In 2002, several instructors from Skydive Illinois took up residence in Atlanta and made Atlanta Skydiving Center their new home. An influx of new staff of course brings new ideas, skills, attitudes, and even gadgets. And the one gadget that is starting to catch on is the Suunto watch with altimeter.
Suunto does not advertise in the skydiving industry, but the altimeter function of its watch is easy to read and operate. It also keeps up with the change of altitude in real time as fast as any other digital altimeter I have ever used. I've since put it in an altitude chamber next to a Neptune2 and found it to be within 100 feet at every moment.
After tiring of taking my altimeter on and off after every work jump, I decided to give the Vector model by Suunto a try. For the 5 years, I have used this altimeter on just about every skydive. It has worked flawlessly.
The Vector Suunto watch comes standard with a plastic wrist band, but I soon upgraded to the elastic wristband that slips over my jumpsuit with ease. Suunto has several different versions of its sport watches, but the least expensive version that contains the altimeter is the Vector. The watch retails online for approximately $200 with shipping and the elastic wristband is about $15.
The watch has four modes: Time, Altimeter, Barometer and Compass. There is also a stopwatch and log book feature. For skydiving, the altimeter screen shows the altitude, climb rate (up to 1,000 feet a minute) and time. The button that changes the mode is on the upper right side of the watch and my glove has changed the mode while under canopy. With the elastic wristband, the problem was solved by moving the watch a few inches further up my arm.
As far as battery life, the jumpers from Chicago say they haven’t had to replace their battery yet and they’ve had their watches for more than a year. The watch seems durable and is lightweight. Sunnto’s web site is at www.suunto.com. Several versions of the Suunto watches are available in ChutingStar's online and walk-in gear shops.