Recently I attended the 2022 edition of the New York Wind Up Watch Fair. It was my very first time attending a watch fair and I’m so glad it happened within the context of the independent watch market. I saw familiar faces from the independent watch industry and I was particularly pleased to meet Justin Kraudel from our good friends at MONTA. Looking at what the more than 60 brands present at the fair had to offer, I realized how much MONTA manages to pack into each model. The brand’s latest release, the updated Skyquest, fits perfectly within the zeitgeist of this segment of the watch market. Let’s find out how it fairs compared to other brands.
GMTs Are Trendy
One common theme I’ve noticed from the fair is the emergence of GMT watches. No, GMT watches are not new since the first Rolex GMT Master was produced in 1954. But until recently—and I would argue that MONTA was a pioneer in making elegant, wearable GMT watches—this type of watch was only produced by Swiss and Japanese household brands. If one didn’t buy a Rolex GMT Master II, then one would buy a Grand Seiko SBGE275. These watches retail in the several thousands of dollars and getting an affordable GMT watch meant buying from French or British brands. For the most part.
While the choice of movement outside of Rolex and Grand Seiko was reduced to ETA or Sellita calibers, it was the design of these watches—and more importantly their proportions—that would keep someone from buying them. Not that there weren’t great offerings before the MONTA Atlas or Skyquest, but what was missing was this *je-ne-sais-quoi* that makes a MONTA feel and look better than many other GMTs. Actually, I know what it is: great proportions and superior built quality and finish.
I’ve experienced GMT watches from many other brands and they either feel and look cheap (and are equipped with a GMT quartz movement) or they feel too utilitarian. While MONTA set out to make the new Skyquest less elegant and more purposeful than the previous generation, it remains a versatile timepiece. And to that we can add great specifications and finish that are superior to most watches I know of. Of course, the MONTA costs more than most GMT watches on the independent market, but you truly get what you pay for.
The Right Bracelet
Another trend I’ve seen emerge is the tool-less micro-adjust clasp. Again, these innovations are not new since Rolex, Tudor, and Omega (amongst others) have been manufacturing these types of clasps for many years. But again, one would have to pay upward to $10,000 to have a watch that comes with a bracelet and this type of clasp. When you buy a MONTA you get their patented bracelet that comes with a tool-less micro-adjust clasp that is truly practical and discreet—meaning it was engineered to disappear inside the clasp—which is not always the case.
But beyond the tool-less micro-adjust system, the MONTA bracelet comes with one of the best constructions I’ve seen—the links and end links are not only solid but rounded off to make the bracelet comfortable to wear—and with a beautifully dramatic taper from 20mm at the lug to 16mm at the clasp. Still to this day, I am surprised by the fact that more brands don’t offer this kind of taper as it makes wearing the watch more comfortable. It also makes the bracelet look good instead of just looking functional.
Value for the Money
While most watches presented at Wind Up orbit around the $500-$1,500 price range—which is slightly below MONTA’s Noble—meaning that MONTA sits in a higher price tier than most independent brands, I was happy to see MONTA at Wind Up. Because MONTA is neither an entry-level brand nor is it a luxury one. As a watch journalist, I’ve handled many dozens of watches that cost anywhere between $200 and $6,000. Surprisingly, a $200 watch can sometimes feel like a $1,000 watch, while a $6,000 one can feel like a $500 one.
In terms of fit, design, and finish, I would say that MONTA offers well-priced watches. I don’t get the feeling that I’d be paying more than I should and less than expected. It is clear that the people behind MONTA know what they are doing since they can offer superior quality timepieces for what is comparably a good price. When you spend $2,200 on a new Skyquest, you get your value for the money and more. And as weird as it may sound, you don’t always get your money's worth when buying from an independent brand.
If you can, I highly recommend you attend a watch fair near you. It truly puts watches in perspective because seeing photos or video reviews of them never truly do them justice. And I would say this is especially the case when looking at higher-tier watches like MONTA. Although watch forums and Instagram are full of beautiful shots of MONTA timepieces, one has to experience them in the metal to truly get a feel for them. That’s when you can understand where your money is going and what value you are getting. And while there are many other brands that offer great value, I would say MONTA is top on that list.
And as I hope it transpired through this article, MONTA is ahead of the curve in offering useful complications enclosed in reasonably-sized cases and for offering next-level comfort and engineering in bracelets.