Shit that works week: Suunto Observer

Over eight years ago I paid 300 dollars for this watch, which seemed like the height of self-indulgence. M and I had just moved to Arizona for my first truly adult job, and were living in a spacious duplex which was almost empty. We had moved out with a full Xterra and 3 bikes on the roof, so we ate on the floor, slept on a Cordless crash pad, and the bikes had the two-stall garage all to themselves.


Two of those three bikes have been sold or given away since, but my Observer is on my wrist every day without fail. The stainless finish and aesthetic is handsome, but not overly so, and works with both suits and muddy hiking clothes. As can be seen it’s accumulated plenty of scratches, but aside from a battery change every 20-24 months and ditching the stock band (which chaffed) for a cheesy velcro one I’ve done nothing to it and never had a problem. The waterproofing has certainly met all claims. It tells time accurately, and has a stopwatch, compass, and barometer, all of which I almost never use. What I do use weekly is the altimeter. It’s a barometric altimeter, which means it needs to be recalibrated to a known altitude periodically. If this is done multiple times a day the result is exceptional accuracy; it was one of the secrets to Team Bill and Dave’s success at the Grizzlyman Adventure Race, and along with a paper map and decent compass is one of the only three tools you need for backcountry navigation in any condition.

What the Observer doesn’t have is almost as important as what it does have. It does not have any GPS or HRM function. Also, unlike almost every other Suunto watch, it does not follow the Batman school of fashion accessories. The Observer is no bigger than many men’s watches, making it one of the more stealthy pieces of technical outdoor gear. You can wear it everywhere, just in case. Suunto has not made the Observer in quite some time, but the X-Lander seems to have all the same features in a similar (albeit not as visually pleasing) package. The MSRP hasn’t changed in 8 years, either.

A watch like the Observer makes a good statement in the front country or backcountry. In either case it can be deployed as a good reminder that civilized people leave their phones, in the former case in their pockets unless they have a call, and in the later back in the fucking car.

2 responses to “Shit that works week: Suunto Observer”

  1. […] owned a Suunto Observer watch for almost a decade, and found its elevation logging feature invaluable.  The log will give […]

  2. […] down to the local gear store every 6 weeks or so for Aquaseal remains a staple event.  I wear my Suunto Observer every day.  I still use a flat tarp often.  My Prolite XS died this spring, in circumstances that […]

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