I agree with Monta when they claim that, “[t]he finishing on the case and bracelet is what sets Monta apart.” Few small, independent brands achieve such excellent metalwork. However, having spent time with the new Skyquest GMT, I’d also include finishing of the hands, indices, and rehaut as feathers in Monta’s cap. The Skyquest is one of the few watches I enjoy through a loupe as much as I do with the naked eye, and I hope the close analysis I offer up below will draw you into the fine details that make this watch a standout among 2018’s indie offerings.Though the Skyquest is Monta’s third watch, it is basically a GMT version of their Oceanking diver. Offering a GMT version of a three-hand watch is a kind of rite of passage for a watch brand, and Rolex set that paradigm in place when they simultaneously launched their Submariner and GMT-Master at 1954’s Swiss Watch Show (now Baselworld). It’s hard not to see the similarities between that classic Rolex duo and Monta’s Oceanking/Skyquest pairing. In fact, Monta’s Michael DiMartini was converted into a watch-head upon witnessing his mother give his father a Rolex. Even the names “Oceanking” and Skyquest” have a Rolexy ring to them.However, as Voltaire said, “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation”—with the emphasis on “judicious’ here because any design is, ultimately, the sum total of thousands of decisions about details. Let’s pan in and see just how those decisions added up to form the Monta Skyquest.
Review: Monta Skyquest GMT
My favorite detail of the Skyquest is the ramp-up in the GMT hand. The resulting shape tightly conforms to the chamfered edge of the the applied markers at 12, three and nine. As the GMT passes over those markers, the space between them is a mere fraction of a millimeter (though I have no way of precisely measuring this). The inner part of the GMT hand skims the dial just as closely. I’m reminded of the ultra-precise tolerances within the engine of my old BMW motorcycle, tolerances which I inexplicably found quite sexy. If moving metal parts just barely missing each other revs you up as well, you’ll be sure to enjoy watching the Skyquest’s GMT hand make its rounds.Smaller versions of the cardinal markers occupy the other nine positions to form an incredibly precise set of indices. In fact, everything under the front crystal is impeccable. Even under a loupe I can’t find a single instance of slop, not even in the Super-LumiNova BG W9 that fills the markers, hands and bezel pip. As a reference point, the lume on my Omega Seamaster 2254.50 looks like mashed potatoes compared to the Skyquest’s. Meanwhile, all four hands are ultra-precise, with the high polish of the sharply faceted hour and minute hands being especially impressive. None of this impeccability would matter if it didn’t have some impact on what the watch looks like at arm’s length, and I can unequivocally say that the Skyquest is eye-catching, elegant, even exquisite, due to the exactness of its details.
The rehaut alone has more detailed work than most watch dials. Recesses cut into the rehaut allow the applied markers to sit just inside like tiny cars pulled 95% of the way out of the garage. That 5% of extra space helps the dial breathe while simultaneously marrying the rehaut to the rest of the dial. Tolerances between the rehaut’s recesses and the markers inside them are so tight that I can’t make out a single shadow. Above each marker is a small red rectangle, and between those are the odd numbers of the rehaut’s 24-hour track, a useful GMT home-time reference when using the rotating bezel to track a third time zone.
The coin-edged bezel makes 72 clicks in one rotation (for six clicks between markers) and it turns in both directions like a pilot watch’s bezel should. Alignment is exact, the action firm and confidence-inspiring, yet there is a bit of play when the bezel is stationary—though such play is somewhat common with bidirectional bezels. One can choose between a black ceramic bezel insert (as we have in hand here) or a steel one. The bezel is engraved with the even numbers of the 24-hour track, such that when you align the bezel to 12 o’clock you get 24 numerals spelled out between the bezel and the rehaut. It’s a smart configuration, though I did find that shadows often obscured sections of the rehaut.
I dig the font that Monta has chosen for the Skyquest. It’s a Futura-esque numerical set that’s neither modern nor retro, neither overly stylized nor without character. Perhaps most importantly, that font is nothing like a Rolex font, and it gives the Skyquest a slight formality that works well with the overall vibe of the watch. Unfortunately, the font on the date disc does not match the main font and is, alas, a little Rolexy—especially the GMT-Master-ish “4” (a numeral I believe to be the strongest identifier of any numerical set). For the date-haters out there, GMT’s really require one, so we can all delight in the clean frame around the aperture as well as its symmetrical location at six o’clock.
The 316L stainless steel case lives up to Monta’s claims about their metalwork, with beautifully polished and brushed surfaces brought up against each other with intentionally soft, yet exceptionally clean, connections. I rarely see case work at this level on watches at this price.A close look at the lugs reveals a polished beveled edge on the inside, and this edge is repeated on every link of the solid steel bracelet. Monta points out that the links are “fully articulated,” meaning that they can fold all the way in on each other in either direction. This articulation makes the bracelet uncannily comfortable, and it should conform to all kinds of wrist shapes and sizes. The handsomely signed deployant clasp includes four micro-sizing holes.
The Skyquest is a modestly sized watch that’s going to fit a lot of people easily. Luckily, the bracelet came in sized perfectly for me, and the bracelet’s taper toward the clasp along with the thinness of the watch made it immediately comfy. It slips under tight shirt cuffs with nary a snag, and I can’t imagine an outfit or an outing for which the Skyquest wouldn’t be a fantastic companion.
One can choose either the bracelet or a pair of Vulcanized FKM Rubber straps, but I can’t imagine why one would forego this stunning bracelet. Folks who want both will have to shell out an additional $250 per rubber strap, which may be a hard pill to swallow—but keep in mind that this is a custom item that will hug the case and lugs just as snugly as the bracelet. Alternately, for $235, one can buy one of Monta’s similarly snug leather straps, an impressively constructed unit which I had the pleasure of checking out at our Windup event last year. Almost as a consolation, you’ll also get a fabric mil-strap with your Skyquest.
The self-winding Sellita SW330 movement is a trusted unit found across all kinds of watches these days. Monta claims that the movement is “highly tuned” and will stay within -5/+5 seconds per day. Interestingly, the screwed-in case back with sapphire crystal is not signed, nor is the movement itself. The bridges and rotor are nicely decorated, but the back the watch is so anonymous I had to ask if our sample was a prototype.The front crystal is a flat sapphire unit that sits ever so slightly above the bezel. Seven layers of anti-reflective coating on the inner surface tone down reflections while the uncoated outer surface sparkles along with the other various polished components. Water resistance is a robust 1000 feet, or, according to the dial, exactly “304 Meters.”The high quality finishing and detailed design give the Skyquest a rather serious attitude, yet it’s fun to wear precisely because of its no-nonsense style. The Skyquest makes me want to shave, to tuck in my shirt, to stand a little straighter and shake hands a little more firmly. I love how a watch can nudge us like this. GMTs have always suggested—and served—jet-setting, and in my opinion the Skyquest’s immaculate, sparkling details befit a globetrotting lifestyle, however real or imagined that may be on any given day.
The Skyquest is offered directly from Monta on pre-order for $1,730.00 (the full price will be $1,925 after the pre-order ends this Sunday night). Units are expected to ship sometime in August. Dial variants include black or blue with silver markers and hands, as well as the gilt version seen here. Monta