Uniqueness. This is something you do not find a lot of with watches these days. That is mostly because there are so many brands and lets face, it has been done before. When the Formex Element showed up at my door and I unboxed it (on video, check our Youtube), I immediately thought, damn, this is unique. Now, it turns out it is not as unique as I originally thought because it does take elements (ironic, isn’t it?) from the JLC EL2, most notably the case style and the hour and minute hand are from a JLC Master Compressor Chronograph. Now, first things first, I am not bashing the Formex Element because of this by any means. It just so happens that I found out that certain design cues are from a well established luxury watch brand and I feel the need to point it out. The Formex is not an homage, at least not what I associate with an homage, and does have enough going on that separates it from those models. The Element also has the patented shock absorbing suspension case that Formex has been using since 1999.
Formex Element Specifications:
ETA Valjoux 7750 (13 1/4”) Automatic, Chronograph with weekday and date display. 42 hour power reserve
Lug to Lug:54mm
Specials: Patented case suspension
Waterproofness: 10ATM (100 m)
Case: Stainless Steel 316L
Container: Titanium Grade 2
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflection treatment
Strap: Italian calf leather with embossed croco pattern and black stitching
There is a lot to like about the Formex Element. First and foremost, this watch is no joke when it comes to build quality and the materiels used. Stainless Steel, Titanium, Ceramic, even carbon fiber comes into play with the clasp, but more on that in a bit. The level of finishing is where it should be for a watch at $1500; actually I would say it surpasses it. These days many watch enthusiasts look at a price tag and immediately want to know the movement and and then who the brand is. Now, these are deciding factors when purchasing any product, and I get that. I myself do the same. What I do find odd is people comparing this to a Kickstarter brand charging $450 for a 3 hand field watch. I mean, they can’t compare. Regardless of where Formex took design elements from the end result is one complex and attractive watch that most people would think costs way more if they were not aware of the brand.
The Formex Element is another large watch from the brand at 46mm. There are some reading this thinking that is not a large watch, and depending on what you like to wear, that can very well be true. In my circles and for what I personally like, this is on the large size for me. I feel I would love it even more if it were say 44mm at the most. Okay, so with that out of the way, let me discuss what I do like. I love the overall dynamic the Element has. It has a presence, it makes a statement. I am sucker for a more basic 3 hand diver watch but there is no denying that the Element is an attractive piece. I read a review of this watch elsewhere that said they felt the dial of the watch was somewhat of a let down compared to the rest of the watch. I do not agree. I love the vertical brushed steel dial, especially when it hits the light just right and it allows the focus to be more on the intricate case design. The dial is also uncluttered for a Valjoux 7750 chronograph even with the day and date and the sub-dials, I do not find the dial to be busy. I like how the 9 o clock subdial has no outline and feel that helps in keeping the dial less cramped looking.
The highlight or star of the Formex Element is absolutely the case design. A cutout out case that utilizes the suspension system and a fantastic use of brushed and polished finishes. These cases are what attention to detail is all about. The version I have in hand also has a brushed black ceramic bezel, which matches the brushing on the dial, giving it even more cohesiveness. If you do not like ceramic or would rather something a little more industrial looking, the Element is also available with a steel bezel and also white dial variations. The actual lugs are also very short, with the 54mm length coming from the case body, similar to those vintage dive watches with the hooded lugs and the like.
Even though it is quite a large watch, it still hugs to my 7 1/2 inch wrist nicely and while larger than I normally wear, I feel I can pull it off. Part of that comfort comes from the strap and buckle system, which I show off in detail in the video review. The deployant clasp is where the carbon comes in, molded carbon fiber is used here, I’m guessing as a way to save some weight, or maybe just to be different. How it will hold up over long term use is anybody’s guess but it is not an area under much impact on a regular basis, so hopefully no issues will arise.
One area on the Formex Element that I find lacking is the case back. For some reason they chose to black out the sapphire glass and the Valjoux 7750 movement is undecorated and rather plain. Now I know you can not do everything to this watch and being honest you get a heck of a lot for that $1500 price tag, but maybe a clear case back with some decoration to the rotor would have been better than what they currently have. It gives off a stealthy vibe that does not really work with this type of watch. Like something you would see on a Luminox.
Formex states that there are 38 individual components that form the Element case and that is easy to see when giving it a 360 spin. Everywhere you look it seems you can see another detail that you may have missed before, like the way the case and case back attach, to the quick release pins on the strap to the custom buckle. If you were wondering where the titanium was at, that would be on the inner case. While I am not a big fan of marketing tag lines, even though I know companies need to use them, (we use one ourselves here at Watchreport), I think some of what Formex says is true. If the Element had a more elaborate movement, say such as an Eterna caliber for example, they could probably charge double the price. Instead they chose to keep the price well under $2000 and the price on the website includes UPS shipping and all duties and taxes. The design may not be for everyone but it is amazing to see all these materials and technology at work for $1500. I’m still holding out for a 42mm Formex; I guess I will have to see what they have up their sleeves for next year.