Suunto Essential Slate Watch Review

We wrote about Suunto’s new line, the Suunto Essential Collection, when they first broke cover March of this year.  And now I’ve had the pleasure of actually strapping it to my wrist for the last few weeks.

So how is it?  Good, but no perfect, not unlike other Suunto Watch reviews.

Note: this post was originally written August of 2015.

What Is the Suunto Essential Collection

First things first: this digital time keeper costs $700.  That’s a steep price to pay for both a digital watch and a watch that Suunto already makes and sells for $200 to $400 less.  Which watch am I referring to?  The Suunto Core. Which can be purchased for $400-500 depending on which model you opt for.

What sets the Essential Collection apart from the aforementioned is the materials used or so one would be lead to believe.  And yes, this is where it gets confusing. The Core Brushed Steel addition, which costs $500, uses the same materials, including steel and a sapphire glass cover.

The dividing line seems to arrive in two forms.   The first can be found in the bands; silicone vs a textile or leather. The second is where they’re manufactured.  According to Suunto, the Essential Collection is hand, yes, hand built in Finland, with each time piece being individually signed off ” to guarantee the highest quality every time.”  I assume their other watches are built some where in Asia.

Suunto Essential Features

As one would expect there is the usual timer, stop watch and alarm functions.  There is also a host of other features, which includes an altimeter, barometer, temperature and lastly a compass.

  • Altimeter: Like any watch of this ilk, it needs to be zeroed out before use. Once done so, it can indicate, in meters or feet, how much you’ve ascended or descended.

  • Barometer: It can be set to detect and notify you of an impending storm, or simply reviewed to see the current air pressure.

  • Compass: In addition to indicating North, West, South or East, it can also tell you the degree your facing, providing accurate navigation deep in the cover of foliage or while exploring the most open of plains.

  • Temperature:  Yup, this watch can do that too.

  • Multi Time Zones: For those with a penchant for old school, there is also a multi timezone function, as well a second hand to indicating the ticking seconds.

  • Backlight: There is one, but it’s God awful.  A dedicated button can activate it.  Or if you battery hog, you can switch it to be activated at the touch of any button.  While in compass mode it flickers, which as far as I can tell is not a function.

  • Sunrise/Sunset: Despite not having an Internet connection, and provided you’ve set your location, this watch will show you, while in time mode, the sunrise and sunset times based on your set location.

Suunto Essential Quality and Value

Suunto Essential Watch Review>

The Suunto Essential Watch comes with its own storage pouch that is analogous to a knife set.

Watch prices never cease to amaze me.  That being said, a watch that costs $30 can tell time just as well as a $10,000 watch. But that goes without saying.  So the great debate of price wages on.  Here are my two cents.

If you’re considering this watch you’re probably scratching your head about the Essential Collection’s price tag of $700-800; is it worth it?  At first it seemed like an acceptable number.  After all, they’re made with perceivably high end materials, and made of all places in Finland.

But as I continued to ponder “price”, I took into account Suunto’s Core Brushed Steel watch, which costs hundreds less.  Then I realized that the Essential Collection is just a few hundred dollar shy of $1000.  This epiphany, at least to me, was a game changer.  Suddenly, the watch was no longer $700 (its cheapest version), but a few hundred short of $1,000.  And to me a $1,000 watch is another echelon.  This is not the next echelon, and largely because of the Core Brushed Steel.

However, make no mistake, the Essential Collection is a unique looking watch and even garned some comments during its time on my wrist.  Sapphire Glass is nice and ensures that it won’t scratch under most conditions.

The casing on the watch – mine  was the slate addition – showed no degradation, though my time with it was limited (the paint on the loops did come off).  The band’s hinges are interesting in that there are 2 screws; one to attach the hinge to the watch and one to the band.  These proved reliable, while the loops didn’t.

You see, the loops, whose paint started to chip and wear off after a few weeks, oddly enough, are adhered to the band using a pin system, similar to that of what generally attaches a band to the body of the watch.  So while they’ve negated the issue of the traditional pin breaking away from the watch, Suunto has in effect just transferred the problem to the loops.  And yes, within 7 days, one of the loops almost fell off.  Fortunately, I noticed it before it entirely broke free and was able to reattach it.

Replacing the Suunto Essential’s Battery

Unlike most watches, the back face of the Essential Collection watches can be user removed thanks to a slot in its back.  A quarter will likely work, though might scratch its surface.  I didn’t replace the battery, as it should be good for at least 12 months.  Nevertheless, I’m impressed with this one tidbit, especially for a watch that is good for up to 300 feet underwater.  What is disappointing is how often the battery will need to be replaced, which in effect could be more depending on what features are used.

The Good and the Bad

I love how the Suunto Essential Slate looks on my wrist.  It’s far from flashy and offers plenty of utility.

The flashing backlight when in compass mode is a bit disconcerting and most certainly warrants sending it back (that is if I had bought it).  Here’s hoping this isn’t an Essential Collection wide problem.

Moreover, the backlight is far too dim, and while that might be done purposely to conserve on battery, I’d rather a bright backlight than a partially useful one.

Suunto’s Essential Collection is on sale now and can be bought direct or from dealers.

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