Two years ago, American brand Monta got on the mic and announced, seemingly out of the blue, that it would be retiring the existing designs of the Oceanking and Skyquest, its flagship models. Rumors swirled, fans fretted, people who didn’t know about Monta went about their lives. A few months after, the brand’s two founders shared the design of the new Skyquest GMT. No one was certain, but given the platform the Skyquest shared with the Oceanking, it was assumed that the latter would look similar. We (I) waited eagerly to see if that was the case, and then, in June of last year, Monta confirmed it. As with the Skyquest, the new Monta Oceanking is unmistakably a Monta, but it has taken on a more substantial, tool-forward stance that it could be argued the previous iterations embraced less fully.

You should know that I own an old Skyquest GMT Gilt, which I love and which you can see in our review of the new Skyquest. Since the Skyquest and the Oceanking share the same platform, it’s fair to say I have an affinity for the previous design. So, when the redesigns came, I wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement. My kneejerk reaction was negative, but that softened once I got some time with both the Skyquest and Oceanking last year. Individually, each change is incremental, but taken as a whole, these updates create a watch that feels entirely different on the wrist. Where earlier versions of the Oceanking had a sleekness that put it on the verge of being a dress diver, the new models have a sportier, more rugged feel that positions them differently in the consumer’s eyes. Yes, the old and new are both bona fide divers, but the new design speaks to a different person, someone looking less for a luxury look and more for a utility look.

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The new Monta Oceanking is 40.5mm in diameter, just .2mm narrower, but a full millimeter shorter lug-to-lug at 48mm (the 12mm thickness remains the same. These changes may sound minor, but the impact is real. They mark the transformation to rugged tool watch, which is completed by the widened glossy ceramic bezel. With the wider bezel and shorter lug-to-lug, the watch wears a bit stouter and feels blockier on the wrist. That’s not to say the wrist presence is unpleasant. The tweaked lugs have a generous curve and an attractive polished chamfer that belie the newly tool-focused stance of the watch without diminishing it. From the second generation, the Oceanking carries forward its organic crown guards, though I still found the tapering crown a bit tricky to get a hold of. The bezel itself had a little play, but rotated with a satisfying click and did so even when wet. I did find that there were occasions where a gentle nudge could shift the bezel a notch or two, but I will add that I can’t say what torture this review sample may have endured before that which I visited upon it.

One of the most notable aspects of Monta watches is the bracelet and clasp. I’ll go on record and say that, in its latest iteration, it is one of the best, if not the best, bracelets on the market. If you narrow the scope to watches under $3,000, I’d say there is absolutely no question. This is a bracelet that is executed to a level well above the watch’s price point. The links articulate fully and have chamfered edges, making them effectively mold around your wrist perfectly. The clasp, which features a flip-lock, foldover closure, has been shortened from its original implementation. That means it doesn’t feel bulky on the bottom of your wrist. On top of that, the six-position quick-adjust mechanism built into the clasp makes sizing a snap. Even the spring bars are particular to Monta, the brand having had them made just for its watches. The only thing missing is a quick-release mechanism. (For a better and more complete look at the bracelet and its clasp, make sure to check out our Skyquest review.)

With the widening of the bezel, the dial has less real estate. The most notable resultant change is the omission of the sloped chapter ring, into which the markers were partially set. Removing this allows the smaller dial to breathe a bit, and I never felt it was cramped despite its reduced size. And yet, the lumed, applied indices have been enlarged, as have the hands. It’s all about legibility against the inky blackness of the dial. You can see the effect of that glossy finish up close, with the echoed reflection of the indices in the dial. Another improvement is the date window. It appears larger in the smaller dial space, but the placement is much improved. On the earlier versions, it floated between a 6 o’clock lume pip and the lower dial text, but here it’s neatly nestled between the adjacent markers. To help with proportions, the dial text has been reduced. In full light, the dial is exceptionally easy to read, but as I find with my older Skyquest, the new Oceanking’s Super-LumiNova isn’t as bright as I’d like. It’s even and bright enough, but I want it to be blinding!

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Monta uses the automatic Sellita SW300, which it calls the Monta Caliber M-22. It doesn’t make mention of the movement being a Sellita, but neither does it go as far to call the movement in-house or even manufacture. I’d prefer a bit more transparency, but I’d hardly call the brand one of the worst offenders. Using the Sellita provides a 56-hour power reserve at 28,800 vph and the comfort of knowing the watch is easily serviceable if needed.

Though it may have a more robust, sportier look (that will likely appeal to as many consumers as the original), the Oceanking remains a great dive watch. A part of me weeps for the change that Monta made to the Oceanking and the Skyquest, but another part of me understands the need for a brand to evolve (not to abruptly change, it should be noted in light of recent events). In a sense, this evolution is the mark of a brand’s maturity. Major brands update their models to freshen up the line and keep people interested, while also responding to market forces. After my initial reaction to the change, that’s where I landed. The new models show a maturing brand that’s here to stay and will likely continue to evolve. The Monta Oceanking is priced at $2,550 USD. For more information, please visit the Monta website

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