As no doubt many of you are aware, we are in something of a golden era of micro watch brands – with one of the newest watches to join this booming microcosm being the Monta Oceanking. The past ten years have seen the rapid expansion of many web-based brands, and the strong have survived, having done so by refining their product in an evolutionary manner. Though each successive generation may be small in numbers, their effect has been incredible. They are fostering a literacy of design, production, and planning that informs each new model at a pace not matched by the larger brand who can be encumbered by their corporate ownership, committees, and marketing departments.
Interestingly, on large, the most successful brands within this indie online space confine themselves to the sub $1,500 price point, with their bread and butter models (usually dive watches) almost always well under a grand. Regardless of price, the goal is almost always the same, to provide enthusiasts with an alternative to the common players, the watches they see all the time and may already own. In the same spirit, some brands have begun to leverage the same micro-brand format while offering an upmarket product, pushing towards a more luxurious, and expensive, evolution of the form. Enter Monta Watches and their first watch, the Oceanking.
Enter Monta Watches and their first watch, the Oceanking. Monta Watches is a further expression of deep watch nerdery from the people behind Everest Horology, a company that makes high-quality rubber straps for Rolex sport watches. The connection to Everest is interesting because it establishes that Monta will have a proven understanding of the general sport watch enthusiast base. Furthermore, as they produce these straps as a third party without the direct support of Rolex, they are undoubtedly well-versed in the dense frustrations of managing minute production details in the hopes of producing a high-quality non-casual product. The difference between a $20 rubber strap and a $225 Everest strap is all details, it’s about the comfort of the rubber, the shape of the strap, the quality of the buckle, the fine finishing of the edges, and their ability to achieve a perfect fit with a product they don’t control. Their straps are lovely, but does that mean they can make a lovely watch? In a word, yes.
Before we get to the specs and all of that, one note. The Oceanking you see here is a pre-production prototype and Monta has confirmed that some small details, including pre-production crown internals and some minute finishing, have been sorted and improved for the final product.
The Oceanking is a steel dive watch measuring 40 mm in width, 49 mm lug to lug and 13.8 mm thick. It has 20 mm lugs, is water resistant to 300 meters, and weighs 157 grams with its steel bracelet sized for my 7-inch wrist. Case and bracelet proportions are excellent, with a wearable and comfortable in-the-flesh experience that is reflective of a thoughtful and detail-driven design process.
Speaking of reflective, the sapphire crystal is double domed and has an anti-reflective layer on the inside of the crystal. Despite this, I found the Oceanking to be hugely reflective. While less noticeable in day-to-day use, under the bright and exacting conditions for photography, the Oceanking proved to be a difficult subject. This is inherent with double domed crystals and while the internal AR is functional, there is only so much it can do. That said, with a matte dial and polished hands, the reflective nature of the Oceanking does not massively detract from its day-to-day legibility. I found it very similar to my experience photographing the Halios Tropik, which is quite reflective but not in a way that bothers me in day-to-day wear.
I shared the Oceanking with a handful of serious watch nerds, including a WOSTEP-trained watchmaker and a friend that owns and operates a small dive watch brand. Like me, both were very impressed with what Monta has accomplished with the on-wrist product, especially in terms of the ergonomics, the finishing, and the bezel. Seeing as I’m something of a sucker for a good bezel, perhaps that’s an ideal place to start. The product of two patents, the Oceanking’s bezel is simply outstanding. At any price, I think it is what you want a bezel to feel like. The bearing-mounted design has a perfectly cut and very grippy edge surrounding a legible polished ceramic insert. The insert, while regrettably unlumed (even at 12), is laser cut and features the best use of font on the Oceanking. Just take a close look at the “5” in “15” and “45”. So good.
Font aside, the action is remarkably smooth. I would describe it as mechanical without being notchy. It feels like each click pulls the bezel to its next stop. It’s remarkably quiet too, which is great when you want to set it in a meeting or be able to use it without drawing a glance (some bezels are so loud). The Oceanking’s excellent bezel design and implementation places it among some of my all-time favorites like that of the Tudor Pelagos and the Doxa Sub.
The case is an interesting shape, more organic than a modern Submariner and less broadsided than that of a Tudor Black Bay. With polished flanks, beveled edges and fine brushing on both the top and bottom, the case finishing suits the asking price. Monta has even gone and beveled the internal edge of the lugs, which is not a detail you see very often and it adds refinement to what is generally a rather utilitarian area of case design.
While my loaner prototype used a pre-production crown, I found the size to be easily gripped and I rather like the somewhat flared shape that Monta selected. Finally, I tip my hat to Monta for designing and building the Oceanking without a helium escape valve – opting for a more reliable and easily serviced case design. All told, the 49 mm lug to lug, 40 mm width, and 20 mm lugs means that the Oceanking wears really well. The bracelet and the rubber strap offer a comfy and eye pleasing taper and the Oceanking will readily accept a nato or leather strap. For those wondering, it looks great on a grey nato 😉.
The dial, not unlike the case, is also the result of a seemingly thoughtful design that effectively blends a predictable aesthetic (that of a black dial dive watch) with a handful of fine details in an attempt to make it something special. The dial is a matte black with oversized lines of text and an equally large Monta logo at 12. The minute scale is complete, with luminous elements every five minutes and applied polished markers for 12, 3, and 9. At six, we find a date window with a matching polished aperture offering a view of a nicely legible black-on-white date display.
At its most outer circumference, the Oceanking uses a flat black rehaut (sometimes called a chapter ring) that is delicately cut away to slide over the large three-dimensional applied markers. The seconds hand would definitely benefit from the use of a larger luminous tip, but given its polished finish, it’s not hard to see in most conditions. The applied markers are nicely finished and catch available light in a very pleasing way.
The lume is SuperLuminova BGW9, which is white in daylight and offers a blue glow in low light. While not as bright as C3, BGW9 offers a compromise for a cleaner looking daylight tone with acceptable low light performance. I think the only miss here is that Monta opted for a bezel design that is unlumed, which is an undeniably strange choice when designing a dive watch.