Hands-On With The New Formex Reef Radiant Bronze For Collective
Recently, I had a chance to wear the new Formex Reef Radiant Bronze dive watch ahead of its launch today. This new Reef is a collaboration between Formex and the American retailer Collective. It is very much the Formex Reef that we know and admire but with a rather unique dial. As the name suggests, this is a bronze dial. And not just a bronze-colored dial but an actual bronze dial.
Let’s have a closer look and see how my time with the Formex Reef Radiant Bronze panned out.
Formex Reef Radiant Bronze dial
Let me kick things off with the core of the matter — the dial. Bronze has been in vogue as a case material for a while now. People like it for its warm hue and unpredictable patina. You do not often encounter this metal in dials, though.
Formex produces this dial in-house, which, apparently, took quite some development effort. The tooling for regular dials could not be used here. Furthermore, patina might be cool on cases but not so much on dials, so these dials are lacquered to prevent any oxidation from occurring. Therefore, you can rest assured that the dial will remain as clean and radiant as it was straight out of the box. The color-matched date wheel is a nice touch as well.
Bronze consists of copper and tin, and some alloys have other metals mixed in as well. With this one, the copper really shows as the dial has a pinkish sheen to it. It is not the warm gold tone you sometimes see in watch cases. This is more reminiscent of the traditional salmon dial. Our photographer Morgan captured the hue very well, so you can trust the pictures here to properly represent the color.
A collaboration with Collective
The Formex Reef Radiant Bronze was conceived in collaboration with Collective Horology. This California-based retailer specializes in typical aficionado brands, such as Fears, Arcanaut, and — you guessed it — Formex. A particular point of focus for Collective is collaborative special editions. Previous projects have been made with Armin Strom, IWC, Urwerk, and Czapek.
Collective was particularly eager to showcase Formex’s in-house manufacturing capabilities with this collaboration. The idea for the bronze dial emerged during a meeting at the 2022 Windup Watch Fair.
This year, a limited number of 50 Formex Reef Radiant Bronze watches will be made. Some of those will be sold through Collective, partly at the next Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco on April 28th–30th. European customers can order theirs via the Formex website. Whether they will be available elsewhere in the world was not specified. You could give the Formex website a try, of course.
A giant slayer with any dial
Wearing the new Formex Reef Radiant Bronze brought back the same feelings I had while reviewing the Reef GMT and Essence Leggera. It is a feeling of awe at what Formex manages to offer at this price. Even with this special bronze dial, the watch is around €2K. That is serious money, for sure, but the quality and specifications put many watches multiple times the price to shame.
Whatever dial you chose, this is a giant slayer of a dive watch. The case measures 42mm across, 47mm long, and 11.4mm thick, with a 22mm lug spacing. The Reef also features a 300m water resistance rating, quick-release bracelet, toolless micro-adjust clasp, toolless interchangeable bezel with ceramic insert, and very bright Super-LumiNova BGW9. Furthermore, all of the above is machined and finished exceptionally well.
The watch is powered by a Sellita SW300-1, which is an excellent, reliable caliber that is easy to service. It has a 56-hour power reserve and a Glucydur balance wheel. This particular version is also a certified chronometer, and it comes with an official COSC certificate.
Wearing the Formex Reef Radiant Bronze
I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed by the dial when I opened the box. “Oof, that’s a bit much!” was my first impression. Generally, I am not a massive fan of distracting, shimmering dials on dive watches. They tend to inhibit legibility and can look a little out of place. That is all true for the Reef Radiant Bronze. From a purely functional perspective, this is not the dial to choose.
But then I sized the bracelet, which was a breeze due to the thick screws and absence of Loctite (are you listening, pretty much any other brand?). I put the bronze Reef on and went about my business. I checked the time in the sun outside and was instantly mesmerized by the dial. It looked somehow a little more subtle than in artificial light. And it added a real sense of warmth and character to an otherwise quite clinical watch. “This is actually quite cool!” I thought to myself.
The Reef feels rock solid. The quick-release and adjustment systems do not come at the expense of solidity. Currently, I do not own any watches with quick-adjust clasps, but I used the feature all the time on the Reef. It was the first warmer weekend in the Netherlands, and the bracelet allowed me to continuously get a perfect fit. I just really liked the wearing experience all around.
The Formex Reef is, as you have gathered by now, a seriously good watch. I am, however, not the biggest fan of the style; it is a little too technical and modern for my taste. Otherwise, I would have been all over this watch. So if you are into the aesthetic, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
The Formex Reef Radiant Bronze, in particular, is a cool, off-the-beaten-track alternative. The dial is a real eye-catcher, although perhaps not entirely in keeping with the brand philosophy. I would pick a white-dial version of the Reef. But then, I may be contradicting myself. The bronze dial really does soften the technical aesthetic significantly. It is a quirky old-world look — something you would sooner expect on a 1960s Vacheron — on an otherwise very contemporary design.
Admittedly, this has been a pretty raving review, but it is rightfully so. I think Formex is underrated in the sense that it is not talked about enough. Considering the quality and feature sets of its watches, the brand is doing fantastic stuff. I still cannot get that carbon Essence Leggera out of my head. I wish more brands were this perfectionist in terms of fit and finishing, even in much higher segments.
Pricing and availability
The Formex Reef Radiant Bronze is available today in the US via Collective and in Europe via the Formex website. The watch costs US$1,935 / €1,950 on a rubber strap and US$2,065 / €2,080 on the bracelet. As with all special-dial Formex watches, you probably have to act quickly to get your hands on one.
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