Creating a product that is truly original and unique is hard. Really hard. Oftentimes a brand will take something that has been done before, whether it’s a proven design or a particular manufacturing technique, use it as a north star or a starting point for their own product, while simultaneously adding their own flavor, to make it their own. Independent watch brands know this all too well. Monta in particular, an independent watch brand based out of St. Louis, has been creating watches since 2016 using mid century sport watch design as the foundation and inspiration for their core lineup. Monta has distinguished themselves from other brands attempting to do the same by integrating polished details and distinctive features that come together in a manicured manner. They’ve created their own range of watches that don’t feel derivative and as a result they’ve developed a product that makes Monta, well a Monta.
As the brand has evolved, Monta has made it a point to fine tune certain things to make their watches better while largely keeping the same aesthetic. Monta has built a loyal following and customer base over the years that has gotten used to this particular aesthetic. It was the recent release of the new Skyquest from Monta that generated some strong opinions about the new look. Some loved it while others had mixed feelings. And then there were those that expressed disappointment that the brand had taken a step away from what made their watches different and individual.
I’ve always appreciated Monta from afar, but their watches never really translated through the computer screen for me. But my thoughts quickly changed when I handled their watches in person for the first time at WindUp NYC last year. I immediately noticed the quality of each piece, from certain details like the case finishing and elaborate markers, to the articulation of their steel bracelet and the quality of their clasp. The new Monta Skyquest is most certainly a different watch when you compare it to the previous generations. But if I can be honest, this was the first Monta Skyquest that actually peaked my interest when I saw it on screen. It felt more minimal and modern than the older Skyquest, which appealed to me more.
[Video] Hands On: The Monta Skyquest GMT Gets A New Look
316 L Stainless Steel
Monta Caliber M-23
BGW9 Swiss Superluminova
7 Layer AR Coated Sapphire Crystal
Stainless Steel Bracelet
So for all the Monta fans out there (Monta-nites?) that are unsure and couldn’t get down with the new Skyquest, let me attempt to paint a clearer picture for you. It is a Monta after all, so you shouldn’t cast judgment until you actually have it in hand.
Typically, I save my thoughts about the strap or bracelet for last, but with Monta, it’s their bread and butter, and in my opinion, is where they start to separate themselves from other brands. The clasp is still equipped with a glidelock quick-adjust feature that either tightens or expands the bracelet across three positions in one seamless motion. The bracelet also retains its articulating links and proportional taper that ensures a comfortable fit. But in Monta fashion, they’ve found additional ways to improve their bracelet. Now found on the new Skyquest (and other Monta models moving forward), the bracelet sports a longer and curvier underlying clasp frame that hugs the watch and bracelet around the wrist even more, exuding a feeling akin to wearing a tailored suit. The endlinks are slightly recessed into the lugs and the tolerance between that and the first bracelet link are much tighter. The clasp itself requires a certain amount of “force” to snap into its locked position, which might be due to Monta combining the flip-lock all into one mechanism. All of these features come together quite nicely to already create a pleasant wearing experience on the wrist.
That experience translates to the Monta Skyquest case as well. The case width and thickness largely remain the same coming in at 40.7mm x 11.8mm, respectively. But the most important number here and a welcomed change to the new Skyquest is the shorter lug to lug. The case length now measures 47.4mm which significantly changes how the Skyquest wears on the wrist. Combining the thicker bezel and a 29.4mm dial display (more on both later) that visually looks smaller, the Skyquest looks and feels more compact, especially on my narrower wrist.
The case is where we also start to see a minor departure from the previous generations of the Skyquest. The precise finishing remains the same. The top of the lugs are brushed and transitions to a polished bevel on the outer case. The case flanks are still fully polished as well. The one case feature that is no more is the inner chamfered polished lug. The new set of lugs on the Skyquest are now even with the endlinks and uniform with its brushed finishing. The idea here was to make the Skyquest look more toolish, but I wish they kept that little case feature here as it was a part of the design language of the previous Skyquests and adds to the character of the case.
Now onto some of the hot button features starting with the bezel. The bezel is much thicker and the numeral markers are much larger. The bezel markers still retain the similar font and are displayed so that they almost touch the outer edges of the bezel just like the markers on the narrower bezel of its older siblings. The thicker bezel and larger numerals don’t overpower the watch in person. They add a modern appeal and aesthetic to the new Skyquest. The bezel itself according to Monta has three separate pending patents that gives way to a solid action in both directions. I was surprisingly pleased by the tactile feel from the bezel grip. Each tooth is shaped like a shallow pyramid and extends out from the bezel at just the right point to meet your fingertips. The bezel is no longer made out of ceramic and instead, is constructed out of aluminum. This particular model is of the Coke variety and Monta really nails it here with this tone of burgundy red.
The dial furnishings, like the bezel have gotten larger and bolder as well. The hour markers at 3 and 9 are now thicker and rectangular shaped. The remaining hour markers have also increased in size. The markers no longer have their distinct “gold bar” shape that made the applied markers pop off the dial. The older hour markers really added to the personality of the watch and I must admit, it’s something that I miss here in the newer Skyquest. That said, I do like what Monta did with the repositioning of the markers in relation to the minutes track. The minutes hashmarks are on their own plane bordering the outer part of the dial. This new set up pushes the hour markers towards the center and gives the illusion of a more compact dial.
Another unique trait of the Monta Skyquest was the stepped GMT hand. The GMT hand is now clad in solid red and sans its bent feature. A straight GMT hand was actually something the folks over at Monta wanted since the beginning, and the stepped feature was just a solution to add an additional hand that would be able to clear the hour markers on the previously designed dial. According to Monta, they opted for a straight GMT hand to add a certain reliability to the watch that they felt the previously designed GMT hand wouldn’t have when exposed to rougher activities. As currently designed however, a stepped GMT hand wouldn’t have worked anyways since the markers are compressed further into the dial and the bend would awkwardly occur in the middle of the hand.
The Monta Skyquest forgoes the odd numerals and markers on the rehaut. Although it does eliminate the ease of keeping track of a third timezone, I don’t mind the decision to go without it on the newer model. It falls in line with what Monta was trying to accomplish aesthetically.
The Monta Skyquest comes with a pre-order price tag of $2,190. This is a price category that is knocking on the door of some prevalent luxury watch brands, but an argument can be made that it’s the extra level of detail, quality craftsmanship and great customer service that makes a Monta worth every penny. It seems though that this Monta in particular loses some of that extra detail that we’ve grown accustomed to. In regards to the landscape of affordable GMTs out on the market, there are a lot more players on the field that can compete with Skyquest than there were back then when the first production model was released in 2018. Formex is a brand that offers up a highly spec’d modern sport watch in their Reef GMT ($2,090) that comes with interchangeable bezels, a slew of strap and bracelet options, as well as a COSC movement. On the underside of Monta’s Skyquest pre-order price point, you have the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT ($1,695) that provides more of a vintage vibe. The Monta Skyquest is a happy and balanced medium between the two in aesthetic and price. It’s worth noting that the full retail price of the Monta Skyquest after pre-order will come out to $2,435, which comes close in dollars to the Longines Spirit Zulu Time ($2,950) that houses a “true” GMT movement.
I’m impressed overall with the Monta Skyquest after spending some time with it. The decision to implement the changes on this model doesn’t bother me one bit. I actually think it’s commendable that the brand makes an effort to evolve their product. Although these changes may not go over well with some of you, rest assured the folks over at Monta are always listening to what you have to say. I do believe that if they had retained some of the previous elements of the watch such as the hour markers and inner lug shape, combined with the updated case, bracelet and thicker bezel, there would have been a very different response.
As with every Monta, the new Skyquest feels good in hand and is certainly a watch that needs to be appreciated in person. I suggest you take some time to try and get your hands on the watch, whether it’s at their headquarters in St. Louis or at their booth during our WindUp shows. Although the Monta Skyquest might not be for everyone, and lets be real, there’s not a watch out there that IS for everyone, it represents the confidence the brand has to shake things up with the sole intent of putting out their version of the best watch out there. Monta