Last year in the chaotic haze of my quick trip to NYC for a very, very crowded watch show, there’s one watch that latched on and still stands out in my mind. And by now if you’ve read the title and know enough about me, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah Mike, of course it’s a GMT with a bi-colored bezel that reminds us all of certain sugary soft drinks.” But since parting ways with watches like the Black Bay GMT—and more embarrassingly, a first-gen Rolex Batman GMT Master II—I can admit that they aren’t always the home run I think they’re going to be. Even the Seiko I reviewed recently didn’t pull me in entirely.
And while they excite me a little less these days, it’s still a pleasure to run into something fresh and attractive. That’s exactly what I felt when I first handled the updated Monta Skyquest GMT, to the point where I’ve already clicked “Add to cart” way too many times before remembering I should probably buy groceries instead. Honestly, I’m just thankful I got to test drive it.
Not long after getting home, I was eager to work with the St. Louis-based watch brand to get my hands on the new Skyquest. A little while beforehand, I had started to see some photos and early press about the updates to the first-gen Skyquest and was almost turned off immediately. The bigger bezel numerals, a switch to aluminum over ceramic, and no more stepped curve in that GMT hand? I just wasn’t sure about it. It also seems like many in the community felt the same way but recently, I’m starting to hear that folks were drawn in after handling the watch in person. What a surprise. There’s power in handling and seeing watches in the metal. Selfishly I also wanted to see how this would stack up to another favorite Monta of mine, the Atlas GMT.
Monta Skyquest Specs
|Case Dimensions:||40.7mm x 47.4mm x 11.8mm|
|Lume:||BGW9 Swiss SuperLumiNova|
|Movement:||Monta Caliber M-23 (Sellita SW330-2 base)|
Commonly Asked Questions About The Monta Skyquest
Who is Monta Watches?
Monta is a boutique watch brand based in St. Louis, Missouri. They’ve been building and selling higher-end small batch watch runs since 2016.
Is the Monta Skyquest a True GMT
The Skyquest operates like what some refer to as a caller GMT. This means that the 24-hour hand itself can be quickset with the crown – not the local, primary hour hand.
What movements does Monta Use?
Monta uses a range of Swiss movements from Sellita depending on the watch model. In this Skyquest, Monta uses the Swiss Sellita SW330-2 GMT movement, branded as the Monta M-23.
What is the size of the Monta Skyquest?
40.7mm in diameter, 47.4mm lug to lug, and 11.8mm in case thickness.
The Monta Skyquest takes an old-watch-world formula and thoroughly modernizes it. And in terms of quality, we’re talking about fit, finishing, and a level of overall sophistication that puts many of the average Swiss brands to shame at this price. By now I think that this is the reason Monta so quickly became one of those brands that just had it, like a good Nodus, MkII, or Halios. This is the first thing you notice when you handle the watch. With a 40.7mm case diameter, 47.4mm lug-to-lug, and 11.8mm case thickness, it’s also at such a great sweet-spot compared to the last GMT watch I owned (The Black Bay GMT).
Those following the Skyquest for a while will immediately notice the change to the bi-directional bezel’s 24-hour scale. It’s all bigger, much bigger when compared to the gen-1 Skyquest. It’s still rubbing some people the wrong way but in practice, I enjoyed the readability of both the larger markings and the larger aluminum bezel. This also closes in on the sizing of the dial, which makes the watch appear smaller to the wearer (kind of like the tiny dial you get on a Doxa Sub 300).
The black and red version I tested had a nice and positive feel in the way of bezel action and the edges were always easy to get a hold of. And while you do have some polished edges along case sides and the lug bevels, the watch almost looks more rugged than the previous version. Other than that the watch has 300m of water resistance, a sapphire display caseback, substantial crown guards, and a screw-down crown I wish was just a tiny bit larger.
In addition to the bezel changes, Monta made a couple of tweaks to the matte black dial that some find controversial. For starters the internal chapter ring’s 24-hour scale is gone, and I love it. Looking back at the gen-1 and comparing it to the current Monta Skyquest, the older model just ends up looking way too crowded and I think this was the right move. It results in a cleaner and more readable watch overall if you ask me. This inevitably must’ve left room for the applied hour markers to be enlarged and they fit nicely with the big rhodium plated sword hands. Gone is the stepped 24-hour hand and I have to admit, I miss that just a little bit. I know that it was meant to originally clear the height of the markers but it just had great charm. The newer hand is beefier, still looks great, and is fully colored.
The big bezel plays nicely with the big GMT hand and I’m not going to cry about losing the ability to track a third timezone. Sure, some of these are fun quirks to miss but I think what Monta ended up with was just a better, more functional tool watch. We get nice symmetry between the Monta logo, wordmark, and the two lines of text just above the legible date window at 6 o’clock. And apparently, the sapphire crystal has seven layers of anti-reflective coating on the dial side, which made this one of the more enjoyable watches to read and photograph. Lume is also excellent on the hands and indices—much like what I saw on the Atlas—and Monta went with BGW9 Swiss SuperLumiNova on this model.
Handling the Monta Skyquest in person, if all these other features hadn’t pulled you in yet, the stainless steel bracelet totally will. These have been a huge point of pride for Monta since the release of their earliest models. And I still think that these represent a gold standard for bracelet quality other small boutique brands should be shooting for. The Monta bracelet was recently updated in 2020 and has its own quick-adjust system that allows you to add or remove bracelet length without a tool. Like a good, solid milled clasp and screw links, this is another standard I think micros should start implementing. Overall the bracelet is one of the most comfortable I’ve tried in this range. It measures 20mm in width at the lugs and tapers down at the clasp.
The Monta Caliber M-23 inside operates like a “caller” GMT and I had absolutely no issues with alignment or timekeeping. In fact, lately I’ve actually just been manipulating the bezels on GMT watches instead of the movement to track a different time zone. It makes things more fun to play with and I don’t have to spend time fiddling with a crown. Based on the Sellita SW330-2, I found it to be reliable (unlike a different, more expensive in house movement in a GMT watch I used to own) and something like this will be a piece of cake to service later on down the line. The 55-hour power reserve was also nice. But I wore this thing so often that I don’t think it actually powered down in the time I had it in for review. I just kept reaching for the Skyquest instead of my other watches, even if I did take a little break from it.
Thinking about this a little more, I believe what we finally have in the new Monta Skyquest is a dedicated, well-designed pilot’s/traveler’s watch, rather than an Oceanking dive watch with a GMT function. This latest round of updates led the watch to come into its own space while showcasing all the high-quality finishing Monta is known for. The microbrand continues to show that they can dominate in this price range and honestly, I wish this version was around a few years earlier back when I pulled the trigger on the Tudor Black Bay GMT. At this price point (not cheap by any means), there’s still some great competition from brands like Zodiac, Oris, Mido, Longines, and others. Even Seiko offers a great alternative at a fraction of the cost. But if you have the cash and love the look, the Monta Skyquest is a tough sport watch to beat.
Though the pre-order phase is all over, the Monta Skyquest is currently available in all its colorways. There’s an all-black model, a gilt dial pepsi version, and the red and black model you see here. Pricing is $2,435 across the board. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to lust over that pepsi version with the hopes of not drooling on my keyboard too much.
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.