Short version: The Suunto Core Light Black (henceforth referred to as the CLB) is more than just a wristwatch. It’s a timepiece sure, but it’s also a chronograph, altimeter, barometer, and compass as well. That makes is particularly ideal for folks in areas with extreme weather, like the Sierra Nevada mountains. The CLB’s quality, fit and finish, and design make it an ideal timepiece for daily wear or for outdoor activities.
Suunto’s Core Light Black is a big watch. In fact, there’s a reason that they call is a “wrist computer” in the marketing literature. I’m not a small guy, and the face on the watch is close to overpowering when I wear it. One thing of note however, due to the materials used in the construction process, the watch is quite light. The display is extremely easy to read, and switching functions is easy, even when wearing gloves. From a fit and finish, and functionality standpoint, it’s an excellent watch. The strap is unique to this particular design, and has non-standard threaded lugs. As such, a replacement strap will need to be designed specifically for this watch. I’m not a fan of resin watch bands in general, but that’s just my personal preference. The stock resin band does fit well and looks appropriate with this watch.
Given that that CLB is considered a wrist computer, I’m comfortable referring to the watch as having software. A little research on the web shows some very vocal and unhappy customers with older versions of the watch that have had problems with them. I’ve worn the CLB extensively and had no problems with it. The really interesting thing about this watch is that it’s really easy to use. You wouldn’t expect that from a watch that has this level of functionality. It of course tells the time, has a stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, and date. The CLB also has a built in altimeter/barometer/thermometer, and in my non-scientific tests were accurate to a reasonable expectation. Keep in mind that the altimeter reads off of atmospheric pressure, and not off of a GPS so it is reasonable to see some fluctuation while you’re reading it. The barometer read the same as my home weather station, so I’m confident that it reads accurately as well. The thermometer works as well, however keep in mind to get an accurate reading you need to remove the watch and set it down, as your body heat will definitely impact the reading. The compass reads magnetic north accurately, and required no calibration in order work. The watch will also log your altitude changes, barometer readings, or even depth changes depending on what you prefer. The altimeter reads up to 30,000 feet, but it will also register down to 30 feet underwater (and is water resistant down to 100 feet).
I like this watch. It works well, it’s easy to read, and it’s extremely comfortable to wear. I did see mention of some issues with the watch from reading comments from other people, but I feel it’s important to remember that someone who’s having an unpleasant experience will be much more vocal then someone who’s happy. I mentioned the battery life as I am certain that the battery would need to be replaced more often then with a normal watch, however I didn’t have to at any point during the review period. I’d compare this watch to the Tissot T-Touch, and not only will is save you a couple of hundred dollars on the purchase price, I found the Suunto to be easier to use. I would recommend this watch to anyone who spends time outdoors and might find themselves in a situation where you need to be aware of the weather, or a compass in a survival situation.
It’s also worth mentioning that Suunto has any excellent website that really lets you (virtually) try the different functions of the CLB. If you’re curious to see exactly what I’m talking about regarding how easy this watch is to use, I recommend you check it out. It explains the function far better then I can. MSRP on the Suunto Core Light Black is $389, however if you shop around a bit you can probably find if for around $250. I would recommend going though an authorized dealer, as this is a fairly complicated watch.