Suunto Elementum Terra

Words Marcus Bloom | May 24, 2010
The Suunto Elementum Terra combines time, altimeter, barometer and compass functions in a handsome, robust design
Words Marcus Bloom May 24, 2010

I love the outdoors.  There really is no other way to say it.  I love the birds; I love the trees; I love the fresh air; I love everything about it.  When it comes to being healthy, staying in shape, and/or just getting your mind into a place of Zen, the key is escaping the monotonous boredom of an indoor routine and getting outside.  Heading to the gym after work?  Go for a run outside instead.  Contemplating what to have for dinner?  Skip the restaurant and fire up the grill.  The more time you spend outside, the happier you’ll be – I promise you.

Coinciding with my (as well as the rest of the eMercedesBenz staff’s) affinity for the outdoors, this summer, eMercedesBenz is going to be bringing you a variety of Lifestyle features geared directly at helping you take advantage of all nature has to offer.  Part sports, part leisure – the common theme is that all will focus on the outdoors and how to best maximize your enjoyment of the time you spend outside.  We’ve got some incredible products and companies lined up over the coming months – it’s going to be a lot of fun – and we know you’re going to love it.

Kicking off our essential outdoor gear, we didn’t have to look much farther than our wrists.  If you’re actively involved in biking, sailing, climbing, diving, or any other activity that requires a precision timepiece, it won’t take long to discover a brand called Suunto.  Based in Finland, Suunto was founded nearly 75 years ago when an an outdoorsman/engineer by the name of Tuomas Vohlonen saw the need for a more accurate dry compass with steady needle operation.  He went to work and patented a production method for a needle that was far steadier and more accurate than anything else available at the time, and by the ’50’s the company was exporting field compasses and marine compasses to 50 countries around the world.  As time passed, Suunto expanded to other areas – diving compasses, dive computers, etc. – and by 2004, the company launched the Suunto D9, the first wrist-top computer that combined a dive computer and digital compass.  Shortly after, Suunto launched the t6, which features a heart rate monitor that gives sports laboratory-quality measurements on training and its effects on the user’s fitness, and subsequently followed up with the Suunto Core – a timepiece with advanced altimeter, barometer and compass functions.  Today, Suunto is the industry leader in wrist-top computers and activity-specific timepieces, with options for diving, sailing, mountaineering, biking, swimming, and virtually any other outdoor/fitness activity you’re involved with.

Which brings us to the Suunto Elementum Terra.  Last year, Suunto launched a new Suunto Elementum line under a straightforward premise:  incorporate Suunto technology into a watch that owners could wear anywhere – outdoors, in the office, out to dinner, etc.  Before their Elementum line, Suunto watches noted a decidedly sporty design – great for active use – but somewhat less formal for certain settings.  The Elementum line was created to change this lack of formality, if you will.  All three of the Suunto Elementum models feature a gorgeous urban-inspired design, but just as importantly, all maintain the Suunto technology the company has become synonymous with.  There’s the Elementum Aqua, which features key diving measurements including depth, max depth, dive time, surface time and water temperature; there’s the Elementum Ventus that features key sailing features including predictions of upcoming weather, an advanced compass for navigation and a sailing timer for the perfect race start; and there’s the object of my affection:  the Elementum Terra.

As you may have guessed from it’s name, the Suunto Elementum Terra was designed for use on the land – mountaineering, to be exact – and as such, it benefits from key functions you’ll use while traversing your mountain of choice.  There’s an  altimeter that measures current elevation while logging both ascents and descents.  There’s a barometer to measure changes in air pressure, providing insight into the possibility of inclement weather.  There’s a 3D compass that shows both in degrees and on the outer ring the current direction you’re traveling.  And of course, there are the traditional watch functions, including time in either 12 or 24-hour format, date, alarm, backlight and chronograph that measures up to 1/100th of a second.

From a style standpoint, the Suunto Elementum Terra lives up beautifully to the company’s goal of mixing design and function.  It’s a modern watch, but there’s a certain classic character to it that makes it feel at home in a variety of formal settings, save for a President’s ball or dinner with the Queen.  It’s a substantial watch, with its case measuring approximately 44mm across, and it feels equally as solid thanks to both its stainless steel construction and sapphire crystal.  After owning one for the past couple months, there’s no question this is an exceptionally well made timepiece.

Functionally, the watch is about as easy to use as one could reasonably expect.  The face is simple to read and contains a snapshot of the Elementum Terra’s key functions:  barometer, current altitude, time and date.  Rotate the top of the three dials and the date converts to the chronograph; a press of the middle button enters the altimeter mode; and the lower button converts the watch to compass mode.  About the only function that may take a minute to discover is the backlight, which is activated by holding the center button for about a second-and-a-half; but virtually all of the Terra’s other key functions are available instantly via either a button push or dial turn.

Overall, the Suunto Elementum Terra is handsome, robust and supremely easy to use, and with prices ranging from $900 – $1,200 depending on which style of band you opt for, it’s a terrific value as well.  There’s an option for either a dark or light face with contrasting numbers; but as you can see from the pictures, I’m partial to the dark face with light numbers.  One thing to note:  if you are interested in purchasing a Suunto Elementum Terra, the only way to do so is via brick-and-mortar watch and jewelry stores, as Suunto has opted not to sell the Elementum range online.  To find a dealer in your area, you can visit the Suunto Dealer Directory.

Also, as a long-time Suunto fan, I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with Matt Kaplan, Vice President and Business Director of Suunto North America.  Before writing this article we contacted Suunto with some questions regarding the company and its future plans, and they were kind enough to put us in touch with Matt who subsequently shared with us both the idea behind the Suunto Elementum line as well as what we can expect from Suunto in the coming year.

With the launch of the Elementum line in ’09, Suunto moved towards a more stylized watch.  What prompted this move and will the future designs have more of an urban design as well?
Suunto has always done some business in the watch specialty and jewelry channel.  In looking around at the marketplace, we realized that many Suunto customers put on a Suunto watch for their weekend activites, but when they go back to the workplace, they put on a fashion watch.  Suunto wanted to add a fashion first aspect to our products, which already have incredible functionality.  Our hope is that the Suunto customer who wears a suit during the workweek, can now wear a Suunto while climbing, diving, sailing or sitting in a board room.

Another reason that Suunto entered the stylized watch market is that many of the major players in the watch category state that they are Outdoor, Diving, or Sailing watches, but don’t really have the heritage that Suunto does in these areas.  We felt that Suunto has a legitimate claim to in this market place due to our history and due to our consumer.  Suunto has true heritage in these categories and has long history of offering the features and benefits that these active participants need to help measure and analyze their performance.  Suunto has been to the bottom of the oceans to the top of the world; Suunto invented the first wristop diving computer in the late 80’s and is the global market share leader in dive computers to this day,  Suunto started 74 years ago as a compass manufacturer and has a long history of building marine compasses that are found on the most prestigious sailing vessels in the world, and Suunto has been to the top of the highest peaks on Earth, on the wrists of some of the most accomplished mountaineers in the world.  Currently, Suunto Athlete Apa Sherpa, the world record holder for the most Everest summits (19) , is on Everest with his Suunto as the leader of the Eco Everest Expedition to clean the litter off of the mountain sacred to his people.  If all goes as planned, he will make his 20th summit, scatter the ashes of Sir Edmund Hilary at the summit and then retire to focus on building a school and library for Sherpa children.

The Elementum line represents a completely new business channel for Suunto, as the product is only being sold in Watch and Jewelry stores and is not allowed to be sold online.  We are keeping the design of this product specific to the watch channel, while we continue to make product for the Outdoor, Dive, Heart Rate and Military categories.

Do you have any new designs close or ready for launch?
This Fall we will be launching the Suunto Core Everest Edition to commemorate Apa’s accomplishments.  There will only be 8,848 made (the height in meters of Mt Everest).  Then in 2011 it is Suunto’s 75th birthday so we will be bringing out some limited edition items to celebrate our birthday.

Your sister companies (Salomon, Arc’teryx, Wilson, etc.) are at the top of their respective fields – do you ever work with them to create field specific watches?
We do a lot to work with our sister companies in the sales, marketing and promotions arena, sharing athletes, sharing sales organizations, etc. but at this point there are no co-branded watches in the works.  However we are constantly looking for synergies amongst the brands, where there are natural fits such as working with Salomon in the trail running category with our running watches, working with Wilson Golf with our golf watches, and working with Precor on our fitness products.

Is there a specific message or information about the Suunto brand and/or watches you want our readers to know?
Suunto has been making high end precision instruments for almost 75 years.  We are proud to continue that heritage and legacy into all aspects of our business and continue to lead the market place in innovation, technology and quality.