Suunto Traverse Alpha Review: A True Utilitarian Watch for Outdoor Enthusiasts

(Last Updated On: December 17, 2018)

As a watch snob, I tend to gravitate towards the appeal of traditional mechanical movements and pure aesthetics in regards to watches.  The utility side of the timepieces generally takes the back seat.

Well, today is different, as we review a utilitarian watch that has great appeal for fans of the great outdoors.

For this review, we will be taking an in-depth look at the Suunto Traverse Alpha.

Suunto Traverse Alpha: At a Glance

To be honest, I’m quite familiar with the Suunto brand and their line of sports and smartwatches. However, I’ve never heard of Suunto Traverse Alpha until recently. The Traverse series has managed to grab my interest because Suunto implemented many features, accessibility options, and extra modes for a fairly affordable price.

Before we get to the meat of this Suunto Traverse Alpha review, let’s first take a look at its key specifications.

Measurements

50 x 50 x 15 mm / 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.59 “
Weight 75 g / 2.65 oz

Bezel material

Stainless Steel

Glass material

Sapphire Crystal

Case material

Composite

Strap material

Textile Material

Water resistance

100 M (according To ISO 6425)

Battery type

Rechargeable Lithium-Ion

Alarm clock

1 Daily Alarm

Languages

EN, CS, DA, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, JA, KO, NL, NO, PL, PT, RU, SV, ZH

Backlight

LED

Configurable backlight

Color / Brightness / Mode

Button lock

Customizable

Display type

Matrix

Display resolution

128 X 128

Battery indicator

Percentage / Icon

In time mode

14 Days

Training mode with GPS

10, 15, 100 H

First Impressions

The Suunto Traverse Alpha is a tough-looking piece and I expected no less from a tactical watch. The watch itself feels extremely durable. The stainless steel bezel feels very solid and the nylon strap gives the impression that it’s not going to tear anytime soon.

As for the look of the watch, I love the fact that it looks rather simple but still looks handsomely good on the wrist. I got plenty of compliments from people on a daily basis. It’s not the most flashy watch but its simple, tactical look definitely did the Traverse Alpha a favor.

On top of its excellent looks, it certainly feels like a watch that I can reliably wear once the going gets rough.

Durability

While the watch doesn’t look like much at first glance, the Traverse Alpha is actually a fairly durable watch. This is, of course, a very important factor to consider if you want a watch that will help you brave the great outdoors.

This makes sense because the watch is designed with military applications in mind.

After wearing the watch for a couple of months now, I have nothing but good things to say about the Traverse Alpha when it comes to durability. I’ve worn it outdoors under rain and snow, in temperatures from 10 up to 100 degrees and I’ve experienced no problems with it.

The watch face is outfitted with sapphire glass and does a great job of keeping the watch scratch-free. Plus, the textile band is made mostly from nylon which makes it extremely sturdy. The only complaint I have about the strap is that it tends to gather dirt and moisture. If you’re always outdoors, it won’t take long for the strap to become a dirt, sweat, and moisture magnet. Needless to say, the strap becomes real stinky over time.

You may opt for the silicone band which is not as sturdy as nylon but it’s still plenty durable and can be submerged in water.

Speaking of water, the Traverse Alpha is water-resistant up to 100 meters and can handle heights up to nearly 10,000 meters. This makes the watch ideal even in some of the most extreme conditions.

Basic Features

The Traverse Alpha features a digital face, so if you are looking for a mechanical timepiece, you better look elsewhere. The watch is designed by Suunto which is a company that specializes in Finnish military hardware. With that said, you can use either the standard 12-hour clock or the 24-hour military specification.

The most basic display of the watch is presented without configuring any of the buttons on either side of the face. By default, the watch displays the date in the topmost portion, the time in the middle, and the sunrise/sunset on the bottom. The built-in sunrise/sunset counter should come in handy for hunting, camping, and trail running as it gives you the right information about the best times to set up camp or return to the vehicle.

Advanced Features

What makes the Traverse Alpha a utilitarian watch is definitely the advanced features.

It’s essentially a hunting/fishing sports watch with military specs. Thus, it’s not surprising that it hosts plenty of advanced features. You’ve got the basic sports watch features such as chronograph, altimeter, and compass. Based on my experience, these basic features work well as advertised.

The watch also comes with a lunar tracking feature to help fishing enthusiasts identify the ideal fishing times. The Traverse Alpha also features a fairly reliable and versatile GPS function. The GPS enabled me to track many activities from marking trail running paths to animal locations for hunting. You may also use the GPS to mark dangerous or restricted zones that should be avoided.

I highly recommend that you download Suunto’s Movescount app (iOS, Android) as it allows you to generate heat maps for charting routes for running, hiking, and hunting. The app will also let you access the more intimate details about your activities such as your steps and running speed. The Movescount is a very robust app that brings out the full potential of the Traverse Alpha.

The aforementioned chronograph will also track steps and distance, and the altimeter/barometer can give warnings of bad weather.

For sure, this is not your Pop’s sports watch and the advanced features can be quite intimidating and confusing for the casual user. There’s a bit of learning curve for using the watch, especially when accessing the advanced features. With that said, it’s highly recommended that you spend some time reading the manual and the supplementary online instructions.

Google Earth Integration

To expand on the advanced features of the Traverse Alpha, one of the best features of the watch is that you can easily transfer data to and from Google Earth.

Most outdoor enthusiasts use Google Earth for scouting key locations such as water sources, meadows, potential bedding areas, and more. However, when you actually trek into the area, such key locations can be quite difficult to spot. The Traverse Alpha takes away the guessing game by actually letting you mark the locations which you can view later in real-time.

This saves you hours upon hours of scouting.

On the other hand, once you find a good spot to set up a trail camera, you can mark that location as a point of interest (POI), label it accordingly, and easily upload those coordinates over to Google Earth. Once you get home, you can check the coordinates using Google Earth and gain a better picture of the location.

Connectivity and Accuracy

Although the Suunto Traverse Alpha is not exactly a traditional smartwatch, it might just be the smartest non-traditional smartwatch that you can buy.

The watch features GPS and Bluetooth connectivity. For the GPS, the watch connects to both GPS and GLONASS. The watch is fairly accurate as far as GPS connectivity is concerned but it comes at the cost of battery life.

The Bluetooth works flawlessly but as you might expect, running the watch alongside the Movescount smartphone app can drain the battery quickly.

As you might expect from a watch with military applications in mind, the timekeeping is very accurate. GPS-related functions such as step tracking also benefit from the Traverse Alpha watch’s accuracy. However, the weather alerts and sunrise/sunset tracker are more susceptible to interference which generally results in spotty accuracy.

If I have complaints, one would have to be with the fact that the time zones don’t change automatically. There are also cases where GPS acquisition is very slow.

Comfort

For a tough, utilitarian watch, I didn’t have that much expectation when it comes to comfort. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the watch offers a decent amount of comfort. It weighs about 75 grams which are roughly in the same average weight as a traditional men’s watch. Even after long periods of wearing the watch, it never felt heavy at all.

As I have mentioned earlier, the nylon strap can and will accumulate dirt and moisture. When it does happen, wearing the watch gives you a soggy feeling that I am personally not comfortable with. If you are buying the watch straight from Suunto’s website, you have the option to get it with silicone straps which offer better comfort overall.

Pricing

Suunto offers plenty of watches at premium price points. Many of their products range from $600 to $1,000. Fortunately, the Traverse Alpha is one of the more affordable Suunto watches that you can buy.

It’s far from a luxury watch, so the looks and the price definitely reflects that. For under $400, you get a tough as nails watch that provide a wide range of features for outdoor enthusiasts. Other tactical watches with similar specs from other brands will easily cost you about $600.

The Traverse Alpha strikes a great balance of value and price. It’s a good place to start if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced outdoor-centric watch.

Should You Buy the Suunto Traverse Alpha?

 

Again, this is not a casual sports watch. It was designed with military applications in mind, which means that it has features and functions that are far above than that of a traditional sports watch. There’s a minor learning curve, but once you get around it, any camper, hiker, hunter, or runner is in for a treat.

Whenever I hit the trail, the Traverse Alpha goes with me.

It has elevated itself as a crucial part of my regular outdoor activities. It is durable, reliable, rich in features, and reasonably priced. What more can you ask for?

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