The Comparison You Didn't Know You Want: Longines Spirit Zulu Time vs. Monta Skyquest

Warning: Long Form Review and Comparison. I took a few photos, but there are countless online of each of these so I limited it to a few of mine plus press photos.

In case you just returned from living on an island with your favorite volleyball, Longines has been everywhere lately. One could say they are having a moment, particularly since the launch of the Spirit Zulu Time in 2022. They have been putting out almost as many bangers as Guided By Voices does albums.

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I have always appreciated Longines. I first fell for the design of the Lindbergh Hour Angle, but never bought one because of the namesake. We all have weird lines we draw, that was one of mine. As for the modern lineup? I liked Longines largely in the same way I like Mido, Rado, etc. That is, I appreciate they exist, they have some cool watches, but I had little interest in owning them. With the drop of the Spirit Zulu time, I was really drawn to one particular colorway, the Green/Gilt/Gold, but knew at 42mm, it may be a little large. The bezel reminded me of the Harrods Black Bay, another watch I enjoy the look of, but not so much the dimensions. Then there was the price, $3,150. Oof. 

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Last June they went and released it in 39mm…they had my attention. Well still not enough to buy one, but enough for me to consider one once they hit the secondary market. Certainly, more on the radar than any time before. 

This year I hope to go from all the watches, to most of the watches. @Ichibunz and I have been commiserating about consolidation, so I ended up dumping a handful of watches that simply did not make it on the wrist often. That lead to me to being able to pick up the Spirit Zulu Time for $900 off retail. Used, but still with stickers. This felt like the right price so I jumped on it.

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I wanted to see how this compared to other GMTs in my line-up, but upon receiving it, wearing it, one comparison came to mind…the Monta Skyquest, in this case the limited edition Pepsi bezel with guilt dial they released at the end of 2021 before launching the new Skyquest in the summer of 2022. So, this is a new watch/old watch comparison, but there is enough similarities between the new Skyquest and Zulu Time to draw comparisons. I cannot say this enough, the new model has different specs and is its own beast, still very worthy of contention.

Before diving in, I like both these watches a lot. Any commentary reflects my opinion and not intended as a slight on the brand or anyone who owns either. I am grateful to be in a position to be able to compare many brands others may be looking at without the ability to get hands on with each. Now on with the show.

Dial/Bezel Design

The Spirit Zulu Time arguably has a more unique design, albeit absolutely capitalizing on the modern vintage trend with the gilt dial and Arabic indices, gold accents, and marker cutouts. The mostly matching date wheel hides itself well. There is a lot on the dial, brand, logo, the needless “Automatic,” model name, the self aggrandizing five gold stars, and chronometer. Phew. This does not bother me, but for those looking for something to read on the toilet, this watch has more to offer than most.

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The Skyquest has a Pepsi bezel with gold accents. That will immediately draw homage comparisons, which is fair. For many this entire comparison ends there and I get it. One usually has to like the aesthetics before all else. Personally, I do not think it is so easy to do that, as we can also point to countless green gilt watches that existed before the Zulu Time, so I am putting inspiration aside to be fair. I totally get if you cannot.

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The Skyquest also uses a gilt dial with gold accented indices cut into the chapter ring. I prefer the chapter ring of the Skyquest, but I think I may prefer the numerals on the Zulu Time. As far as bezels; Longines has a gorgeous green ceramic with 24 clicks, whereas the Monta uses a 72 click aluminum bezel. Also, if you are into quirks and features, look at that GMT hand!

The Zulu Time gets the nod here for me for more color options (ceramic green bezel in this case), but this was closer than expected.

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Dimensions

(See table below)

This is an interesting comparison, on paper, one would not think they are similar. They wear closer in size than the numbers lead one to believe, well at least on my 6.5” wrist. For example, the Monta has longer lug to lugs (note they have shortened the new model), but I do not feel them because of how they are curved and drop around the wrist. The Zulu Time is thicker, but again, I do not feel the difference. Yes, this is subjective, but both wear similarly to me. 

The Zulu Time has an odd lug width (21) but drops to 16 at the clasp. No big deal, I have it on the bracelet, it will stay on the bracelet. If I wanted to swap it to straps? I would be aggravated. Though, I do like the optional strap with the Dexel made micro adjust.

Push. 

Case Design

The Longines has more brushed areas than the Monta, which has polished sides. Both are very well done. Finishing is entirely personal preference; Do you want high polishing or brushed? Same could be said about crown guards. Zulu Time? None. Monta? Yes. 

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The Zulu time has some sharp edges, particularly around the lugs where the Monta feels well finished at all touch points.  

Then then there is the case back. The Zulu Time seems to be a basic engraved steel back. I have watches that cost 1/3 the price with better case backs, be it embossed or overall finishing. Monta has a sapphire case back showing off the nicely finished Sellita movement with a custom rotor. Nothing special, but it feels more special than the basic case back of the Longines. Then again, if you do not look at the case back? This may not matter. 

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Throw in the fact the Monta case has 3x more water resistance, this one is not close to me, Monta.

Bracelet and Clasp

We already talked about size, so moving on.  The Monta has a traditional oyster style bracelet with brushed finishing and polished sides. The Longines is also a three link, but has polishing surrounding the center links and polished sides. Aesthetics is to preference, but there is more detail polishing wise on the Longines.

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A contention for some; Longines still uses push pins while Monta uses screws. At this price point I expect screws vs. pins, that could just be me, but seeing pins on any watch over $1000 screams cost cutting. Lastly, while also a preference I suppose, the Longines is simply more jangly.

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Clasp – The Longines reminds me of a clasp found on much less expensive watches. A nice feeling push button release with no on-the-fly micro adjustments (but five spring bar). It is also a shorter clasp than Monta which may or may not matter to some.

In case you didn't know, Monta is a sister company of Everest Bands, who makes some of the best aftermarket bracelets in the business. It has the feel and function of a clasp befitting watches costing 3-4X the price as well as three points of on-the-fly micro adjust. 

Monta wins this one handedly.

Movement

Speaking of hands, let’s talk movement. Longines uses a “L844.4” or well upgraded ETA 2892-A2. It is a traveler style GMT opposed to the caller style found in the Monta (Sellita SW2300). Personally, as an owner to many watches, I find travelers a total pain when setting dates, but if this was a one watch solution, or something worn more often than I will, it is certainly a more complicated and easier to use movement often found in more expensive watches. Longines wins for those seeking a quick setting hour hand.

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Like many who own this model, it is not a confidence inspiring movement to interact with. Sure, it is COSC, has better power reserve, and that is all good, but when I turn the hour hand there is a noticeable wobble with the GMT hand. This has been reported about ad nauseam, but not enough people call them out on this. I have a Bulova Hack, that wobbles, has play, etc. It cost me $120, so I really do not care. A $3150 watch should not have hand wobble. It is the only traveler I have with this issue. Once the watch is set it is not a big deal, but it is a thing one has to decide to live with, or not.

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Monta is not COSC certified, but they do regulate the movements in house and the numbers are comparable to COSC. Because of the simpler movement, it is also not as thick as the Longines.

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This is a tough one, Longines is technically a superior movement in terms of specs and if they bothered to address this issue, they’d easily get the win here. My issue is not a one off, because of that, going to give it to Monta on a technicality.

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Note, others may not care about the wobble, cool, again this is my take based on my ownership experience and comparisons with many other traveler GMTs. I have been known to have expectations at certain price points, including not liking sloppy feeling movements.

Overall

These are both wonderful watches and this is not a brand vs. brand comparison. That would be silly. Longines is steep in legacy with a catalog and heritage that is tough to replicate. This is simply about these two very cool watches. Some may clutch their pearls that anyone compared a young upstart to Longines, but here we are. 

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In my case, I purchased both on the secondary market, like new at steep discounts. At $2435 MSRP, the Skyquest is more than $700 cheaper than the Zulu time. Is the Zulu time $700 better? I do not believe so, in fact, I feel unless you need the traveler functionality the Monta offers more watch for the money. That is not a knock on the Longines as much as it is a I cannot believe how much watch Monta offers at their price. I would feel good paying about $2500 for either of these watches. I would not feel great about paying full price for the Longines.

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Don't get me wrong, brands exist to make money, as cliché as it is, Longines has middlemen. Those folks need to get paid. So I am not faulting them for their pricing, but the market has set the value and it is not MSRP. I am grateful I have each and do not have to choose, but I hope this comparison is helpful and perhaps helps you if you are debating between these two brands.

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It is worth repeating, if you are looking for a traveler GMT or if you are not looking for a for a Pepsi, Coke, or all black bezel, the Skyquest will not be for you, in which case you can get either a green or blue colorway Longines. You will not regret it.

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Let me know what you think of this comparison. Was it helpful? Was I too hard or easy? Would you like to see more like it?

By the tape:

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Reply
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Thoughtfully written. Thanks. 😊

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Thanks for the comparison. I’ve had my eye on the Monta. Hoping to be able to pull the trigger sometime this year.

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I have the new version of the Monta Skyquest Gilt Pepsi. It is a fantastic watch. I have no experience with Longines. I am a believer in Monta and I have no need to look any further. Just my two cents. #monta

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Well written mate.

Will skip on both just because of size.

Nonetheless, Longines all day baby!

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Well I will still buy Loginess Spirit Zulu GMT, it is COSC certified. I have Monta Atlas, it run -10 to -20 spd. I bought Monta because of Teddy youtube, Monta is Rolex of microband. I thought he mean the Superlative Chronometer like accuracy.

When I email Monta, they asked me to purchase: We use a Bergeon 5700 press with a 34mm horotec rubber die affixed.

I bought them, the case still did not open, the rubber didn't bite the case.

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In the time that it took for you to write this Guided by Voices released two albums, but one was mostly demos and B-sides. Seriously, well thought out opinion piece and an enjoyable one as well. Monta should be on more people's (like me) radar.

I will just leave this banger here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0fbR-7Y6Xo

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nawirby

Well I will still buy Loginess Spirit Zulu GMT, it is COSC certified. I have Monta Atlas, it run -10 to -20 spd. I bought Monta because of Teddy youtube, Monta is Rolex of microband. I thought he mean the Superlative Chronometer like accuracy.

When I email Monta, they asked me to purchase: We use a Bergeon 5700 press with a 34mm horotec rubber die affixed.

I bought them, the case still did not open, the rubber didn't bite the case.

I do hope you get it. Weird that they would ask you to do that. Luckily no issues with mine time wise

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Aurelian

In the time that it took for you to write this Guided by Voices released two albums, but one was mostly demos and B-sides. Seriously, well thought out opinion piece and an enjoyable one as well. Monta should be on more people's (like me) radar.

I will just leave this banger here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0fbR-7Y6Xo

I was hoping to use a reference all the kids would get. :-). Thanks Greg!

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Great comparison. As an owner of a Monta Noble, I can vouch for their quality. I wear that watch all the time, and I never thought I would given it has a pink dial. It's just that good. It gives my Omega Aqua Terra a run for its money and it's probably a better watch than my Oris Big Crown Pointer Date.

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Great work brother!!!