PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 29 Nov, 2017.


Formex really impressed me with the AS1100, a motorsport themed automatic chronograph which was incredibly crafted for a seriously reasonable price.

They’ve now burst onto the scene with their latest range – the Element – boasting that it’s one of the best value Swiss Made automatic chronographs available. Their exact wording is that it’s “the most affordable high-end watch in the world” – quite the statement. It’s under £1,000, so whilst it’s not the cheapest Swiss auto chrono out there (for example the Tissot PRC200 can be had for around ~£700), when you consider the sheer nature of this watch you can immediately tell you’re getting something out of the ordinary.

Let’s take a closer look to see if their statements are true.

The specs

The case

The case is constructed of 38 individual components, and is a real feat of engineering for this price point. It offers a variety of brushed, mirror-polished and sandblasted finishes. Let’s just start from the top and make our way down. It’s pretty huge at 46mm in diameter and 16mm high, so this may be a turn off for some immediately.

The bezel has a vertical brushed top and polished chamfered edge, with another smaller brushed ring around the base. There are 4 cut outs in each corner for the screw heads of the suspension system to poke through.

Within the bezel is a flat sapphire crystal, and just like the AS1100 it has a delightful anti-reflective coating. A decent AR really makes the difference between a good and a great watch; and the beautiful clarity here is stunning.

This brings us onto the case proper. Angular, aggressive, whilst soft to the eye. An exposed sandblasted central barrel sits within a brushed edged border.

Moving onto the case suspension system, one of the issues I found on the AS1100 was the wobbly pushers to allow the suspension to operate. It’s great to see that improvements have been made on the Element to allow the suspension to operate freely, but now the pushers remain steady and fixed in place – much better quality in construction.

The pushers are fully polished and moulded to follow the flow of the case.

The push / pull crown is large to match the case, with thick grip and a hexagonal cut out at the end with a sandblasted inner.

The caseback has a simple form, with a heavily smoked exhibition window in the centre. This is a real shame as I want to see the movement but the window is just too dark. A frosted ring surrounds it with the logo / model name / specs raised and brushed within. the model and serial numbers are lightly laser etched on the top two corners.

The dial

The dial is a slightly more simple affair than the case; but refreshingly so. I decided to go for the white version rather than the black brushed alternative – not only is it cheaper, but I also think it’s classier. With a glossy top it looks like ceramic, but it’s actually a regular brass dial with a satin paint and lacquer finish. The reflective nature of the paint is a sophisticated touch.

The 7750 movement dictates the layout of the dial: running seconds at 9, chronograph minutes at 12, chronograph hours at 6, and the day / date indicator at 3.

The main minute and hour hands are a pleasant and interesting shape, a slightly rounded sword with a brushed top, and polished edges. They have a skeletonised section at the base and a lumed tip. The seconds hand is a thin pointed tip with a brushed top and the counterweight is a similar shape to the hour markers.

All subdial hands are the same, and are a miniature version of the main hands. The running seconds hand is on the same layer as the rest of the dial, with a small print mark at each corner and 60 and 30.

The two subdials at 12 and 6 are at a slightly lower level, introducing a very subtle appearance of depth. They have a very light concentric circular pattern within which brings a small small amount of texture. Surrounding them is a metal chapter ring intricately manufactured with painted markings.

The day and date indicator has the Formex logo printed above and Element below, and has a horizontal brushed finish and polished edges.

The applied hour markers are all batons with a lumed channel down the centre – with a double at 12. It has a brushed side borders and slight tuck in at the corners. This shape is reused a lot throughout the dial which is a nice touch – in the hands, hour markers and the day / date indictor surround.

The lume is average, which is a shame – it would be epic if the lume was awesome too. But alas, we can’t have everything.

The rehaut has printed minute track. unfortunately it’s fractionally misaligned – it’s hard to notice; and is the only negative I’ve been able to spot on the Formex Element apart from the smoked caseback.

The strap

You get brown and black options for the leather strap, with crocodile and plain oiled textures. They come with quick release pins (I think all straps should) so switching between them is a doddle: check the video review, I switch the straps in about 30 seconds. It’s a weird lug width – just over 24mm (approx 24.5mm), so really you’re unlikely to find a perfect fitting after-market strap. However, the quality of them indicates you won’t need to.

Both straps I have are lovely and soft; the brown crocodile stamped option has a lovely colour and lighter stitching that compliments the oaky colour well.

The black strap has a gentle, matte texture to it, with a sporty contrasting white stitch. Both have that strong, distinctive leather smell which proves to me the quality of materials.

The folding butterfly clasp is another marvel of engineering. It features a patented fine-adjustment which allows you to extend or reduce the size by approximately 6mm. it’s super easy to use – just literally a push of a button and you glide it into position. This is genuinely a great addition – I find as the day progresses my wrist can swell or contract depending whether I’m feeling hot or cold so this helps keep a comfortable wear. The clasp is made of carbon fibre, with a soft consistency which feels pleasant on the wrist.

The buckle’s top bar is a trapezoid shape, with the logo deeply engraved. it has a brushed top, polished shoulders and a central sandblasted channel. Two rounded and polished pushers release the buckle.

The movement

The movement powering the Formex Element is the venerable ETA Valjoux 7750. It’s ubiquitous in terms of automatic chronographs – as legendary as the ETA 2824 is for standard automatics. Initially released in 1973; the fact that it’s still getting used today shows how influential and highly regarded this movement is: a serious workhorse. Just don’t change it during the hours of 22:00 – 04:00 as this can damage the date gearing.

It’s a tall beast at 7.9mm – that’s why all watches that house it tend to also have a fair amount of height. Other specs include a high beat rate of 28.8k bph, 25 jewels, and 44 hours power reserve.

My Lepsi Watch Scope is tracking this 7750 at an incredibly accurate -1.3 sec/day. That’s well within COSC specs and shows some impressive regulating.

Final comments

The Formex Element has shifted my perspective of many watches I own and review.

It’s that good.

When I see a microbrand that’s Chinese Made and housing a Miyota movement – for half this price, it’s hard not to think that if you double your money you can get a Swiss Made automatic chronograph of this calibre. Of course, £1,000 is a lot – no doubt about it – but it’s just such an incredible masterpiece it’s taken my breath away.

Negatives? Hmm. The exhibition caseback is way too dark – I want to see the 7750. The rehaut is misaligned by literally a fraction of a mm too which is a shame.

For me, their statements ring true. The Formex Element looks and behaves like a high-end timepiece, feels like one too, but realistically is at least half the price you’d expect to pay. Simply put, it’s blown me away. I love it.

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