Welcome to Episode 36 of Tenn & Two
Today we have a special episode as we were fortunate enough to have spent some times with Michael and Justin from Monta Watches during their visit to Nashville last month. We are also joined today by our good friend Josh (@stuffandwatches) who is a self proclaimed “Monta Fan Boy”. Justin starts us off with his saying that rings so true for us all when he says “I like the watches, but I love the people”. This is such a unique hobby and it is amazing how we all develop these relationships and friendships with one another from our combined interest in watches.
Well, in true Tenn & Two fashion, we are recording this interview after gorging ourselves on Nashville Hot Chicken at what could only be described as a “sketchy” chicken joint in Madison. That being said, shout out to Josh for the recommendation and if you are in town, be sure to check out Slow Burn. It does not disappoint! www.slowburnhotchicken.com
With that, let’s dive on into this interview and learn a bit more…
What is Monta
Michael takes us back in time a bit where he began Everest Horology Products. Yes, that Everest who has the curved watch straps that fit the watches we all love to wear. After years of making accessories for other watches, he birthed the idea of making his own incredibly high quality Swiss watch with what he actually liked wearing (divers, GMTs, etc). It wasn’t always roses, their first watch was a complete flop, but they pushed through and learned from their mistakes.
Justin was a true believer from the beginning and was the very first client of Monta Watches before he became involved. After Basel 2017 and the failure of the Gen 1 Ocean King, they learned how to take being kicked in the face and moved forward. Monta was no overnight success, but in three years you can’t say that they haven’t exploded into this industry strong since.
All in the Details
One thing we learned during our lunch discussions prior to this recording is how much pride the guys at Monta take in the details. Even well before this visit was scheduled, Katlen discusses the first time she had seen a Monta which was when Kat had one on loan. All she would say is, “just hold it” “just try it on” “you’ll see”. And that was true. One close up look will show you the amount of detail that goes into their watches. Michael talks about his frequent trips to Switzerland and why this is so important to the Monta Watches brand. His goal isn’t to make something good, or great, but the best which does not necessarily translate into perfection. He takes us back to the Ocean King 1 and their decision to not lower the quality after that first watch. They took the time to find the best in the world and did not want to lower that standard. Which means that they spends a lot of time overseeing the production of Monta timepieces.
The goal is to take Monta past the world of enthusiasts, which means it has to impress people who know nothing about watches. The expectation then is that the watch be as close to the best as possible.
A Brand Involved in the Community
We see more and more that Monta has quite the pulse on the horological community and what people are wanting. While their presence is mostly online, they do have one brick and mortar Authorized Dealer, Brinker’s Jewelers in Evansville, Indiana, with plans to open 3-5 more dealers in the year 2020. In the meantime, we discuss how relevant their social media presence is and the fact that they are making watches that people are really after because of this involvement. More importantly, they are making the watches that they want to wear.
Check out Briker’s Jewelers online here, or visit if you are in the Evansville, Indiana area.
Michael talks about designing a watch specifically for Justin after he fell in love with a watch that they chose not to produce, the opaline silver Atlas. This story comes around to their goal of making watches that people fall in love with. They don’t want anyone to open a Monta box and be underwhelmed looking to flip it immediately. The experience Justin had with this Atlas in Switzerland is the goal for everyone with one of their watches.
Our friend Josh chimes in with his personal experience and his Monta and how true everything the guys said is. He asks where this passion and attention to detail comes from as it’s something you don’t see in brands that charge double and triple this. To Justin’s point, he emphasizes that firstly they are a brand run by watch enthusiasts. But that most importantly, that they listen to their audience and the market.
It’s a very first world problem, but availability and distribution is a struggle with many of the watch industry and Monta is no exceptioni. The guys talk about how they are selling out of several piees with pending open orders and how frustrating this experience is. Michael talks about his expereinces with the manufacturers being at full capacity and his plans to spend more time with them in Switzerland in order to get more production numbers.
That being said, there’s something to be said for the quality that we have discussed. Along those lines, Justin talks about an email that he had received from a Triumph customer who emphasized that “perfection cannot be achieved, but excellence can”. No matter how hard you try, there will be things that slip through, especially with these manufacturers being so delayed. But he emphasizes a customer service oriented culture. This dedication to customer service is being pushed even further with the new addition of a full time watchmaker for Monta who will be able to provide expedient turn around times for any Monta watch service need.
On Being a “Microbrand”
The conversation turns to a discussion of the word that Michael hates, “microbrand. He likens it to being the little guy, who let’s be honest, no one really wants to be. But there are a lot of these little guys in the industry, pushing hard to sell $400 watches that cost $320 to make. His theory is that these are the macro guys. They are the ones taking the biggest risks trying their ass off. He talks about how there just isn’t the same life and customer service in the big guys as you find in the microbrands. You’re definitely never going to get better customer service than you get from the guy hustling to pay their rent and this is a valid argument.
He even talks about how he feels badly for the big guys because of the struggles that they face. But if you want customer service, you probably want to buy from a “Monta-style” brand. None the less, they are excited to see where they go and so are we.
What They Wish They Had Known Three years Ago?
It’s still easy to forget that Monta is only a watch brand that is three years old. Justin talks about his biggest issue being timing. He finds it quite frustrating to have to do pre-orders and take someone’s money without giving them a product after. Their goal is to get out of that and be able to deliver watches immediately when expected.
For Michael, he wishes they had never gone with the Eterna movement and had just used Sellita movements from the beginning. And yes, that would have been great. But he has this amazing mindset where he has been able to take that failure and truly learn from it. These mistakes have allowed them to handle the new curveballs like pros.
As the guys say, “the good days outweigh the bad”. They have taken their negative experiences and turned them into momentum to keep going.
Making a Monta Watch
Kat brings up the curious question that I think we all want to know about watches in general, “How long does it take to make a Monta watch?”. Which can be answered in a lot of different ways. Michael starts off by talking about the design process which can sometimes take a few minutes, and others take much longer depending on sketches, drawings, CAD design, etc. 15-20 minutes or months later, it will take 120-140 days for a case and bracelet maker to do a prototype. But then months for the dials which does sometimes lead to walking into Baselworld the day before to pick up their prototypes.
We talk about how stressful this must be, but apparently all the big boys do it too so it must be ok. Josh brings up a great point about how “real” the guys are in their openness to discuss the pitfalls of manufacturing and how regardless, they still bring forward a phenomenal product for the price. And speaking of price, the reality Monta faces right now is that they can’t keep doing business this way at this price and that things will have to change. Since their quality is not going to go down, that means pricing does have to go up. But let’s be honest, what else is there at $1,500 with this sort of quality? Josh talks about how he has handled many brands at alot of prices, and if we are being honest, so have most of us. But that being said, we know there is a difference in quality and Monta stands out.
…a little Q&A
Here’s what you guys won’t hear because it is being edited out. Josh’s wife is the most cool woman ever and when he gave us the WiFi password, we absolutely died! She deserves this little shout out and if you’re ever lucky enough to hang with them, definitely ask him for the password! Anywho, let’s answer some questions y’all!
From @mt3chn1k, “Magnetism is a big thing for me. Any change of you doing watches with silicone components?” The short answer is no as they are dependent on the movements that are provided. If their movement manufacturers were to start producing these movements regularly then yes, but until then it just isn’t a viable option.
@1watch2watch3watchmore asks “Will the Ocean King clasp be available to purchase for Triumph, Atlas, and Sky Quest owners?” Michael talks about the purpose of a dive clasp and how it doesn’t make sense to offer it on anything other than a dive watch. His long answer, noooooooooooooooo. They intend to keep everything as true to its practicality but emphasizes that the bracelets are interchangeable.
From Katlen, “What does life look like outside of Monta?”Justin is a heavily focused family guy with a wife and two kids. He absolutely loves music, plays piano and guitar, and is a foodie. Michael believes in a “life balance” over a “work/life balance” and he truly loves what he does and mixes his daily life with it. But he is a travel junkie with his wife and three kids.
Seriously, we cannot thank Michael and Justin enough for spending the day with us. And thank you to Josh for co-hosting this interview too. We can’t say enough about this amazing brand and hope that you found this to be quite informative. Be sure to head over to their website, www.montawatch.com or check out their Instagram @montawatch and reach out to the guys if you have any questions! They are truly great and their timepieces are just as good! As Kat says, the hype is real.
Kat, Katlen, Josh, Michael, and Justin
Tenn & TwoFollow Us:
- Episode 44: Hautix Episode Feat Bark & Jack and Scottish Watches - February 24, 2020
- Episode 43: Leaving Basel, Q Timex, and Instagram’s Influence - February 17, 2020
- Episode 42: Watch Photography with @stuffandwatches - February 11, 2020