This Automatic GMT Watch Straddles the Line Between Sport and Dressy
Last year I spent some time with the Monta Skyquest, a tank of a watch that tracks three time zones with Swiss name brand-quality for under $2,000. It offered incredible utility and was easily one of my favorite watches of 2018.
This year, Monta doubled-down on its GMT game and introduced the Atlas at Baselworld, a thin, bezel-less travel watch available in several dial and strap combinations beginning around $1,400. Though the lack of a bezel means you can only track two time zones (as opposed to the Skyquest’s three), it also means that the overall profile of the watch is much slimmer: at just 10.2mm deep, we finally have in the Atlas a relatively affordable yet extremely robust GMT that wouldn’t look out of place in an office or out for trek.
The Good: The Atlas is thin and unassuming, as well as simultaneously elegant and robust. It’s a seriously versatile watch available in multiple colors and configurations for not a ton of money given its feature set. It’s handsome and also serious, and will no doubt be a hit with office-dwellers and cave explorers alike.
Who It’s For: As previously stated, this is probably one of the most versatile GMT watches to ever come across the GP desks. It’s thin, the bracelet is lightweight (you can also order it on a rubber or leather strap), but still feels seriously well made. Whether you work in the city or on the high seas, in a factory or on a trading floor, this could be your “one watch.” Of course, being a GMT watch, it’s particularly geared toward those who travel, or those who need to track a second time zone.
Watch Out For: There’s not much to complain about here, but as there are no crown guards, the rather large screw-down crown might be digging into your wrist. This is more of a problem for some people than for others (I, for example, have a permanent “dimple” in my left wrist from watch crowns), but it’s something to be aware of.
Alternatives: The Tudor Black Bay GMT from Baselworld 2018 comes to mind, but good luck getting your hands on one of those in new condition — better to check out the secondary market if you’re after one in a hurry (these also start at $3,625, more than double the price of a base Atlas model). To my mind the most similar functionality and aesthetic is offered by the Grand Seiko SBGN009 GMT, but again, this watch retails for $3,000 — quite a bit more than the Atlas. The Farer GMTs, which start at $1,425 and offer automatic movements, offer similar function for money, but don’t come on an optional bracelet.
Review: Though I tried on several different Atlas variations at Baselworld, it was the Monta Blue dial on a stainless steel bracelet that I received from the company to review. This is a particularly handsome, glossy blue — not quite as deep as a traditional navy but not remotely sky blue or playful.
The rehaut of the Atlas dial contains the GMT’s 24-hour scale for tracking a second time zone in the form of white Arabic numerals for the odd numbers, and small red hashmarks for the even numbers. The main raised hour indices on the lacquer dial are filled with highly visible Super-LumiNova, with thicker indices at the 12, 3 and 9 hour markers.
Hands are of the sword variety and are diamond-cut and polished with a symmetrical bevel with Super-LumiNova fill. The GMT hand has been redesigned since the introduction of the Skyquest, Monta’s first travel watch, and now features a smaller and more refined shape. The spear-shaped tip of the GMT hand on the Monta Blue dial is red and matches the 24-hour indices and red “Atlas” text on the dial. Further, the hand is actually curved at the end in order to clear the raised hour indices.
The dial further features a date wheel at 6 o’clock behind a window that adds some depth to the design, and other than this, only some sparse text adorns it — the Monta logo and wordmark, “Atlas” in red, the depth rating of 150m as well as the word “GMT” and “Swiss Made.” The Atlas’s 38.5mm stainless steel case features a complex blend of finishes: the smooth bezel is radially brushed, while the lower lip that connects it to the case is polished. The lugs also feature multiple finishes, with an inner polished surface, a clear bevel and an outer brushed finish. The screw-down crown feels large with the absence of crown guards, but this was probably the right choice for the Atlas, as it lends the watch more of an elegant look and feel. The crown itself is trapezoidal and features sturdy knurling and the Monta logo.
The case back is composed of a transparent crystal contained within a steel 12-sided ring (“dodecahedron?” When else would I realistically have the opportunity to use that word) that shows off the custom Monta rotor on the Selitta SW330 GMT movement. These SW330s are made in Switzerland, tuned to chronometer spec (-5/+5 seconds a day), beat at 4Hz and provide 42 hours of power reserve. The GMT, rather than the hour hand, is individually adjustable via the crown, meaning it’s slightly easier to adjust a second time zone, rather than to quickly change the watch over to a new local time, unlike on a modern Rolex GMT Master II movement.
If you opt for the bracelet version of the watch, you receive a high-quality, 20mm stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet with tapered lugs and a 4-position micro-adjustment buckle. The fold-over clasp, while not fancily decorated such as that of a Rolex Oyster, is sturdy and adorned with the Monta logo. Overall, this is a handsome, comfortable bracelet that should last a lifetime. If you opt for a rubber strap, you’re getting a high-quality vulcanized FKM model made by Everest, Monta’s sister company, and if you opt for leather, you can choose from Italian vegetable-tanned chocolate, chestnut, tan, or black versions. Oh, and every customer also receives a NATO/RAF-style strap in a complimentary color. Not too shabby.
Alright, so that’s the watch — well made, handsome, and sturdy. So how does it wear? Well, I wore it around northern Scotland for a week and kept track of New York time with the GMT hand. It’s comfortable, unobtrusive and easy to set. Back in Baselworld, I wore it under a shirt and sport coat, and it was equally comfortable due to the thin case depth.
Setting the watch is fairly simple: the first crown position can be used to manually wind the watch; the second sets both the date via a quick-set mechanism and the GMT hand (the crown can be rotated both ways in this position for setting); and the third and final position sets the time (the movement also hacks — the second hand stops when the crown is pulled all the way out). Setting local time on the Atlas is done via the third position, as only the GMT hand can be jumped in one-hour increments. Keeping track of a second time zone is thus a cinch, however, as you can quickly jump the 24-hour hand around the dial without upsetting the local time hands.
Verdict: If you’re traveling frequently, the Rolex-style time-setting is admittedly a superior system for a GMT watch (wherein the local hour hand can be jumped in one-hour intervals). However, if you simply need to keep track of a second time zone, and this time zone changes, the ETA/Sellita method is superior. Either way, the Atlas is a cinch to use, and quickly updating local time is no more complex than updating local time on a 3-hand watch. (At some point, complaining about the relative virtues of a Rolex vs. an ETA-style GMT movement feels so incredibly #firstworldproblems-ish that one inevitably recoils at oneself.)
The Atlas is another hit, to my mind. Whether the average day finds you in a suit or a wetsuit (alright, the Atlas may not be a dive watch, but it is water-resistant down to 150m), the Atlas is versatile enough to unobtrusively adorn your wrist and help you navigate the world’s time zones. If you travel for work or operate in a business environment that requires you to interact with another part of the world frequently (most business ventures these days), the Atlas is an optimal wrist-companion. Knowing the folks behind Monta fairly well and having spent time with the Atlas, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one to anyone.
What Others Are Saying:
• “In my time with the watch, it’s been remarkably easy to wear whether I’m at work or enjoying the outdoors with my family on the weekend. And that’s the sense that I’ve gotten from others who have either tried this watch on or have owned a Monta. ” — Ed Jelly, Worn & Wound
• “I love a good wearable GMT that can go from the office to the weekend or even a vacation without feeling out of place and the Atlas does just that while respecting the details that set Monta apart in the microbrand space. ” — James Stacey, HODINKEE
Movement: Selitta SW330
Case Diameter: 38.5mm
Case Thickness: 10.2mm
Water Resistance: 150m (~500 ft.)
Monta provided this product for review.
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