A Different Kind of Travel Watch
It seems that in certain parts of the world people are no longer concerned with COVID and make travel plans. Why should we wait? What is keeping us at home? I don’t know anymore. The answers to these questions could be one of many and however things turn out, it is clear that as proper watch enthusiasts, we need a proper travel watch. When we think of travel watches, we most likely think of GMT. And while I love a good GMT watch that I can use to know what time it is at home while being halfway across the world, I realized that what I need more than a GMT complication when I travel is a legible watch that is comfortable to wear.
In that spirit, I would propose that the Momentum Atlas makes for a great travel watch. As we will see below, it has the right proportions, construction, and dial design to be at home in a plane crossing the Atlantic as it would be exploring a city or hiking in a tropical forest. The Atlas is not a dress watch nor is it an everyday watch per se. However, it is a proper travel and adventure watch and that’s the kind of watch I want to have on my wrist most of the time. Although I live in an urban environment and don’t spend as much time outdoors as I would like to, I like to sport a capable watch most days.
In this article we will first discuss the specifications and design of the Atlas, before lingering a bit on what this watch is and what makes it interesting to wear and own.
In my perpetual quest to find versatile timepieces, I’ve come to realize that dimensions are as important in a watch as is the movement or the materials used for the case, crystal, and bracelet. In that vein, the Atlas hits the perfect balance between small and large coming in with a case diameter of 38mm, a shy lug-to-lug of 43mm, 11.5mm in thickness and 20mm lug width. Being endowed with such dimensions means that the Atlas can slip under your hiking jacket cuff whilst reminding you it’s here. (I like feeling the gentle weight of a watch on my wrist.)
As a good exploration watch should have, the Atlas is equipped with a solid and reliable movement, the Miyota 9015. This particular version comes with a gilt finish, something I’ve never encountered in the metal before and that is pleasantly different. (This finish reminds me of certain Sinn models.) The gilt movement can be admired thanks to a see-through caseback. By the way, the Miyota 9015 has 24 jewels, beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 42 hours of power reserve. While I don’t know what the crystal on the back is made of, the one on the front is a slightly domed piece of sapphire crystal.
The dial is ultra legible thanks to its modern-looking printed Arabic hour markers that are filled to the brim with C3 SuperLuminova. Having so much lume in numerals makes reading the time at night easy and the spectacle in itself is worth spending the asking $520 for the Atlas. The finish on the case and bracelet might have given you a clue as to what the watch is made of: titanium. Indeed, the entire package is made of titanium including the bracelet and clasp—something that is not a given on a titanium watch. The titanium is finished with a sand-blasted texture in proper tool watch fashion.
The full titanium bracelet tapers slightly at the end links but then runs straight down to the clasp. Although I prefer bracelets that taper to the clasp for both the fact that it’s more pleasing to look at and more comfortable to wear, I think it’s ok to have a straight bracelet on a field/travel/pilot watch. The clasp has a double-pusher deployment mechanism, a safety latch, and comes with three holes of micro-adjustments. The clasp is surprisingly short, so much so that I need to point it out. I don’t understand why brands make long clasps that only have three or four holes of micro-adjustments.
A big bonus point for Momentum and the Atlas.
Interestingly, Momentum describes the Atlas as being a field watch while its design language reminds me of pilot watches. Think IWC Mark XV that displays a full Arabic numeral dial, baton-shaped hour hand, and pencil-shaped minute hand. This design is quite unique and iconic for being extremely legible. And whether you are making a field or a pilot watch, you want to aim for maximum legibility. So, however Momentum classifies the Atlas, it’s a darn good watch that is very easy to read at any time of day.
As we already know, the titanium case and bracelet come with a sand-blasted finish that makes the overall package look utilitarian and purposeful. While this finish deprives the watch from having any reflective surfaces, it makes the Atlas fly under the radar which is a good thing when traveling. Living in times where watch theft is on the rise, I like to keep my watches looking more discreet than not, and even though a $530 Atlas is not a $20,000 Rolex, I’d still rather fly under the radar. What’s more is that this finish makes the Atlas light and robust, which is what you want in a travel/exploration/pilot watch.
Lastly, I want to empathize on the legality of the dial. As we’ve seen above, the combination of this style of hands and hour markers guarantee ultimate legibility. As a good pilot watch, the Atlas also comes with the inverted triangle at 12, also lumed, that is there to make sure you know which way is up. (Figuratively.) The Atlas comes with a date aperture at the 3 o’clock that has beveled edges, and a fumé black dial that aids at creating contrast, and unlike many military watches that come with a flat black dial, is nicer to look at too.
Although the Atlas seems to be mostly monochromatic, Momentum added a dash of color in the tip of the seconds hand and in the word “Atlas” printed below the pinion. Speaking of text, Momentum has kept it to a minimum and only has three words on the dial. Besides “Atlas,” it also shows the brand name at the 12 o’clock position and the word “Automatic” above the 6 o’clock position. Keeping text to a minimum further makes the dial easy to read. It is a reminder that this watch is a practical watch, not the type to keep stowed in a watch box.
The Heart of the Matter
I’ve got to admit that I normally do not care for pilot watches. However, when I saw the Atlas in pictures, I quickly realized that Momentum had done something different. I’m going to repeat myself here in saying that it is hard to create a brand new watch design. Coming up with a new look requires a particular affinity for design and a deep knowledge of watch design of the past 80 years. Similarly, it requires an equal amount of knowledge about the world of horology to create a new travel/field/exploration watch that is both familiar and different.
As you have noticed, I have not committed to calling the Atlas a field or pilot or travel watch because it could be any of these for you. For me, it’s an exploration timepiece as it has the right proportions, construction, and dial design to be just that. It comes with a few details that I know many watch reviewers would frown upon and discard as being tasteless or cheap. For example, the male end-links that would normally bother me on a full stainless watch but that doesn’t with the Atlas. After all, the Atlas is light and has a short lug-to-lug distance.
Furthermore, while I can already hear watch enthusiasts lament the choice for pressed clasps in 2022, I adore them. I own the Seiko 5 GMT that has a pressed clasp and I think it’s genius. What it does is keep the clasp mechanism light and comfortable to wear. However you feel about milled clasps and how superior they might be from an engineering standpoint, a pressed clasp is more comfortable. And it makes total sense to have one on a travel watch that is made of titanium. In the same vein, I love the fact that Momentum went a step further in using titanium for the clasp instead of bead-blasting a piece of stainless steel.
There are also other little details that make the Atlas practical and fun. The super grippy screw-down crown which, coupled with the screw-down caseback, offers 100 meters of water resistance. It is easy to operate, feels secure and precise. The Atlas also comes with a black rubber strap that has molded but not perforated holes. This makes it possible for you to choose how many holes to perforate to keep the strap looking clean. It’s a little detail that makes a huge difference and shows how much attention Momentum put in designing the Atlas.
However you may categorize the Atlas, we can agree that it’s packed with good specs and that it comes in a travel adventure friendly package. The combination of the lightweight titanium case and bracelet match the watch’s dimensions (unlike a Tudor Pelagos….) and the Miyota caliber offers reliability and easy servicing, two key criteria for a proper tool watch. The dial is clear and legible both during the day time and at night, and the watch is endowed with enough water resistance to make it possible to swim, dive, and hike.
Because yes, 100 meters of water resistance is enough for 95% of the situations we find ourselves in.
At the end of the day, the Atlas is a practical, good-looking, and well-priced tool watch. For $520, you can’t go wrong with its fit and specifications. This watch fitsfit within my recent solo vibe of having “enough” watch for the price I pay. The Seiko 5 GMT is “enough” GMT for the asking $450 and the Momentum Atlas is “enough” travel (or field or pilot or adventure) watch for $520. We truly do not need more. I encourage you to find out more about Momentum and the Atlas by visiting the brand’s website.
Thanks for reading.