Disclaimer: I'm a newbie to watches. I only started taking an interest in them about 7-8 months ago. My collection is varried - from Seikos to Marathons to Casio and even a Breitling (which I never wear). I don't know all of the correct terms, so I apologize in advance if I misuse nomenclature. I'm more of a layman/enthusiast at this point, so please keep this in mind as you read the review. Please feel free to correct me if I'm incorrect in any of my terminology or thought processes.


Review
I purchased my first Suunto this week from www.suuntowatches.com and would like to share my preliminary experiences with you regarding the XLander Military Edition (negative face).

The purchasing experience was teriffic. Suuntowatches.com has a fantastic website and they processed my order immediately. Within an hour of placing my order, I had received a shipping confirmation e-mail, complete with FedEx tracking number. I called Suuntowatches.com to confirm the shipping information (the details didn't indicate that the watch shipped was the Military Edition), and they answered the phone immediately and were extremely helpful and friendly. I always fear buying from someone "new," but Suuntowatches.com was absolutely fantastic to work with.

Two days after I placed my order, the watch arrived via FedEx (no charge for 2Day shipping, another plus!). The watch was well packaged - double boxed, and padded with some of those nice big "air bags" thingies.

The Suunto box is a plain white cardboard box. When you open the lid, the watch is positioned to the left of the box, and is sitting in a "slot" that's cut into the inside "shelf" of the box. I removed the watch and opened the "shelf." I found the thick instruction book, along with a quick reference card.

The watch was not set to the correct time or date when I received it - it showed April 27, 2000 and a time of 4:36am. All units were set to metric.

I browsed through the manual and quickly figured out how to set the time, date, how to change the units of measurement, and how to calibrate the compass. Total learning time was about 10 minutes.

The biggest difference with the Suunto controls (when compared to other watches such as the GShock and Pathfinder) is the location of the "Mode" and "Select" buttons - "Mode" is located at the 2:00 position; Select at the 10:00 position. The "lower half" buttons (7:00 and 5:00) are the "-" and "+" buttons, respectively.

The negative display is extremely readable (to me). I worried about it when I first saw it, and was concerned that I might not be able to easily read it, but those fears quickly disappeared. I've not yet encountered a situation where I couldn't easily read the display. The backlight is activated by holding the "mode" button down for about 2 seconds, and lights with a green hue.

A quick interjection about dimensions -- the watch is LIGHT - much lighter than my Casio Pathfinder PAW1200-1V. It's hard to believe the case is aluminum - it's finished so nicely that it seems as if it's made from plastic. It also seems to wear a little smaller than I had expected it to. Comparing it again to the PAW1200-1V, the Suunto is only slightly smaller. The Triple Sensor on the Casio gives the Casio a slight "edge" in size. The glass face is a welcome addition to the Military edition; I was worried about the plastic face of the Vector, which is one of the reasons I decided to "upgrade" to the XLander.

Back to the face. The seconds "hand" travels in a clockwise motion around the outer ring of the watch. It's pretty fun to watch the blocks work their way around the bezel. The date is always displayed in "normal watch mode," unlike the Casio, which only shows you the Day (MON/TUE/WED, for example).

In normal watch mode, the Suunto face displays (from top to bottom): Barometric trend for the last 6 hours (arrow points either up, level, or down indicating recent barometric pressure changes); Day (MO/TU/WE, for example); Time; Mode Status (Time/Altitude/Barometer/Compass); Date (07-07, for example).

The watch has several "sub modes" within each primary mode. For example, in the Time mode, the sub modes include: stopwatch, coundown timer, and alarms. The submode is clearly identified by an abbreviation at the top of the watch (where the Day is normally displayed). Pressing the "Mode" button at any time returns you to the primary mode (jumps out of the submode).

There are submodes within the other functions, but I've not yet spent much time in them, other than to calibrate the compass, which was extremely easy to accomplish. The watch "coaches" you through the process, and it takes about 30 seconds to complete.

Comparing the responsiveness and accuracy of the ABC modes (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) to the Casio PAW1200-1V, the Suunto appears to be both more responsive and more accurate.

The compass responds quickly and with less "latency" than the Casio. The altimeter behaves similarly, and again, the edge goes to the Suunto for responsiveness.

The barometer function edge goes to the Casio PAW1200-1V, only because it includes a histogram-like graph at the top of the display, whereas the Suunto only has an arrow to show the "trend" over the past 6 hours. The Casio also has a blue indicator to show recent changes in addition to the graph.

I wore the Suunto all day at work on Friday, and am happy to report that the black clasp is unscuffed after a day of desk diving. I was a bit worried about it, but so far so good. It should be noted that the clasp is HUGE, and pitch black. I really like the "grips" on the band that lock in place with the strap holder to prevent the excess band from slipping out of the collar/holder. On the Casio, I'm always pushing the band back into the collar/holder as it has a tendency to work its way back "up" toward the watch, thus letting go of the excess band.

I also wore the Suunto all day today as I performed chores: cleaned the house, mounted an antenna on the roof (the compass was handy for aiming purposes), mowed & trimmed the yard, sprayed for bugs and weeds, changed the oil in one of the cars (and rotated the tires), and went to the gun range for a few hours. It handled it all without any problems.

I wore the watch into the shower which didn't appear to bother it one bit.

So, so far, so good. I prefer the slightly larger size of the PAW1200-1V to the Suunto, but for functionality, the nod goes to the Suunto. I'll have a hard time deciding which one to wear (and sadly, my GSAR, the Seikos, the Tauchmeister, Ollech & Wajs, and Breitling will sit in the drawer for some time...).

Summary

Suunto Pros:
- Face always displays useful information, no matter the mode
- Barometric trend shown in Time mode
- Day and Date shown in Time mode
- Compass responsiveness
- Altimeter responsiveness
- Buttons are easy to activate
- Logbook feature (didn't share much info as I'm still learning how to use)
- Band "locks" into collar/holder
- Huge black clasp is cool/tough looking
- All black + negative face = Darth Vader look :)
- Backlight is easy to read at night
- Very lightweight
- Appears to be tough and should hold up under most use conditions

Suunto Cons:
- Limited barometric history information
- If you're looking for a "huge" watch, the Suunto loses out a bit to Pathfinder
- Have to hold in the "Mode" button for 2+ seconds to activate backlight (no "light" button)
- $349... eek!
- Requires batteries (Pathfinder Tough Solar doesn't)


So there you have it... my initial review of the Suunto XLander Military Edition. Here are few pictures - sorry for the poor quality as I took them at 10:30pm with just a flash.

Face:


Note that the flash really does an injustice to the photo. When I return from my business trip next weekend, I'll shoot some daylight photos.


Back:


Suunto says the back is made from carbon fiber. It feels more like plastic to me, but it may just be a coating that gives that impression. The Suunto is about the same thickness as the Casio Pathfinder PAW1200-1V.


Wrist Shot:


I have average-sized wrists; the Suunto doesn't wear "huge" on me.


Clasp and holder/collar:


I love that locking collar/holder.


Side-by-side with Casio PAW1200-1V:



Side-by-side wrist shot with Casio PAW1200-1V:

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