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WRISTWATCH REWIND: 2021 Formation N-Wave Chronograph


This skull shape of the N-Wave, however, is a cool party trick to show your other friends. It might even get you out of trouble if you ever get cornered in a bar by a biker gang. You could say “Dear sirs… please do not beat me up. My watch has a skull on it just like your face tattoos. We are practically family… right? (gulp)”. This might be worth a try… and could save you money on dental work.

Modern Proportions

The 2021 N-Wave case is slightly larger than the 2005 N-Wave models. It has an excellent wrist presence without feeling too big. The case width is ~43 mm (~52 mm with the crown), the lug-to-lug distance is ~50 mm and the height is 14.5 mm. The N-Wave wears great on the wrist because of the short lugs and excellent leather strap.

A great size

The main advantage of the larger case is that the dial elements now have more room to breathe. The sub-dials are larger, more elaborate, and easier to read than before. The hands, indices, and logo are bolder. Legibility is greatly enhanced, especially when used in an intended way such as driving.

Built to Drive…

Visual Balance

Perfect balance does not have to be symmetrical. Every element that makes up a watch has its own visual weight. At first glance, it seems that Formotion created a precarious array of triangular and circular elements on the N-Wave that threaten to overpower each other. Yet, the size, placement, and proportions of the parts create an equilibrium.

Balanced Design

Notice how the oversized piston-shaped pushers and crown counterbalance the 3-sub dial array. See how the logo and date window seem to have as much weight as the sub-dial at the 9:00 position? Observe the hex-head shapes to the right of the case to offset the larger left side of the crystal and dial. For every attention-grabbing element, an opposing feature stops it from having too much visual weight.

Distinctive Guilloche Dial

The dial has a fantastic, ridged effect that looks like a spiderweb. In traditional watchmaking terms, this would be called guilloche. In this technique, patterns would be cut into raw metal by highly skilled artisans using ancient rotary lathes. At this price point (and for most mass-produced watches) guilloche patterns are stamped into the dial instead of hand-cut.

Guilloche Dial

The pattern on the new N-Wave is crisp and easy to see. Compared to the 2005 model, the 2021 guilloche has fewer ridges. This makes the effect easier to see at arm’s length. It is one of the best I have encountered. Light rakes across the top ridges of the pattern creating an undulating ripple/spiderweb pattern that emanates from the center of the dial. The valleys of the pattern add depth and complexity. It really is stunning to see this in person.

Deep Dial

I suspected that the guilloche pattern represents the outward expansion of sound waves since they come from the center of the dial. Formotion gave me more detail and said they represent bow shock N-Waves. This has to do with supersonic airflow. This is fitting for a driver’s watch that exudes speed and motion, even when sitting still on a table. I love the details like this that the designer, Richard Bond, put into the watch. The level of detail is boggling.

Milled Sub Dials

Formation said that the new N-Wave has a more complex and ambitious dial construction than before. While previous N-Waves had glued-on sub-dials, the new ones required more precision to manufacture. The cutouts for the sub-dials are actually milled right through the guilloche faceplate and then a polished metal border is applied. In other words, the dial has two layers (technically three layers if you count the applied indices). I am really not sure how they are selling these watches at the prices they are asking. The N-Wave is a very high-quality watch that only gets better when viewed under a loupe. Not kidding.

Milled Sub-Dial Detail

An Ode to Fire-Breathing Engines

High-octane engines were the inspiration for the stylized pushers and lugs, which look like pistons to me. The crown even has a “piston ring” in the form of a small rubber gasket. This adds definition to the center shaft and makes it easier to manipulate the crown.

Piston Pushers & Crown

Also, multiple hex bolts appear to be screwed into the case near the lugs. Previous N-Waves had rounded controls and case embellishments, so the new geometric elements are a change of design direction for Formotion. I think these modernize the N-Wave considerably.

A Capable Quartz Chronograph

The N-Wave has a Miyota 6S10 movement. I was pleasantly surprised to see several nice features for this movement, including a four-year battery life. The chronograph second’s hand moves at 4 beats per second imitating the smooth sweep of a mechanical watch.


There are three sub-dials. The black one constantly ticks, which lets the user know the watch is functioning. The white sub-dials are used for the stopwatch features and only work when the chrono is activated. A 60-minute chronograph is located at the 6:00 position. This style to be easier to read at a glance than a 30-minute sub-dial. A 1/20th of a second reading is recorded on the top sub-dial. Most quartz Chronos only record 1/10th of a second so this increased accuracy is a nice feature for a driver’s watch.

Chrono in Use

Updated Hand Set

Try as I might, I could not find the exact name for the N-Wave’s hand shape. They are reminiscent of the ones used on the classic Ikepod watch. This is like a dauphine that has been softened with rounded curves. The look is futuristic and is a great match for teardrop indices. Formotion uses small splashes of bright red throughout the dial. The chronograph seconds hand has no counterweight and terminates at the central axis. This pointer-with-no-tail shape is repeated by the sub-dial hands that look like darts.

Precise Hands

Crazy Hand-Polished Custom Crystal

If you thought the shape of the case was unusual, take a second to appreciate the crystal. This custom shape is not often seen in watchmaking. There is a reason for that. It’s labor-intensive. The crystal starts out as a domed pear-shaped oval that gets notched and polished to the final teschio shape. Formotion confirmed to me that every crystal was custom fit to match each case perfectly. They said that this was incredibly difficult to do causing a high breakage rate. You have to appreciate Formotion’s pursuit of perfection. The result is a seamless transition from case to crystal making the N-Wave feel like one cohesive unit.

Custom Fit Crystal

Compared to the past N-Waves with higher dome crystals, the current model has less of a magnifying effect. This gives greater legibility without much distortion. The convex shape means that some of the environment might show while making wrist shots, but I never had any issues reading the dial because of reflections. You can tell how improved the new crystal is below.

Improved 2021 Crystal (top)

Tighter Branding

The classic Formation watch had N-Wave on the dial. The Formation logo was stylized as a symbol over the word. The new models have the Formotion logo, which is better for branding. Using a larger case and dial gives more room to do things like this.

Updated Branding

Formotion updated the branding on the case back with a more intricate engraving. Notice the 4 screws used to remove the case back.

Old vs. New Case Backs

Detailed Case Back

High-Quality Leather Straps

Formotion provides an excellent leather strap with the N-Wave Chrono. This is light years ahead of the thinner leather straps that came with the older N-Waves. The straps are embellished with bright white stitching that fit the racy theme of the watches.

High-Quality Straps

The quality and thickness give the watch an excellent feel on the wrist. A butterfly deployant clasp lets the user set the strap size in advance and quickly put on or take off the watch. This reduces wear and tear on the strap.

Side View

N-Wave Would Make a Great Team Watch

If you have been to any motorsport events, you might notice a lot of people wearing fancy watches. Driver watches are often eye-catching for a reason and are sized to be seen at a decent distance. I could imagine N-Wave Chronos being adopted by a racing team where everyone wears the same watch for team cohesion. I know that Seiko made several watches for Honda’s Formula One teams, and many were not as memorable as the N-Wave. This is a hint to racing teams… Get your’s before they sell out. haha.

Formation N-Wave Chronograph Watch Review

An Inspirational Chronograph at an Affordable Price

Formotion ignored conventional watch design and built a watch that does not look much like anything else. Every element of the N-Wave Chrono seems to push the boundaries of what is possible for a watch costing under $350. Most watches offered in this price range can be generic, unimaginative, or sadly forgettable. However, the Formotion N-Wave has a sense of speed and style that is perfect for a driver’s watch.

Black or blue?

Or white?

To order your own N-Wave Chrono, visit Formotion’s shop at The current price is $345, but you can get it cheaper. Make sure to sign up for their email list and receive a 20% off. Only a fool would pass up those savings. I’ll take min in H-D Orange, please.

Ready to Race

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