Paiste Formula 602

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Formula 602

Formula 602 logo
Fo 602.png
Formula602 Group whtbg.jpg
1985 602 catalog.jpg

Introduction: 1962/63ish (based on advertising and catalogs)
Discontinued: 1994 (based on serial numbers) then reissued 2011 to present
Background: One of the world’s most revered and legendary cymbal lines in history, renown and loved for its fine, delicate musical tone.
Robert Paiste had been experimenting with cymbals made of B20 bell bronze starting in 1957, this (new to Paiste) B20 alloy first came onto the market under the name "SUPER FORMULA 602" the predecessor to the Formula 602. It is believed that Robert spent a couple of years refining the production process ('57-'59), sound characteristics and model names and sizes, then we think the "Super Formula" series ran to about 1962. Evidence shows that the Formula 602 series became available in 1962 and was produced until Paiste's B20 supplier Swissmetal ran into financial difficulties and stopped production of blanks in 1994.
Innovation: Second B20 cymbal made by Paiste, the Formula 602 line also saw the introduction of the Sound Edge Hi-Hat, the Flatride, china type with a Turkish bell, splash and bell.
Alloy: B20 Bronze, also known as "Bell Bronze".
Quality: Professional
Offered as: Formula 602 - Formula 602 Modern Essentials
Production: Manually machine hammered, fine tuned with hand hammering and hand lathed B20 bronze.
Applications: Most volume settings • Low to medium loud settings • especially well-suited for recording, live • Jazz, Fusion, Blues, Pop and Rock, Country, Folk, acoustic music.
Users: Professional musicians, refined drummers and sound specialists with precise requirements that need a fully developed character in their cymbal sound
Late 1960's early 1970's formula 602 users: Clive Bunker playing a shiny new set of 602's in 1970 @ the isle of Wight festival. 602 players.jpg


  • Musical, transparent, beautiful, rich, colorful, full, clear, expressive sound • The model range features everything from particularly delicate, well balanced and sensitive to expressive, potent and powerful and projective qualities
  • Warm, silvery, mellow, cool, light, fine, precise and controlled • Cymbals with clarity and retro vintage character combined with a velvety, sensitive, very responsive feel. (4)
  • Formula 602 sounds are very precise, very clear and very pure. They are suited to acoustic music, jazz, classical performances and recording. Only a delicate touch is required to produce their distinctive, cool and natural response. (1)
  • Forged from the legendary «602 Bronze» (CuSn20), handcrafted from start to finish by highly skilled Swiss craftsmen, Formula 602 Classic Sounds cymbals produce a true, pure sound of unique clarity and consistency.

Formula 602 Models in Production




Splashes (& Bells)

Discontinued Models & Sizes




Chinas (& Swishes)

Splashes (& Bells)


Formula 602 Modern Essentials

FORMULA602 ME Group.jpg
Interview with Fredy Studer describing the development of the M.E. 602 and Vinnie Colaiuta's involvement.

Introduction: 2013
Background: Forged from the legendary «602 Bronze» (CuSn20), offering a complete new wide and dynamic sound dimension, developed in close collaboration with Vinnie Colaiuta, handcrafted from start to finish by highly skilled Swiss craftsmen, conceived and executed according to Vinnie’s uncompromising sound concepts for a wide all-round application. Formula 602 Modern Essentials cymbals combine the essence of the Formula 602 Classic Sounds models – transparency and stick definition – with the richness, warmth, darkness and a bit of complexity of the Signature Traditionals series besides providing slightly more pizzazz than its Classic Sounds siblings.
Alloy: B20 (CuSn20)
Quality: Professional
Offered as: Formula 602 - Formula 602 Modern Essentials
Production: Hand hammered and hand lathed bronze.
Applications: Low to medium loud settings •especially well-suited for recording, live • extremely versatile cymbals for a wide range of music styles such as Pop, Rock, Jazz, Fusion, Blues, R&B, Country, Folk, acoustic music
Sound:Deep, full, rich, warm, lively, silvery, dynamic, controlled and precise • Cymbals that combine clarity, consistency with deepness and warmth, yet providing a modern versatile sound character with dynamic, potent, well balanced qualities and a responsive, soft feel




Chinas (& Swishes)

Splashes (& Bells)

Seven Sound Set

1968 brochure
Complete 7 sound set

Introduction: 1967
Discontinued: 1977
Background: The following description of the Seven Sound Set was printed in Paiste's 1969 catalog:
"A set of seven cymbals each in a new unusual sound-color. Sound colors the demanding drummer is looking for to enrich his personal cymbal set. Particularly, the SEVEN SOUND SET enables the studio drummer to fulfill the many and often unusual sound demands involved in modern recording and studio work."

Flat ride Background: From a 2006 Robert Paiste interview: "The Flat Ride is the first and the last cymbal that more or less came out of a gag. That was with Joe Morello, he visited here once and at that time there were these new super thin Swiss watches, he was fascinated with his new super thin watch that he had just got. He said, "why don't you make a cymbal like that?" I wondered, what does a cymbal without a bell sound like? Well, we were making gongs, but I didn't relate to that, we built prototypes, which surprised us very much with the sound."
The very early versions or possibly prototypes were labeled "Space Sound" in medium (confirmed) and possibly thin weight. It also believed that less than a dozen of these were made before the name changed to "flat ride"

Alloy: B20 (CuSn20)
Production: Hand hammered and hand lathed bronze. Fine tonal groove lathing
Applications: Jazz styles appropriate for the era (late 60's).
Sound: Similar to the standard 602's

Formula 602 Joe Morello Set

1975 Paiste profiles

Introduction: 1967ish - 1977 (based on serial numbers)
Discontinued: 1976
Background: "Late '65, early '66 after Ludwig took over the distribution of Formula 602's for North America, Joe Morello was approached by Bill Ludwig to endorse Paiste. Since Joe played and endorsed Ludwig Drums, he was the obvious choice for a signature cymbal set baring his name. Paiste catalog: "In personal collaboration with Joe Morello, this beautiful melodically coordinated set was created" A custom set of Formula 602 cymbals made to Joe's specification (the 1st. artist model!) comprising of 14" sound edge hi hats, 17", 18" and 20" sizes. Visual cues show much finer lathing and possibly different hammering compared to the standard 602's
Alloy: B20 (CuSn20)
Production: Hand hammered and hand lathed bronze. Fine tonal groove lathing.
Applications: Jazz styles appropriate for the era (late 60's).
Sound: Similar to the standard 602's possibly a little darker?




Formula 602 Production Eras

Super Formula 602 (1957/59 - 1963 according to advertising data)

Robert Paiste had been experimenting with cymbals made of B20 bell bronze starting in 1957 when he first opened the Swiss factory (at that point it was a one room shop!).
It should be noted that Robert founded the Swiss factory across lake Sempach from where their future B20 alloy supplier "Metallwerke Dornach/Swissmetal" was located (Paiste had not used B20 alloy up to that point, little did he know they were the only foundry and mill that produced B20 bronze in all of Switzerland and possibly all of western Europe!). He initially worked with Swissmetal and developed a process of rolling B20 thin enough for B20 cymbal production, Swissmetal previously had not rolled it to such a thin specification but did have the equipment to do it reliably, Robert literally had to teach the foundry technicians how to roll the blanks to his thin specification without cracking!
It is believed that Robert spent a couple of years refining the production process ('57-'59), sound characteristics and model names and sizes, this means that most likely the "Super formula" didn't reach widespread distribution until about 1959. This (new to Paiste) B20 alloy first came onto the market under the name "SUPER FORMULA 602".

  • One of the stamps of this series (there are two distinct styles) still looks very similar to the STAMBUL series stamp. The Super formula series with the Stambul style logo seems to come in two versions: one with Formula 602 label and one without (see below).
  • There are also two versions of the second style which looks like the early formula 602 stamp: one has the word "Super" written to the upper right ("plain stamp- Super"), the second variation does not have the word "Super" (we call this the "plain stamp"), both leave off the words "formula 602" these variations are thought to represent the evolution of the trademark for the super formula 602 series just as it was coming out.
  • It is speculated that the "Super formula" term comes from the process that Swissmetal used to heat, mix, pour and hot roll the B20 alloy.

Note: There is an entirely separate series called Super which is not made from B20 alloy and came later. This has caused a lot of confusion over the years.
Sound sample: Super Formula 24" ride

Preserial Era (~1962/63 - 1971/72)

This is the first true era of the Formula 602 series.

Early "E over trade" stamp (~1962 to about 1965)

This early era is identified by several cymbals with these stamps that we have observed and or own, the "E over trade stamp" is the first stamp Paiste used on the early formula 602 series. It is relatively easy to spot the difference between this early stamp the perserial "Solid stamp" and 1970's "Outline stamp" formats. The discovery of the early 60's logos illustrated in the catalogs below helped confirm the difference.
The E over trade stamp has two subtle variations (see pictures below), one version has a wide gap between "Formula 602" and "made in Switzerland" and the other has a much smaller gap. Also, the size of the text in general is smaller and or a different font on the "wide gap stamp" (see side by side comparison below)

Solid Stamp (~1965 - early/mid 1972)

In simplest terms, the name "solid stamp" comes from the solid block letters that comprise the words "Paiste and "Formula 602", this stamp was used roughly from 1965 to 1972.
The earliest example we have seen of the Solid Stamp is from a 1965 catalog shown below. We believe the change of stamp coincided with Ludwig taking over North American distribution in late 1964/early 1965.
There are some exceptions where a cymbal was made during the preserial era and stamped with a "solid stamp" and ink, then the cymbal sat in the vault for a few years, the cymbal was then stamped with a serial number when it was shipped to the distributor (see example below).

Black Label Era (1972 -1981)

There are two different embossed stamps which are found in this era: solid stamp early on and then the outline stamp for the rest of the era. then there are two oddities: an archaic "E over trade" stamp for German 602's and the super formula stamp "plain stamp" for Rogers distributed dark rides).
This era represents cymbals produced from about mid 1972 to mid 1981 before colored labels were silkscreened on the top and bottom. Almost all Black Label era cymbals have serial numbers but there are a few examples of cymbals from the early 1970s which have Black Label style ink but no serial number.

Outline Stamp (1972-1981)

The Outline Stamp is used from just before serial numbers appear until the Blue Label era (1981). If you see a Formula 602 cymbal with an Outline Stamp it is something like 99% likely to have a serial number.

Rogers U.S. 602 Dark Ride '76-'77 and European 602 version 1975-1978

The super formula 602 "plain stamp" appears on Rogers U.S. distributed Dark Rides from 1976-1977 this stamp does not have the "Formula 602" on the bottom of the stamp. So far every Rogers U.S dark ride cymbal we have seen has a serial number.
We have also observed sor far from dozens of examples that all European distributed dark rides were stamped with the standard "outline stamp" from the black label era ('72 -'81), in addition, with a few exceptions all have the "Formula 602" ink printed above the bell.
We are not certain if any of the "outline stamp" versions were sold in the US, research is ongoing!More on the Dark ride page!

German 602's (early 1960's and mid 1970's?)

We know the German factory "finished" 602's in the early 60's when production was ramping up:

(**) Correspondence with Paiste Switzerland:
"By reason of a distributed capacitance, we have some Formula 602's that have been finished in Germany at the end of the 1950's.
They were annealed and hammered in Switzerland and Paiste Germany has completed them. That’s the reason they have a stamp “made in Germany”.

Kind regards, Customer Service Department
Paiste Switzerland"

The German 602's were meant for the German market and probably certain countries in Central Europe and eastern Europe, everyone else got Swiss produced cymbals. We have found a return of German 602's in the mid to late 1970's, they can be identified from the archaic "E over trade" stamp and a serial number starting with a "1".

Blue Label Era

During the Blue Label era (1981-1993) an embossed stamp was no longer applied. Instead Paiste used blue ink.

Plasko thin crashes.jpg

We estimate the year of change from Pre Serial to Black to Blue based on the serial numbers we find:

Black label serial numbers (counting hat pairs as 2)

1971: none so far
1972: 29
1973: 40
1974: 41
1975: 27
1976: 26
1977: 32
1978: 37
1979: 28
1980: 18
1981: 18
1982: 1 (serial number PAISTE 602 / 238079)
1983: none so far

Blue label serial numbers (counting hat pairs as 2)

1980: none so far
1981: 32
1982: 23
1983: 17
1984: 19
1985: 15
1986: 13
1987: 12
1988: 21
1989: 8
1990: 9
1991: 2
1992: 4
1993: none so far

Note the importance of the prefix. Without the PAISTE 602 prefix that one 1982 Black Label cymbal would have been 1972. If that serial number had prefix pAisTe it would be 1992. Prefix matters, although there are sometimes other ways to correctly assign the decade based on ink and for specific models. If the serial number has a prefix above it -- pay attention. That's what makes the decade (thus the whole serial number) unique. We think the myth of serial numbers starting in 1970 arose because people were not paying proper attention to the prefix. The other contributing factor is not treating the German made serial numbering separately.

Laser Stamp Era

When the Formula 602 cymbals were reissued in 2011 they first came out with 8 digit serial numbers as seen on the last of the Blue Label cymbals. Very soon after this Paiste switched to a laser stamp which is on the bottom rather than the top. The Laser Stamp Era is also referred to as the Reissue Era, although once again there are a very few Reissued Formula 602s which don't have a laser stamp.

Information from: Steve Black, the majority of the individual cymbal model/size pictures courtesy of "Splash Baker" and her blue label collection.

  1. Modern Drummer Equipment Annual 1988-89
  2. PAISTE/Ludwig Seven Sound Set Leaflet
  3. Paiste "Six Cymbal Lines" Ad 1981
  4. 2019

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