Writing this article was meant to be. How could I—a guy who lives and breathes for independent brands—not speak about MONTA? The Saint Louis based brand founded in 2015 quickly rose to fame for two main reasons: offering unique designs and superior quality timepieces for what is comparatively a low price. Although MONTA watches roughly range between $1,700 to $2,300, each model comes with a lot of added value rarely seen from a relatively young brand. So in this article we will take a look at the MONTA collection and key aspects that make the brand stand high atop the independent watchmaking crowd.
Core Brand Philosophy
MONTA, unlike some other brands, did everything from the ground-up. Instead of re-using a popular design seen elsewhere, they decided to start with a blank slate. Both in terms of design (how the dial, hands, case will look like) but also from a technical standpoint (endowing their timepieces with the highest quality stuff they could get their hands on while keeping the price tags reasonable.) This meant spending an incredible amount of time figuring out how to match design to specifications, form to function. Looking at how well people speak of the brand, I’d say MONTA has been very successful.
I had the pleasure of interviewing MONTA’s co-founder and CEO Mike DiMartini and wrote a story about him for Mainspring, a European based blog. During our exchange, Mike told me about the many obstacles he and his co-founder went through when building MONTA when they released their first collection. Although the article will tell you about this in detail, I’d like to take the time to point out one thing: Mike and his cofounder have shown extreme resiliency in getting things right, from finding the right manufacturer to the right movement to getting the case finishing and bracelet construction right.
Looking at their collection as a whole, we will see that MONTA has gone above and beyond to produce high-quality timepieces that are also very handsome. What makes MONTA watches stand apart from the crowd is the originality of their designs which are encapsulated within reasonably-sized cases, and their meticulous attention to detail and finishing. So MONTA manages to both produce high quality watches but also ones that are unique in their design and in their manufacturing quality.
Although some of the MONTA collections are completely sold out (another sign that the brand is doing things right) I will touch upon every collection currently listed on the MONTA website. Starting with the model that made the brand known internationally: the Triumph. This model is the quintessential exploration type of watch displaying the almost full set of Arabic numerals and the now iconic MONTA Sword Arrow handset. The Triumph set in stone and made famous the unique MONTA dial layout: long and imposing hour markers at the 12, 3, and 6 o’clock positions and a date aperture at the 6 o’clock position. The Triumph is also equipped with the brand’s unique case design and reasonable proportions of 38.5 x 47 x 9.7mm.
The second (actually, the very first model the brand released) is the Ocean King, the brand’s personal take on the ubiquitous diver type of watch. There are two things that stood out to me the first time I looked at this watch: first, the fact that MONTA made a 300-meter diver in a 40 x 49 x 11.9mm case; second is that their team of designer managed to create a dive-time bezel that does not look like a Submariner one. (The latter is too often imitated but never surpassed.) They used a wide typeface that is easy to read and that matches the dial layout. In the dial, we can find the MONTA signature layout of sword hands and legible hour markers.
The third model of the MONTA collection is the Atlas, a compact GMT model that fits within a 38.5 x 47 x 10.2mm case. I personally love GMT watches and particularly those that come with a 24-hour scale on the rehaut (instead of being on a bezel, rotating or non rotating) and great dimensions. One particularly interesting design and engineering element of the Atlas to note is the GMT hand of which end has been bent in order to clear the hour markers. Doing this made it possible to keep the watch thin, since watches tend to get thicker the more hands are stacked on top of each other on the pinion.
The fourth model released by MONTA is the Skyquest, perhaps the most elaborate of all models from the brand. It is for watch enthusiasts what the first Rolex GMT Master was for Pan Am pilots in the 1970s. It builds upon the brand’s unique design language and adds the possibility to track three time zones, which is very convenient for travelers. As was the case with the Ocean King, the Skyquest has modest dimensions of 40 x 49 x 11.9mm. One particular design detail I adore is the red dots on the even hours on the 24-hour scale on the rehaut. Furthermore, while brands normally match the two scales, MONTA opted to contrast the two by highlighting the even hours on the bezel (the odd hours are highlighted on the rehaut.) A new 2022 Skyquest was just released for pre-order in 3 unique color ways.
Lastly—and this is my favorite model from MONTA—the Noble. I have a thing for fixed-bezels sports watches and I remember being so excited when MONTA announced the Noble. Coming in with a case of 38.5 x 47 x 9.7mm (the same as the Triumph) this model is the first one to come with a re-imagined dial design in which all the markers are of the same length. (The one at the 12 o’clock is doubled.) There are two gorgeous dial colors, a deep blue and an "opalin silver" which looks almost white. To me, the Noble epitomizes the everyday watch and I love the way MONTA went about it. It’s particularly difficult to make good everyday watches, and the fact that MONTA did is a sign that they know what they’re doing.
Although I only allowed myself to write one paragraph per model, I wanted to highlight the unique characteristics each comes with. Common characteristics all shared by the MONTA watches are Swiss construction and Swiss-made movements, superior quality finish and build quality, as well as unbeatable value for the price. (Finding a GMT which can track three time zones with a case of 40mm for under $2,500 is rare, if not impossible if it were not for MONTA.) Last but not least, MONTA also engineered a splendid 3-link bracelet that comes with a proprietary tool-less micro-adjustment clasp.
Even though taste in design is highly subjective, I would say that MONTA hit many of the checkboxes that make any brand successful: great value/quality ratio, unique designs, and a brand DNA that permeates throughout the entire collection. Well done, MONTA! Check out the MONTA collection.
And, fun fact, even though the MONTA bracelet is incredible: these Everest Bands will also fit on most MONTA watches, if you want some more variety!