Given the surge of boutique watch brands in recent years, Monta Watches may not have hit your radar screen. But maybe they should have. While headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, the microbrand makes all of its watches in Switzerland. They have a passion to preserve the centuries-old tradition of fine Swiss watchmaking. In less than five years Monta has earned the respect of watch aficionados. They’ve offered some serious competition to established brands. Let’s take a closer look at this American-born Swiss-made success story.
It Started with the Oceanking
In 2016, Monta watches debuted its first-ever offering. The Monta Oceanking may have been new but it owed much of its makeup to the greatest dive watches in the history of horology. Specifically, those from the 1950s, as the Oceanking is an unashamed homage to classics like the Rolex Sea-Dweller, Omega Seamaster, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and others that captured the imagination of adventurous watch lovers decades ago. The connection to Rolex is even deeper (pardon the pun) as the founders of Monta watches hail from Everest Horology, which produces rubber straps for Rolex sports watches.
In design, the Oceanking checks all of the boxes that all great dive watches should. A 40mm stainless steel case has a large nearly-onion-shaped crown for easy underwater gripping. Its bearing-mounted bezel is equally grip-friendly. Plus there’s water resistance up to 1,000 meters. An anti-reflective domed crystal tops a non-nonsense matte dial with easy legibility that serves well in undersea situations and presents subdued sophistication on land. And while the case has notes that echo a contemporary Rolex Submariner, its beveled edges and polished flanks give it a truly unique feel. Comparisons to other luxury dive watches get even better when you consider the Oceanking’s price point of around two grand.
Monta Watches, Then Came the Triumph
In strictly branding terms, one might have thought the Triumph Field should have been Monta’s debut timepiece. The name Monta, derived from “mountain,” is an ode to the company’s connection to Everest. It stands to reason that a watch designed for mountainous terrain would have come first. But we didn’t meet the Triumph Field until Baselworld 2017. It has some design elements that echo the Oceanking. One could call the Triumph Field a military spin-off of Monta’s first-ever watch.
It has a case diameter of 38.5mm and 9.6mm thickness. The Triumph is slightly smaller than the Oceanking, but wears just about as big given the heft of its broad lugs. The stainless steel case mixes finish with polished (chamfers, for example) and brushed (planes) surfaces. That continues the unique mix on the bezel, bracelet, and clasp. The dial follows the Oceanking’s no-frills approach.
Flip it over to find a display case back that lets you get a look at the Swiss-made Sellita SW-300 automatic movement. And while the Triumph Field falls squarely into the tool-watch bucket, it wears well in dressy situations, equally at ease on a link bracelet or a sturdy rubber strap as it is on fine leather for more formal occasions.
Things Soar with the Skyquest GMT
Another Monta watch we met at Baselworld 2017, the Skyquest GMT again serves as an homage to the great tool watches of the 1950s. This time we harken back to the revered Rolex GMT Master Ref. 6542, first made for Pan Am pilots in 1954 and today beloved by collectors for its once-groundbreaking ability to track dual time zones with a glance to the wrist.
We owe some of Skyquest’s design to the Oceanking. This could also be considered a spin-off, a GMT version of Monta’s firstborn. Just as Rolex did when they rolled out the Submariner and its GMT-Master cousin together back in 1954 at the Swiss Watch Show that would become Baselworld. Even the names of Monta’s “Oceanking” and “Skyquest” sound like they could be part of the Rolex family.
More on Skyquest
But the Skyquest departs from Rolex’s influence in a number of intriguing ways. Skyquest’s ramp-up GMT hand is more reminiscent of classic Seiko models than Rolex. The coin-edge bi-directional bezel features a target-shaped and lumed pip at the 12’clock position. Available in two finishes, black and gilt, the Skyquest dials don’t spare the lume and are super bright with an intensity that rivals pro dive watches. Rhodium-plated sword hands and red accents offer a vintage feel without going old-timey.
The Skyquest’s stainless steel case also mixes brushed and polished finishes. While its Sellita SW330 automatic GMT movement has 25 jewels and a power reserve of 42 hours. Priced in the $1,600 to $1,900 range, this is not the cheapest GMT out there, as the market today is flooded with automatic GMTs you can pick up for under a grand. But the quality and craftsmanship of the Skyquest is comparable to that of luxury watches found at much higher prices.
Monta Watches Conclusion
If you’re in the market for a fine tool watch, you can, as many do, look to the established brands like Rolex, Hublot, and Tudor, to name a few. Or turn your eyes to emerging brands who have looked back to watchmaking heritage to stake out new paths ahead. Monta watches will likely one day spawn its own new generation of watchmakers intent on continuing the tradition.