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Industry Measuring instruments
Founded 1936
Founder Tuomas Vohlonen
Headquarters Vantaa, Finland
Products Outdoor+Performance Watches, Diving Computers and Instruments, Compasses
Parent Amer Sports

Suunto Oy is a company that manufactures and markets sports watches, dive computers, compasses and precision instruments. Headquartered in Vantaa, Finland, Suunto employs more than 400 people worldwide, and its products are sold in over 100 countries. Although globally active, the factory is placed next to the HQ, where most of the work stages are still handcraft. Suunto is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Salomon, Precor, Arc'teryx and Mavic.

The word "suunto" is an old deviation of Finnish word "suunta", which is translated as "bearing", "heading" or "direction".


In 1933 the company's founder, Tuomas Vohlonen, a surveyor by profession, applied for a patent for a unique method of filling and sealing a lightweight compass housing made entirely of celluloid with liquid to dampen the needle and protect it from shock and wear due to excessive motion.[1] In 1935, Volhonen was granted a patent on his design, which went into mass production a year later as the wrist-mount M-311.[1] Though it was not the first portable liquid-filled compass, Vohlonen's design was compact and lighweight, enabling it to be easily worn on the wrist.[2][3][4][5][6]

During World War II, Suunto introduced a compact liquid sighting compass, the M/40, during World War II for artillery officers and other users needing a precision instrument for measuring an azimuth. The company grew rapidly after World War II, supplying compasses and other navigational instruments to both civilian and military markets. After Tuomas Vohlonen's death in 1939, his wife Elli Vohlonen operated Suunto Oy until 1952.

In 1996, Suunto Oy acquired Recta SA, a Swiss compass manufacturer. Suunto Oy was in turn acquired by Amer Sports Group in 1999, which now owns both companies.

Compass products[edit]

Suunto makes a wide variety of magnetic compasses, including the A and M series for general navigation, the Arrow series of compasses for competitive orienteering the KB, MB and MC line for those requiring a professional-quality hand bearing compass.[7] Suunto also produces the Recta line of compasses, including the new DT baseplate series based on Suunto designs, the DS series of mirror sighting compasses, the Recta Clipper micro compasses, and the famous DP 'matchbox' series of military compasses invented by Recta in 1941. The Recta DP-6 is still used by the Swiss Army. In 2009, Suunto discontinued the Swiss-made Recta DO series, moving all remaining Recta compass production from Biel, Switzerland to its production facility in Vantaa, Finland.[8]

After acquiring Recta AG in 1996, Suunto incorporated the Recta Turbo 20 global needle system technology originally patented by Recta SA[9][10] into many of its own compass designs, such as the Suunto M-3G (Global) Leader and the MC-2G (Global) Navigator. These 'Global' compasses have proprietary needles that can operate accurately in all world magnetic zones.[11] The construction also results in an unusually stable needle that even works with the compass tilted up to 20 degrees.[11] The company also continues to refine its line of outdoor and orienteering compasses with features such as improved luminosity, adjustable declination, and fast-settling needle designs and more durable materials.

Since 1967, Suunto has offered its KB line of high-quality hand-bearing surveying compasses and inclinometers that are accurate to fractions of a degree. These compasses are popular among cave explorers, foresters, geologists, archaeologists, land surveyors, dish and PV element site surveyors and mariners. Traditionally made of a solid block of machined aluminum (some newer versions are in high-impact plastic housings), each KB compass contains a magnetized dial with calibration markings printed along its outer edge.[12] A magnifying lens (KB-14) or prismatic sight (KB-77) is mounted at one end of the instrument with a crosshair providing a view of the disc, containing both forward and reciprocal bearings.[12] In operation, the user divides his or her field of vision with the instrument, using the device's lens or prism to precisely measure the bearing of the object in view.[12]

Global Needle System[edit]

The Suunto Global Needle System acquired from Recta as the Turbo-20 needle design, the conventional magnetized compass needle is not used.[9][11][13] Instead, the compass needle and magnet are built as separate units functioning independently from each other.[11][13] The needle itself is fixed at its pivot by means of a double bearing, while the magnet rotates on a pivot with its own jeweled bearing.[11] When attracted by the earth's magnetic field, the separate compass magnet absorbs the vertical force of the magnetic field, so that the inclination angle of the magnetic field (magnetic dip) cannot tilt the needle, and the needle can no longer move in a vertical plane.[11] This provides accurate readings of magnetic north in all magnetic zones of the world. The design also permits accurate readings with the compass tilted at angles of up to 20 degrees,[11] while the use of a strong magnet causes the needle to settle extremely quickly, facilitating fast and accurate bearing/course measurements.[11] This allows a user to obtain fairly accurate compass bearings even when moving, such as when hiking or traveling in a canoe.[11][14] Current Suunto products that incorporate the Global System Needle are the Suunto M-3G and MC-2G, and the Recta models DT420G and DS50G.

Military models[edit]

Recta DP Swiss Army compass

The most popular Suunto compasses used by armed forces around the world are MC-2, KB-14, A-30, M-9 and Clipper. These are sometimes adapted to local requirements. The MC-2 optical-sight (mirror) compass along with several other Suunto compasses has been approved for issue to various NATO military forces, including Canadian Land Forces and several U.S. Special Forces units (the 'T' in the model designation indicates the compass has been fitted with tritium self-illumination).[15]

In addition to its own line of magnetic compasses and other measuring instruments, Suunto continues to produce the DP 'matchbox' compass line, including the original Recta DP-6 for the Swiss Armed Forces.

Examining the M-311[edit]

The original version of Suunto M-311 compass from 1930's

The structure of the original M-311. The frame is machined out of single block of aluminium. On the upper and lower side of the frame are aluminium attachments for strap. Both left and right edges have rulers with different scales. Left edge is tilted inwards. Outermost inside the body is bezel, and lens is attached to it. Under the bezel there is a curved washer functioning as a spring. Then there is needle casing. The casing is filled with liquid through a hole on the side. Back plate is attached to the body with four screws.

Different variations. The initial version is known as M-311. If the frame is stamped with ”SA” (abbreviation of Suomen Armeija, Finnish Army), the version is known as M-34 (there is nescessarily no other difference with M-311 than stamping). The M-37 has an arrow next to the bezel pointing counterclockwise and an additional round aluminium plate between back plate and needle casing. The needle casing is also a bit different. The frame is thicker, respective to a measure of the additional plate. M-37 seems to have remained "experimental", because newer versions resemble more the original M-311. M-71 has light background of needle casing (there's a separate M-71 from later decades). Newer version with curved lower body design is in some connotations known as M-60. In Finnish Army, there is a version made of green plastic, which is known as M89-60. The latest version is known as M-801, and it went out of production in 2010's. Other variations exist.

Types of needle casings and needles. The oldest, the very original version of needle casing has rounded upper edges, whileas the next version is cylinder-shaped. There’s a hinder preventing the casing from rotating, the oldest ones have it in 12 o'clock and the newer ones at 10.30, hence no interchangeability. The oldest type of compass needle is straight with self-illuminating north and black south indicator. The next version has a red arrowish design with illuminating stripe in the middle, and this design is seen even in M-801. There are also wider needles. Other variations exist.

Lenses. Oldest version of lenses is made of glass, and the newer ones are of plexiglass and these plexiglass versions appear as straight or curved. No interchangeability due to different thickness and shaping of the bezel around the glass.

Back plates. The original and the oldest version is made of plexiglass and it has a degrees-mils -conversion table under it. Later versions have black plastic plates. Other variations exist.

Serial numbering. There is a running numbering on the lower left corner of the oldest type of frames. It is most likely serial numbering. Serial numbering runs from 1 to 7 digits. Newer versions and special editions don’t have this numbering.

Straps. Straps of the versions with aluminium body are made of leather and there are black and brown straps. Newer versions have textile straps.

Stampings. As the oldest of these compasses are rather common in Finland, but not very much exported, some of the most usual stampings seen in Finland are mentioned here. SA (or tower logo of the later versions) indicate the compass has been a property of Finnish Army. Capital ”S” right next to the serial numbering indicates the compass has been used by Suojeluskunta, a national guard of Finland and can thus be timed to be manufactured between years 1936 (production started) and 1944 (Suojeluskunta cancelled). A round stamp with large ”S” and letters ”KO” and ”HA” in it indicate it has been marketed through SKOHA (Suojeluskuntain Kauppa Oy Handel Ab). As mentioned, these are some of the most common stamps in Finland, numerous other stampings exist.

How to identify a very old compass? Although the versions appear the same when watched quickly, a further examination brings forth numerous differences. If there’s a glass lens, a back plate with a conversion table, a straight compass needle, a black strap, serial numbering with low numbers, and "O/Y Suunto Helsinki" stamp on the upper right corner, it is most likely one of the oldest Suuntos.

Relationship with Physica. Oy Physica AB, a Finnish company, has made compasses which resembled heavily the original M-311, only minor changes were made. There were heavy legal disagreements between Suunto Oy and Physica about patent issues.

The heritage. Still today, most of the current Suunto products feature a round design as a remainder from the original march compass. A triangle in lens of original M-311 displaying direction now appear as a part of Suunto logo and also as a separate emblem.

This section contains knowledge based on empirical inspection of these compasses and of pictures of them, hence no literature-based sources can be mentioned.

Sport Watches and Solutions[edit]

Suunto is famed for its multi-function electronic wristwatches such as the Core, Ambit, Vector, X-Lander, and X10, which can provide a variety of functions including compass bearings, acceleration, altitude, training effect and even GPS location, depending on the model. Suunto's multi-function electronic wristops are made for different sports like sailing, golfing, hiking, mountaineering, alpine skiing, training and diving.

Suunto T6 with its later versions T6C (=Comfort belt) and T6D (=Dual belt) was one of the most advanced among heart rate monitors at the time of its release in 2004. It has, among other features, rate-to-rate recording of heart rate, an altimeter based on air pressure, calculation of EPOC and training effect and support for external POD devices measuring speed and distance.

Suunto T3 (and its C and D versions) offered many advanced training properties with much lower price than T6. Especially the support of POD devices was rarely found in its price category. The T4 (with also C and D versions) was close the same as the T3, but it added an electronic coach function. There was also T1 and T1C, a very basic heart monitor in T-series. All T-series versions are out of production until 2012.

The M-series is a successor of T-series (except for T6). The M-series is more of a fitness lineup, while T-series was more aimed at sports training. The M-series include the basic heart monitors M1 and M2 (same watch, different heart rate strap) and M4 and M5 with more advanced functions, most of which electronic coaching for specific goals, such as weight control or improving physical performance. M4 has gone out of production until 2013.

Suunto Quest is a heart rate monitor aimed at sports training. It has many training functions and an electronic coach function.

Suunto Ambit lineup, with the first version released in 2012, are currently the most advanced of Suunto wristops. These include GPS, ABC-functions, rechargeable battery, advanced training functions (in training functions Ambit is a successor of T6) and updatable software. User can modify many of the functions of Ambit according to individual preferences. Different apps are also available for Ambit, and users can also create their own apps. The Ambit family was updated in 2013 with top version Ambit2 and added with Ambit2 S. In 2014 Ambit2 R was introduced. Ambit2 S and Ambit2 R appear with fewer functions compared to Ambit2. On July 2014 Ambit3 was announced with versions Peak and Sport and Ambit3 Run was announced on March 3rd, 2015. Ambit3 adds smartphone connectivity and heart rate measuring when swimming as its main improvements compared to Ambit2. There are two types of frames in Ambit series: the bigger is used in the original Ambit, Ambit2 and Ambit3 Peak and the smaller, thinner is used in Ambit2 S, Ambit2 R, Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Run. Although there are only minor differences, straps for bigger frame don't fit smaller and those for smaller don't fit bigger.

Suunto Core is an ABC-watch (A=altitude, B=barometer, C=compass). Since its release in 2007 there has been more than 25 different versions of Core. All of them have the same functions, but their external appearance differ. Most versions have plastic frames, but some are made of aluminum and two of them are made of stainless steel. Most of the Core versions are no longer in production. There are some limited, numbered editions of Core, such as Everest Edition (8848 made, in honor of Apa Sherpa's 21 ascents on Mount Everest), Red Bull X-Alps Edition (864 made, according to the length of the race), and Extreme Edition (3000 made). Suunto celebrated its 75th anniversary by releasing Anniversary Edition (in some countries known as Alpine edition). Core All Black is often erroneously referred to as Core All Black Military or Core Military, but such nominations are not official and such "military" versions don't exist. Core is said to have named after it's including core elements needed in this type of watch.

Suunto Lumi is designed for women. It includes mostly same functions as Core. With adapter, Lumi can be worn as a pendant. The Finnish word "lumi" translates as snow. Published in 2007, Lumi was available only for a few years.

On January 15th 2015 Suunto released Essential collection of premium watches. Technically these resemble the Core but these are made in Finland out of premium materials. [16] Finnish design and manufacture is emphasized.

Suunto also manufactures the Elementum series of premium wristwatches with some specialized functions for outdoor (Terra), sailing (Ventus) and water activities (Aqua, discontinued).

Suunto uses Suunto ANT and ANT+ (based on the ANT network standard) protocols in wireless transmission of data, except for some basic models, which use analog signal, and Ambit3 series, which use Bluetooth low energy.

Suunto also provides software for interpreting recorded data from wristops and heart rate monitors and for controlling them. In the beginning of 2010 Suunto released Movescount online service. Before that data could be handled for example through Training Manager (for T6), Training Manager Lite (for T3 and T4) and through specialized diving software. In 2014 Suunto introduced an app for using Movescount functions in iOS mobile devices. Android version is to be published in April 2015.

Although most of the wrist computer lineup is made in Finland, some of the products are made in China by another manufacturer. These include T-series excluding T6, M-series, Quest, Lumi, Core and most of the PODs. Suunto has succeeded in its attempts in decreasing the production in China and increasing the proportion of Finnish manufacture. [17]

List of Suunto wristops[edit]

Suunto M5 Black/Gold
Suunto X-Lander
Suunto T6C

(X) = currently appear as available in [18]

Abbreviations indicate key characteristics. A = Altimeter, B = Barometer, C = Compass, HRM = Heart rate monitor, GPS = GPS satellite receiver

  • Advizor (ABC, HRM)
  • Altimax (AB)
  • Ambit (ABC, HRM, GPS)
  • Ambit2 (X) (ABC, HRM, GPS)
  • Ambit2 R (X) (AC, HRM, GPS)
  • Ambit2 S (X) (AC, HRM, GPS)
  • Ambit3 Peak (X) (ABC, HRM, GPS)
  • Ambit3 Run (TBA)
  • Ambit3 Sport (X) (AC, HRM, GPS)
  • Core (X) (ABC)
  • Elementum Aqua (X)
  • Elementum Terra (X)
  • Elementum Ventus
  • Essential (X) (ABC)
  • G3 (Golf)
  • G6 (Golf)
  • G9 (Golf)
  • Lumi (ABC)
  • M1 (X) (HRM)
  • M2 (X) (HRM)
  • M3 (Boat Racing)
  • M4 (HRM)
  • M5 (X) (HRM)
  • M9 (ABC,GPS, Sailing)
  • Mariner (BC, Sailing)
  • Metron
  • Navitec
  • Observer (ABC)
  • Quest (X) (HRM)
  • Regatta (C, Sailing)
  • S6 (ABC, Skiing)
  • S-Lander (AB)
  • Spartan
  • T1 (HRM)
  • T1C (HRM)
  • T3 (HRM)
  • T3C (HRM)
  • T3D (HRM)
  • T4 (HRM)
  • T4C (HRM)
  • T4D (HRM)
  • T6 (HRM)
  • T6C (HRM)
  • T6D (HRM)
  • Vector (X) (ABC)
  • Vector HR (X) (ABC, HRM)
  • X3HR (AB, HRM)
  • X6 (ABC)
  • X6H (ABC, HRM)
  • X6M (ABC)
  • X9 (ABC, GPS)
  • X9i
  • X10 (ABC, GPS)
  • Yachtsman (BC, Sailing)

List of Suunto Core versions[edit]

Some version names include release time

(X) = Currently appear as available in[18]

Suunto Core All Black
Suunto Core Anniversary Edition
  • All Black (X)
  • Alu Alu
  • Alu Black
  • Alu Brown (September 2007)
  • Alu Deep Black (April 2012) (X)
  • Alu Light (March 2010)
  • Alu Pure White (April 2012) (X)
  • Anniversary Edition (April 2011)
  • Black Orange (September 2007)
  • Black Yellow (September 2007)
  • Blue Crush (April 2012) (X)
  • Brushed Steel (September 2013) (X)
  • Coral Crush (October 2014) (X)
  • Dusk Gray (October 2013) (X)
  • Extreme Edition (2009)
  • Extreme Edition Everest (2010)
  • Extreme Edition Red (October 2009)
  • Extreme Edition Silver (May 2010)
  • Glacier Gray (April 2011) (X)
Suunto Core Glacier Gray
  • Gray Crush (October 2014) (X)
  • Green Crush (April 2013) (X)
  • Lava Red (April 2011)
  • Light Black (September 2007)
  • Light Green (September 2007)
  • Lime Crush (October 2014) (X)
  • Red Bull X-Alps (May 2011)
  • Red Crush (August 2012) (X)
  • Regular Black (X)
  • Sahara Yellow (April 2011)
  • Steel Steel (September 2007)
  • Violet Crush (April 2013) (X)
  • White Crush (October 2014) (X)
  • Yellow Crush (April 2012) (X)

List of Suunto Ambit series[edit]

Suunto Ambit2 Black
  • Ambit (black, silver) (2012)
  • Ambit2 (black, silver, sapphire) (2013)
  • Ambit2 R (black, white) (2014)
  • Ambit2 S (white, red, lime, graphite) (2013)
  • Ambit3 Peak (black, sapphire) (July 2014)
  • Ambit3 Run (black, lime, white) (March 2015)
  • Ambit3 Sport (blue, sapphire, black, white) (July 2014) (coral: March 2015)


Memory belt is an improved version of Smart belt. These are heart rate straps which can, in addition of sending data to wrist computer, work independently. These record heart rate using internal memory, and data can then be transmitted directly to computer with special dock. [19]

Smart sensor is a heart rate belt unit released along with Ambit3 series, and it also has internal memory for recording data, but it needs starting and stopping command from wrist computer. It is recording data if connection between belt and wrist computer is broken, then sending data when reconnected. This is the first product of Movesense series (which is produced in co-operation with Salomon).

GPS Track Pod is a small device including gps receiver. It records route, altitude and distance into its internal memory, then the data can be transferred to computer through cable. Besides working independently, it can send speed and distance data wirelessly to wrist computer. [20]

On February 4th 2015 Suunto released Guiding Star, a silver pendant for women. It is designed by Finnish designer Lina Simons and made in Finland in co-operation with Suunto and Kalevala Jewelry. This is the first piece of jewelry by Suunto. [21]

Diving computers and instruments[edit]

In 1965, a British sport diver noticed that Suunto’s liquid filled compass also worked underwater. Following this revelation, it didn’t take long before Suunto’s first dive compass (SK-4) was launched and become well known for its durability and reliability. Among the users were explorers, ecologists and famous sea-dwellers like Jacques Cousteau. During the 1980s, Suunto became the world leader in the manufacturing of diving instruments. Having previously produced mechanical instruments, Suunto now started the production of diving computers and launched the SME in 1987. This was Suunto’s most significant innovation of the decade and a major influence on scuba diving’s transition to a popular sport. As a well-established manufacturer and developer of diving computers and instruments, the company based in Finland continues to innovate.

Suunto was the first to introduce:

Suunto is highly regarded around the world and is used by professionals like the freediver William Trubridge and the underwater explorer Jill Heinerth. Suunto also provides the official measurement instruments for all AIDA freediving world record attempts and World Championships competitions.

The product range of diving computers and instruments falls in:

Watch sized[edit]

  • D4i
  • D6i
  • D9tx
  • DX

Large Display[edit]

  • Zoop
  • Vyper
  • Vyper Air
  • Cobra
  • Cobra 3
  • HelO2
  • Instruments: Suunto Cylinder pressure meter, depth gauges and compasses, which can be combined as any kind of Consoles

Suunto in the media[edit]

  • Using Suunto Vector altimeter/compasses and Garmin 60CSx GPS mapping receivers, Australians Nathan Welch and Mark Kalch became the fourth team in history to successfully navigate the entirety of the Amazon River.[22][23][24]
  • On April 4, 2008, Swiss climbers Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten made the first ascent of Mt. Tengkampoche's North Face in Nepal using Suunto Core wrist altimeters.[25]


  • Export award by President of Finland in 1972
  • X10 was awarded Best Adventure Gear of 2009 by National Geographic Adventure magazine.
  • Core won "Red Dot: Best of the best" award at the Red Dot design competition in Germany in 2010.
  • On February 13, 2013 Suunto won two Good Design -awards with Core Alu and Ambit
  • On February 14, 2013 D9TX won Tauchen award of 2013
  • On July 4, 2013 Ambit2 Sapphire was awarded with Red Dot: Best of the best -design award
  • On January 27th 2015 DX won Tauchen Award of 2015 [26]
  • On February 4th 2015 Ambit3 Sport won Good Design award [27]

Suunto in movies[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Suunto Oy, Suunto Company History, December 2001 Article
  2. ^ Gubbins, David, Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism, Springer Press (2007), ISBN 1-4020-3992-1, ISBN 978-1-4020-3992-8, p. 67: In 1690, Sir Edmund Halley demonstrated a rudimentary working model of a liquid compass at a meeting of the Royal Society.
  3. ^ Fanning, A.E., Steady As She Goes: A History of the Compass Department of the Admiralty, HMSO, Department of the Admiralty (1986): The first liquid-filled mariner's compass to receive a patent as a working model was a nautical design invented by Englishman Francis Crow in 1813.
  4. ^ E.S. Ritchie & Sons Company, Inc. About Us, Article: In 1860, Edward Samuel Ritchie, an American physicist and instrument maker, received a U.S. patent for the first liquid-damped marine compass adopted for general use aboard ships and boats.
  5. ^ Hughes, Henry A., Improvements in prismatic compasses with special reference to the Creagh-Osborne patent compass, Transactions of The Optical Society 16 17-43, London: The Optical Society (1915): The first liquid-damped compass compact enough for pocket or pouch was the Creagh-Osborne, patented in 1915 in Great Britain.
  6. ^ The Compass Museum, Article: Though the Creagh-Osborne was offered in a wrist-mount model, it proved too heavy and bulky in this form.
  7. ^ Dickison, Dan, Powerboat Reports Guide to Powerboat Gear: Take the Guesswork Out of Gear Buying, Globe Pequot Press (2006), ISBN 1-59228-069-2, ISBN 978-1-59228-069-8, pp. 91-93
  8. ^ Recta: More Than 100 Years of Heritage, Recta AG - About Us, retrieved 13 April 2012
  9. ^ a b Recta Kompassen,, retrieved 17 January 2014
  10. ^ Vorpe, Gilbert on behalf of Recta AG, Swiss Patent CH 663091, EC: G01C17/04, November 13, 1987
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Global Compass, retrieved 17 January 2014
  12. ^ a b c Dickison, pp. 91-93
  13. ^ a b Morton, Keith, Planning a Wilderness Trip in Canada and Alaska, ISBN 0921102305,(1997), p. 110
  14. ^ What is a Global Needle, The Compass, retrieved 18 January 2014
  15. ^ Ministry of Defence, Manual of Map Reading and Land Navigation, HMSO Army Code 70947 (1988), ISBN 0-11-772611-7, ISBN 978-0-11-772611-6, ch. 8, sec. 26, pp. 6-7
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Article
  23. ^ Article
  24. ^ Article
  25. ^ Steck Makes First Ascent of Tengkampoche North Face, Article
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Suunto Suunto Core All Black: questions, answers, how to, FAQs, tips, advice, answers, buying guide

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 60°16′19″N 24°58′22″E / 60.27194°N 24.97278°E / 60.27194; 24.97278