Origo multi-function watches are manufactured in China and distributed in the US by NA Gear. They are available in four different series – each basically providing time, barometer, altimeter, and digital compass functions – but differing in size, feature set, finish, and display type. The Rendezvous Peak series is a low-profile watch with a myriad of features, and is available in six combinations of finish and display type. The basic questions that come up when considering the purchase of a multi-function watch are: how easy is it to operate, how accurate is it, and how useful is it? This review explores each of those areas for the Rendezvous Peak.
The Origo Rendezvous Peak multi-function watch with black finish and standard display. Models with a stainless steel finish and reverse display are available.
- Fairly compact and lightweight, for a multi-function watch
- Flexible, comfortable, durable band
- Easy to read
- User interface is consistent and fairly easy to learn
- Myriad of functions
- Time, chronograph, and temperature functions are easy to use and quite accurate
- Chronograph and countdown timer are full-featured
What’s Not So Good
- Barometric altimeter is cumbersome to set, but reasonably accurate
- Alarm is high pitched and not loud enough
- Digital compass is accurate but cumbersome to lock on a bearing
- Barometer and Weather Forecast functions provide only general weather change information
|Origo (NA Gear is US Distributor)|
|2006 Rendezvous Peak (black finish, standard display tested)|
|Measured weight 2.5 oz (71 g) with battery|
|1.6 in diameter x 0.5 in thick (4 cm x 1.3 cm)|
|Graphic weather forecasting indicator and temperature function, barometer trend graph display (past 30 hours), altimeter with 1 foot resolution, one-touch direct access altimeter, altitude graph with past 8 hour trend, one-touch direct access digital compass with bearing lock, adjustable declination, 75 altimeter data memories with date, time and altitude, 1/100 second chronograph with lap and split time, 99 lap memories stored in a maximum of 99 runs, 2 daily alarms, 3 second soft blue backlight, battery life up to 1 year, water resistant to 165 feet|
With the miniaturization of electronics, outdoor multi-function watches are getting smaller and lighter. The Origo Rendezvous Peak at 2.5 ounces is smaller and lighter than many multi-function watches, but not the lightest around. For comparison, the popular Suunto Vector weighs 0.6 ounce less and costs $30 more.
Overall, the watch is full-featured and has most every feature one would want (except specialized things like heart-rate monitoring or nautical information), comes with clear directions on how to use each function, and its user interface is consistent and generally easy to learn, use, and remember. It’s also quite durable and comfortable to wear, and is not overly bulky.
The watch has 10 basic modes: time, temperature, compass, barometer, altimeter, altimeter data, chronograph, chronograph data, alarm, and countdown timer. Each mode is feature rich, and there is one-step access to several features. For example, you can jump directly from the time mode to the compass mode, or jump from any mode to the time mode.
Each user will likely have different needs – depending on whether you are a backpacker, distance runner, triathaloner, orienteer, or whatever – so the importance of different functions will vary tremendously. I will touch on each mode with an emphasis on evaluating usable features, ease of use, and accuracy.
The time mode is exactly as expected. It allows you to monitor the time in two zones. The display in this mode gives the time to the hour, minute, and second in large numerals, day and date, current weather icon, temperature, and alarm setting. I found the time function easy to set and very accurate. The time is also given (in a smaller font) at the bottom of the display when the watch is in several of the other modes.
As with any other multi-function watch, my body heat caused the temperature function to read too high, so the only way to get an accurate measurement of air temperature is to remove the watch. Even so, it required about 15 minutes to equilibrate to the ambient temperature, which was painfully slow (but not unusual for a multi-function watch). I compared its temperature readings with a mercury thermometer, and found them to agree within 2 °F, which is close enough for me. On my backpacking trips, I typically took the watch off at night to monitor the temperature. The watch does not have any database to store temperature readings or create a temperature graph.
A digital compass is generally not quite as accurate as a magnetic compass, but is accurate enough for ground navigation. I found that the Origo’s digital compass agreed closely to a magnetic compass (both compensated for declination). For orienteering, the general procedure is to align a topographic map to North, determine a bearing (in degrees clockwise from North) to a target location, set the compass for that bearing, then follow that bearing using the compass. The Origo allows you to lock in a compass bearing and adjust it on the fly, but the procedure is cumbersome and difficult to remember. The main disadvantages of a digital compass are that it needs to be kept level and routinely recalibrated in order for it to be accurate.
To calibrate the Origo’s barometer, I needed to set the current weather (by choosing an icon) and set the Sea Level Pressure (the equivalent pressure at sea level for any given location). The instructions were deficient on how to determine the Sea Level Pressure for my location, but I Googled it and figured it out. Once set, the Origo watch generally displayed changes in atmospheric pressure and weather, which were useful enough to determine whether a weather change was imminent. The weather forecast is no more than an icon indicating the expected weather. The watch displays a graph of barometric pressure changes for the past 30 hours. The graph was useful because it provided a ready indicator of changing weather and how much the calibration of the barometric altimeter had drifted (see next section).
The Origo watch (or any multi-function watch) by itself does not automatically know the altitude. The altimeter function must be calibrated to the barometric pressure, which changes with altitude. Any change in atmospheric pressure causes a change in the altitude reading. The watch works by sensing the current barometric pressure and applying an algorithm to distinguish altitude change from weather change. As you would expect, this is a very complex process and most multi-function watches only come close to getting it right. Thus, the watch must be recalibrated to a known elevation almost daily, sometimes several times a day, to maintain accuracy.
When I followed the instructions for setting the watch to a known elevation, it simply did not work. I consulted with Origo technical support and was told that I needed to calibrate the altimeter by setting the Sea Level Pressure in the Barometer function. That was a trial and error process, requiring 10 button presses each time, and three to five iterations (switching back and forth between Barometer and Altimeter) to get the altitude correctly set. I got used to the process, but I consider it to be unusually cumbersome.
To set the altimeter to a known elevation, you need to enter the barometer function and adjust the Sea Level Pressure until the altimeter reads the correct elevation. This is a trial and error process (10 button presses) that needs to be repeated three to five times to get the correct elevation. The process is very cumbersome.
After calibrating the watch’s elevation, I checked the watch’s elevation reading on many outings, using either a known location on a topographic map, a GPS, or a Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Meter. I found the altimeter to be reasonably accurate (within 50 feet), provided it is calibrated frequently. Depending on weather stability and frequency of calibration, the watch’s elevation reading was off from 25 feet to 100 feet. This is sufficiently accurate for most navigation and information purposes, but it is a high maintenance feature that requires frequent calibration to achieve acceptable accuracy.
Chronograph, Countdown Timer, and Chronograph Data
The Chronograph function worked exactly as expected, and was easy to learn and operate. I used it for all types of timing applications, including running, fitness hikes, measuring stove performance in the field, and timing meal cooking. It worked great. The countdown timer function simply times an event in reverse; you set a desired time, and it counts down to zero. The Chronograph Data function allows you to log data for up to 99 timing events.
The watch allows you to set two different alarm times, and is easy to set. The alarm worked fine in principle and sounds for 30 seconds. My wife could hear the alarm across the room, but my ears could hear the high pitched sound only 1 foot away! Obviously age has something to do with this, but the alarm function would be better if it sounded at a lower pitch, and sounded louder and longer. Note however, that a lower pitch and higher volume means more battery drain.
I found the Origo Rendezvous Peak multi-function watch to be solidly constructed and comfortable to wear with an easy to understand user interface. Some functions are very straight forward and simple to use (time, temperature, chronograph, and alarm for people with good hearing). Other functions (compass, barometer, altimeter) are more complex to use and require more maintenance to get good performance. I can easily get the former functions (except temperature) in an inexpensive chronometer watch from a discount department store. The latter functions are sufficiently accurate for outdoor navigation provided you carefully maintain their calibration. The Origo multi-function watch (like many of its peers) is not a “set and forget” gadget, rather it requires that you master its controls and frequently check its calibration in order to obtain good performance.
Recommendations for Improvement
- Improve the calibration procedure for the altimeter function so it is easier to set, and improve the algorithm to convert barometric pressure change to altitude change.
- Simplify the procedure to lock on a bearing in the compass mode