Biotic Formicidae | VARIO Review
I first knew Ryan Lee, the person behind Biotic, as Vario’s customer back in 2018. Throughout the years we’ve messaged each other but I didn’t realize he wanted to start a microbrand himself until a few months ago, when I saw him post his prototype in the FB groups. I was eager to check out his maiden watch, but I was busy with my Trench 1918 orders at the time. I didn’t get a chance to see the actual watch until recently, when he loaned me his Formicidae Fire after it made its way back from a world tour.
I was very impressed during my initial interaction with the field watch, particularly with its looks and build quality. The design of this field watch is inspired by ants, an idea Ryan came up with while on a trip to a museum with his son. Ants can navigate simply by checking out their surroundings and recalibrating their route, an inspiration that comes through in this field watch. What drew my attention most was the pie pan dial, which bends light and adds an extra dimension on top of the sunburst red that slowly fades outwards and ends at a recessed canal before reaching the dial indicators. These cosmetic touches add a ton of visual interest. I love the varying thicknesses, lengths and colours between the hour markers (applied 3, 6 9 and 12 markers), 5 minute markers and the minute track, making the watch easy to read while maintaining a cohesive look. The compass sits higher than the dial giving it even more depth. The more intricate compass markers coupled with the cream cardinal direction labels (N,S,E,W),white intermediate direction labels (NE, NW, SE, SW) adds details to the watch, and the rhythmic lines on the markers and compass ring contrast each other beautifully with just the right amount of details and complexity to keep me admiring the watch every time I look at it. At night, the lume makes it easy to tell time and navigate and the date is lumed too in case you're wondering how many days or nights you've spent out in the wild.
The simple and functional-looking Biotic logo at 12 o’clock is balanced with a beautifully-scripted “Formicidae” text at 6 o’clock, just above the framed date window. These all show that small little details are not missed and the graphic designer in me gives a high score for this dial design. Biotic chose a set of thick brushed baton hands, so reading the time is a breeze even in low light conditions. However, I thought the hour hand can be shortened to touch the circular line formed by the pie pan dial and the minute hand on this prototype is just a tad longer (covering part of the dial markers) than it should be to give a more accurate reading. Upon checking with the brand owner, Ryan mentioned he will make the minute hand shorter, which I’m happy to hear. The choice of a flat sapphire crystal is good for a field watch as it makes it easy to read time and there’s already a lot of details in the watch to look at.
Besides the dial, my other favourite part of the watch is the case. The round contouring lines flow elegantly throughout the case. If you look at the bead blasted case from the side, you will see an indentation that resembles an ant’s jaw which makes this case shape standout from others available in the market. At the end of the “jaws”, you will spot holes at their tips and will be pleased to discover the watch comes with drilled lugs. Going back to the front view of the watch, you will notice brushed lugs and a bead-blasted bezel. This juxtaposition of finishes gives it a modern yet elegant look to the watch. The crown guards are subtly integrated to the case and are perhaps more stylistic than functional. Now, what is controversial about the Formicidae is its dual hexagon crowns at 3 and 9 o’clock positions which resembles the eyes on an ant’s head. The 9 o’clock crown is used to turn the inner ring of the compass, while the 3 o’clock crown is used to adjust the time. Biotic also thoughtfully engraved a North Star on the 9 o’clock crown, while the 3 o’clock crown shows Biotic’s logo. Perhaps if they position the compass crown at 4’oclock like Seiko’s Alpinist, they might be easier to use and look more conventional, but this would also obscure the “ant’s head” concept. The dual screw-down crowns don’t affect the wearability for me but personally I would round the crown and shorten them both slightly to match the contouring case shape. I heard Ryan will tweak the crown shape and I'm looking forward to the final production model.
The Formicidae comes standard with a quick-release stainless steel bracelet, which makes changing out the fitted bracelet an ease. Like the case, the strap has been bead-blasted. The clasp is very sturdy, and there is a micro-adjustment system which allows you to quickly adjust the length of the bracelet without tools. Enthusiasts would welcome this feature during hot summer months. However, you might already know that I don’t like bracelets and prefer lighter watches, so I swapped them out for an FKM rubber strap that they will introduce as a stretch goal.
Turning the watch over, you will see the Formicidae’s sapphire display caseback with an Ant-Man character printed on the glass. I guess Ryan must be an RPG lover with cues from the character and signed crown icons. Powering this watch is the highly respected Miyota 9015 movement which needs no introduction. Overall, Biotic’s first offering is strong and I have no doubt they will do well. The Formicidae is expected to launch on the fundraising website Kickstarter in June. If you are interested, please follow them on Instagram, and visit their website.
Website (for more info): https://www.bioticwatches.com/
About Biotic Watches
Biotic means “pertaining to life”. A biotic factor is any living thing that has an effect on an ecosystem. Biotic Watches is co-founded by Stitches & Buckles in 2021, and is based in Singapore. Biotic Watches aims to study Nature and bring the beauty and wonder of Nature into the design and function of bespoke watch pieces.
Written by Ivan ChuaDisclaimer: This watch was sent to me to review, but I was not incentivized in any way to make this review. This is in no way sponsored by Biotic or any other entity. All opinions here are my own.
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