Climb Mount Everest 20 times and Suunto might make a watch for you. That’s the case with a new mountain watch made in honor of Apa Sherpa, one of the world’s foremost high-altitude mountaineers and a frequent visitor to the highest point on the planet.
The watch, which costs a hefty $399, is from Suunto’s Core line. Its official name is the Suunto Core Extreme Edition Everest, and along with the serious title comes some bonafide serious mountain tools. The watch has an altimeter, a barometer (with storm alarm and weather-trend indicator), digital compass, date and alarm functions, and stored sunrise/sunset times for more than 400 places around the world where you might wake up early to climb a peak.
For the past four months, I have put Apa Sherpa’s Everest watch to the test. Although I did not climb the Big One even once (Apa has summited 20 times!), the watch accompanied me to Patagonia for a week-long endurance race as well as on several lesser adventures in the mountains and woods of the USA.
Overall, the Suunto watch has been bomber. After months of use, its glass face and striking orange dial look like new. The rubber strap and watch body are unmarred despite climbs, treks, kayaking sessions, wilderness swims, and hundreds of miles on the bike.
Indeed, the watch has been an essential wilderness tool for me. In the field, the altimeter and time/alarm functions get most use in my adventures. The altimeter is easy to use and works flawlessly. With this model, Suunto has graciously upgraded its alarm function, adding a multi-tone beeping that roused me from deep sleep.
The large operation buttons on the watch body are easy to push. Too easy in fact: When your wrist is bent on a bike handle grip or while climbing, the watch tilts and can contact your arm, accidently pressing in the main function button on the side. But Suunto has a quick cure with its lock function, which is triggered by pressing and holding one of the buttons for a few seconds.
The watch is large, but not overbearing. It weighs 65 grams.
The altimeter works from -1,600 feet to 29,500 feet, guaranteeing functionality for the totality of the Earth’s terrestrial range. One slight bummer: Suunto cites operating temperature as -20°C at coldest. It can easily get colder than that on Mount Everest, not to mention in winter in parts of the United States. Granted, at those temps the watch is unlikely to be exposed. It would most often be hidden under layers or a thick jacket cuff.
Overall, the Mount Everest watch has served me well — in the mountains as well as for everyday use and for training. It does not have GPS features or a heart-rate monitor like other high-end watches at this price. But Suunto offers a solid tool with the Everest watch. Its battery lasts for months. The case and overall build is durable and should hold up for years.
Bonus: In another nod to the Sherpa behind this watch, Suunto promises to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Apa Sherpa Foundation, which supports the education of the children living in the remote village near the base camp of Mount Everest.
—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.