Opinionated World

Gear

An All-In-One Watch – The Suunto Core

A thermometer, compass, barometer, altimeter, depth meter, stopwatch; the list goes on. There are now a wide variety of products available that combine all of these features – and sometimes more – into a device that fits on your wrist. That’s right, all this inside a watch. We’re going to take a look at the Suunto Core in this review.

Suunto are a Finnish company, founded in 1936 who have become one of the leading brands for watches such as these, producing over seventy different versions since the millennium.

The Suunto Core All Black model we’re looking at comes with an array of impressive features as well as a fairly lightweight design, comfortable strap and strap-replacement options. It also comes with an expensive price tag – though less than the latest models by a big margin.

Neatly packaged.

Neatly packaged.

The original, all black strap with the red crush strap.

The original, all black strap with the red crush strap.

You can find it currently reduced to around £190 from the previous £230. Models, that come with a slightly more appealing bright colour come in closer to the original recommended retail price. Red, violet, orange, green and yellow ‘crush’ as well as Black/Gold and Glacier Grey are available amongst a few others. Along with the watch itself, I also got hold of the Red strap which was easily fitted with two screws on either strap fixing. It required nothing more than a small screwdriver and a steady hand, plus five minutes of my time.

The watch weights 64 grams and the case is 49mm wide, while the depth comes in at a not-overbearing 14.5mm which in comparison to my everyday watch feels almost meagre. The red crush strap is very wide, but it suits the watch perfectly and makes a good looking watch even better. The red of the strap balances the black case nicely and a lot of the other vibrant colours seem to as well – although I’m not struck on the purple one so much! For someone who has pretty thin wrists, I was surprised to find that it fits snugly, with a hole remaining. This means it caters to both the people with humongous wrists to those with dainty ones. I think that also makes it a unisex watch, which probably ties in with the violet strap I mentioned earlier!

A pretty good looking watch with equally nice packaging.

A pretty good looking watch with equally nice packaging.

The Suunto Core is made fairly well, with the glass being mineral crystal and the bezel a pretty durable metal, notched for extra grip when turning. The turn of the bezel unfortunately doesn’t have a ‘well built click’ to it, but instead has more of a plastic sound as it turns. Still, it functions perfectly well and has never failed to work.

The battery is user replaceable so turning the back cover with a coin and switching the old one out for a fresh CR2032 is quick and simple. The front of the watch is adorned with two light green markers, highlighting North on the bezel while all other markings are lightly written in a small white font. Permanently marked on the display itself are three options – Time, Alti & Baro and Compass. These are selectable by clicking the middle button, which is one of five adorning the sides of the case.

Things get slightly complicated when navigating menus and selecting options. Fortunately there is a user manual, which is useful, if not comprehensive. Helpful markers appear on the display letting you know which buttons work for the current application.

Since we’re onto the display, lets go into some finer points. This is realistically the only part that lets the watch down. Unlike you’ll see in classy product shots, the display is difficult to read, especially in bright light. In truth, you’ll actually find it easier to read in a slightly dark room where the display behind the data appears black rather than allowing you to see every option the watch has regardless of it being hidden. That’s what happens when you use an electro-luminescent display – the same thing you’ll find in an old-school scientific calculator. It’s not a complete disaster, nor is it unusable. But it’s not as good as it should be, especially for the price you pay.

A fair depth but it remains lightweight.

A fair depth but it remains lightweight.

What about the main features though? The watch has so many features, some of which are basic such as alarms, different time-zone support and a stop-watch. It has a backlight too, which is also pretty useless and emits a dim green that does barely enough to make a difference.

The compass is fantastic. Once calibrated by turning it on a flat surface through 360 degrees, and also setting the declination (-1 degree where I am), it works perfectly every time. Re-calibrating is also a cinch but I’ve not had to do it in six months of usage. This works especially well when you’re using it regularly. In the mountains for example, I found it a great deal quicker to look at my wrist for navigational purposes than the other compass I was carrying (though I still recommend a non-electronic backup!).

There’s an altimeter which works nicely between 300 and 9000 metres so it’ll serve you well even at the top of Everest. I had to set an elevation to begin with and they recommend doing this at the start of a trip where you have an exact reading to enter. This helps maintain accuracy for the trip at hand and it could become slightly inaccurate in a totally different location. Alongside the altimeter is a barometer which shows air pressure as a graph, plus a couple of arrows at the top. These arrows highlight what the air pressure has done over the past six hours – the first for the first three hours in that six hour period and the second showing the rest. These allow you to see sudden drops or rises in pressure which allow you to predict the weather a little better. The best thing about the altimeter is that it’ll work where GPS would fail – in covered areas.

Here's the problem with the display.

Here’s the problem with the display.

There’s an automatic option which selects altimeter or barometer for you. This allows the watch to account for a gain in altitude when detailing the air pressure. Alongside this is a storm alarm which I found to be quite inaccurate. The reasoning behind this, I do not know but I had it go off a number of times without anything subsequently happening. It’s a shame as this would be a great feature if it worked properly. The problem is that it doesn’t, so it’s useless. Some users have stated it’s because of where the sensors are placed and that wearing it on the opposite wrist helps. For some strange reason, I’ve always worn a watch on my right wrist anyway, so I can tell you their theory is incorrect.

There’s also a depth meter, which is one feature I’ve not tested out. Suunto say this works up to 10m, though the watch itself is rated up to 30m. Another useful feature of the watch is the ability to log and upload data to your computer, so once you’re back from a weekend in the mountains, you’ll be able to see your ascents and descents in fine detail.

There’s also a thermometer built into the watch, though it’ll simply read the temperature of your arm unless you remove it for ten minutes or so and then take a reading.

The Suunto Core is accompanied by a range of other models, such as the Ambit 2 which is at least twice the price but also has double the features, including full GPS and a Heart-rate monitor. One alternative to this is the Garmin Fenix.

In short, this is a pricy purchase, but one that ultimately shouldn’t disappoint. It has some shortcomings, namely the display, but if you can put up with that then I’m sure this watch will fit the bill. The battery life is frankly brilliant – Suunto suggest it will last a full year – which combined with the great compass functions and reliable altimeter means this is a tough candidate to beat.


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