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Founded in 1936, the Suunto Company started with a vision from Tuomas Vohlonen. The Finnish orienteer and engineer pioneered the mass production method for the liquid-filled compass. This international company got a headstart when in 1933, Tuomas Vohlonen, invented a way to fill and seal a lightweight compass housing out of celluloid with liquid to protect the needle from sock and wear by dampening it. The patent was granted in 1935 and by the next year, it was introduced as the compact and lightweight wrist-mount M-311. After World War II, the company grew even bigger for the demand of its compact liquid sighting compass.
The Suunto Company was headed by Elli Vohlonen, Tuomas Vohlonen’s wife, after his death in 1939. In 1966, the company was acquired by Recta SA, a Swiss compass manufacturer and in 1999, was then acquired by Amer Sports Group.
Suunto Company has garnered numerous awards, and has even been featured in films. It is well-known for its innovation and design for hand crafting sports watches (hiking, running) dive computers and similar instruments for sports enthusiasts and adventurers worldwide. It produces some of the world’s most durable and trustworthy products for those who seek adventure.
A Direction to Success
“Suunto”, the company’s name, comes from the Finnish word “suunta” which means “direction”. From its humble beginning in Finland, the company now operates globally, employing more than 400 people from different parts of the globe.
In fact, in its early years, the company was solely devoted to making compasses which brave military men used. It still makes compasses until now and one of its customers is the Swiss Army which still uses the Recta DP-6. The models used by other armies are the MC-2, KB-14, A-30, M-9 and Clipper and sometimes adapted to local requirements for NATO military forces, Canadian Land Forces and several U.S. Special Forces units.
It has then proceeded to lead the world in innovation and a few of these are:
- first marine compass, Suunto K-12, in 1953
- the first diving compass, the SK-4, in 1965
- the first dive computer, Suunto SME-ML, in 1987 to make diving a safer and easier sport
- the first watch-sized dive computer that also functions for every day wear, the Suunto Spyder, in 1997
- the first outdoor wrist-top computer with ABC functions (altimeter, barometer, compass) in 1998
The company is also responsible for making ‘Global’ compasses which have proprietary needles able to accurately operate in all world magnetic zones with a stable needle even when the compass is tilted up to 20 degrees. Hailing its mark as a brand of dependable compasses, it continues to improve its outdoor and orienteering compasses by adding features like better luminosity, adjustable declination, and fast-settling needle designs to be made of even more durable materials.
Due to its high-quality reputation, the Suunto compasses and inclinometers are used by people from all walks of life but mostly used by geologists, cave explorers, archaeologists, land surveyors, mariners and foresters.
Simplicity and Functionality: the Finnish Design
Aside from their globally acclaimed compasses, this company is famed for its wristwatches with multiple functions. These various functions include GPS location, compass bearings, acceleration, altitude, training effect – depending on the model and the sport they’re made for like running, sailing, hiking, golfing, mountaineering, skiing, and diving.
A few of its most popular series are the:
- Suunto Ambit lineup first released in 2012 with GPS, a smart mobile connection, ABC-functions, rechargeable battery, advanced training functions and updatable software. It is user customizable, and it even offers a chance for its users to create their own apps. The latest model in its line is the Ambit3 announced in 2014 with more features like smartphone connectivity, and heart-rate monitoring.
- The Suunto Core is an ABC-watch first released in 2007 which now has more than 25 different versions. They all have the same functions and differ in appearance, and materials.
- The Suunto Quest, aimed at sports training with many training functions including an electronic coach function and heart rate monitoring.
- Suunto T- series first released in 2004 for sports training used to be one of the most advanced heart rate monitors. It also has features like an air pressure-based altimeter, calculation of EPOC, training effect and support for external POD devices measuring speed and distance and rate-to-rate recording of heart rate.
- Suunto M-series as a successor of the T-series for those into fitness includes features like basic heart rate monitors, and electronic coaching for weight control or improving performance but has since stopped production in 2013.
The remarkable discovery in 1965 that the liquid-filled compass by Suunto also worked underwater led to the company’s foray into underwater equipment. Known for its durability and reliability, Suunto is trusted by a lot of explorers and adventurers such as the famous multi-talented, explorer Jacques Cousteau (link). Its innovations and easy design in diving computers and instruments made it an easy choice to be used for official measurements in AIDA freediving world record attempts and World Championship competitions.
Other Suunto products include a Smart sensor which is a heart rate belt launched together with its Ambit3 series. It has an internal memory for recording data and takes command from the wrist computer. Even when the connection between the wrist computer and the belt is gone, it keeps on recording and only sends the data when it is reconnected. The Memory belt is an improved version of the Smart belt where it works like the latter, but can work independently from the wrist computer.
Another product by Suunto is the GPS Track Pod which is a GPS receiver and also records route, altitude and distance into its internal memory. It can work independently from a wrist computer but can also send its data to it, and also works with a computer – sending the data from the small device through a cable.
Its latest endeavor is into female jewelry in cooperation with Kalevala Jewelry. Designed by Lina Simmons, the Guiding Star is a silver pendant released on February 2015.
Suunto Company (wiki) prides itself for the simplicity and functionality it has rooted into its products. Handcrafted at their flagship factory outside Helsinki, the company makes certain their products are environment friendly through responsible design. The Finnish company exerts its effort into using environmentally sustainable materials and suppliers, recycling efficiently and reducing waste materials, optimizing the supply chain, and saving energy in all operations.
Suunto, Your Adventure Buddy
Since the company’s head start in 1936, its name is now synonymous with adventure. It’s gained recognition from National Geographic, Germany’s Red Dot: Best of the best design competition, Good Design, Tauchen Award and a lot of other reputable entities for its various products.
With its aim to create better and commitment to improvement, it is now wonder how Suunto Company is still one of the best and the most trusted among avid explorers to scale the highest mountains and conquer the deepest oceans.