wise, the Essence measures 39mm in diameter, 45mm lug-to-lug, 10mm thick, and comes with a 20mm lug width. The case comes with a slab-sided profile, short and beefy lugs, and a fixed bezel sitting atop the aforementioned case suspensions system. The latter consists of springs making it possible for a module containing the movement and dial to move up when flexing the wrist while the remainder of the case stays still. This unique innovation protects the movement from minor shocks and increases wearing comfort when one flexes the wrist. The case shows a predominance of brushed surfaces except for a thin polished chamfer, and the fixed bezel comes with an alternation of a vertical brushed section on top and polished sides.
The back of the Essence 39 is equipped with a see-through construction made with a flat piece of sapphire crystal, and we find another flat piece of sapphire on top. The small but easy to grip push-pull crown comes with a unique construction where one has to pull the crown harder to switch from the date-setting position to the time-setting position, a little trick which provides equal protection against water/dust/debris ingress as a screw-down crown would. (One can wind the movement when the crown is in the “zero” position—pushed all the back in.) This unique crown and stem construction, along with the screwed case-back, give the Essence 39 one hundred metres of water resistance.
As the model name might have given it away, the Essence represents Formex’s distilled vision for everyday horology, and more specifically, that of Raphael Granito. The dial is both legible and beautiful to look at, showcasing horizontal CNC machined lines and vertical brushing. The multifaceted applied hour markers are reasonably sized, play with the light well, and come with enough lume to make them easy to see in low lit conditions. The hands, which look unique, are equally well-proportioned to the dial and display brushed upper sections and polished sides, as if they had little flaps which disappear when looking at the watch straight down but that reappear when looking at it from an angle. Underneath the 12 o’clock marker we find an applied logo and the word “Formex” finely printed, as well as the words “Essence” and “Chronometer” underneath the pinion—or, should I say, just above the date aperture which comes with bevelled sides and colour-matched date wheel. Furthermore, a discreet minute track is printed on the sloped rehaut, making it easy for OCD people like me to set the precise time.
Lastly, know that the Essence 39 comes in 10 dials variations, from blue, black, white, red and green to malachite, meteorite, and mother-of-sky versions with a few more in-between. Formex seems to routinely release unique and limited dial variants of the Essence to tickle more watch enthusiasts’ horological inclinations.
The Essence 39 can be had on a stainless-steel bracelet or a leather or rubber strap. The version presented here has the bracelet which is, in itself, a marvellous thing. Everything is solid and the links showcase brushed upper sections and polished bevels, screws, quick-release spring bars, and three tricks which makes it comfortable to wear and quite versatile. First, the double-pusher butterfly clasp is held in place by ball-bearings, and one has to exert a tad of force to unlatch the left side. This means the bracelet can’t open by accident. Furthermore, Formex provides a 1.5 link so that it’s easy to find the perfect fit, and a built-in micro extension (about 5mm) for those hot days. In terms of straps, there are three leather options (brown, blue, and black) and one black rubber strap. All come with curved ends to match the case shape and quick-release spring bars. Formex pairs the straps with a proprietary deployant clasp made of forged carbon fiber, complete with on-the-fly micro-adjustments.
Formex equips all of its models with Swiss-made movements from Sellita. The Essence 39 being the brand’s core collection, it is equipped with a COSC Sellita SW200-1 caliber which beats at 28,800 BP (4Hz) and comes with 38 hours of power reserve. Formex provides the COSC report card for each movement to show how well the movement has performed. The SW200-1 is a reliable and solid movement chosen by many brands. Being a chronometer version means there is something pretty to look at thanks to the see-through case-back.
The Formex Essence 39 pricing and availability:
Various references of the Formex Essence 39 are available now from the Formex website. Price: Models starting from US$1,480/AU$2,380 (strap) / US$1,590/AU$2,590 (bracelet)
|Case Dimensions||39mm x 45mm x 10mm|
|Case Material||Stainless steel|
|Dial||Blue, Black, Green, White, Red and Dégradé + Limited Editions|
|Strap||3-link stainless steel bracelet / black, blue, brown leather strap / black rubber strap|
|Movement||Sellita SW200-1 COSC caliber|
|Power Reserve||38 hours|
|Price||Starting from Strap US$1,480 (AU$2,380) / Bracelet US$1,780 – $1,890 (AU$2,700 – $2,910)|