FIELD REPORT - Highgear Axis Watch - RNC
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Field Report - Highgear Axis Watch<
<img src="Watch01.JPG" width=285 height=291 align=right alt="Close-up
of watch face">
Manufacturer: <a href="http://www.highgearusa.com">Highgear</a>
Year of manufacture: assumed 2003
Country of manufacture: China
Weight: 48 g (1.7 oz)
Battery: CR 2032 (inc)
Review Date: 7-Oct-03
My initial impressions of the watch are given in the <a
Working through the Manual again
The Initial Report walked through the supplied manual in a 'read but
do not do' manner. I will go through the manual again here, covering
actual settings and calibrations. All worked as the manual indicated
except for one case. As I picked up an understanding of the
underlying logic, setting and calibrating values became easier. I
will explain the details of changing things first.
Changes to values
Many things are done with a 'Press&Hold' operation. This means a
button has to be pressed and held for a few seconds until a symbol on
the screen stops flashing. This 'Press&Hold' requirement seems to
apply to starting all changes. Presumably it acts as protection
against activation by accidental bumps - something another watch of
mine is particularly susceptible to. This is good.
Some more complex values, such as Date&Time, are changed in the
usual manner of stepping through each parameter in turn. To activate
the change state, the Set button is given the 'Press&Hold', then the
Mode button is used to walk through the various sections - days,
hours, minutes, for example. The Start and Stop buttons change the
value up and down by one for each short press. If one of these
buttons is held down, the value slews very quickly: I usually had to
use a single-press method to set the exact value I wanted. Pressing
the Set button again ends the whole process.
However, while the Press&Hold method has advantages, as implemented
it also has disadvantages. The delay time is significant, and
frequently a little frustrating. For instance, to correct the sea
level barometric pressure, it feels as though I have to wait for ages
while the word 'barometer' very slowly scrolls across the screen, and
it seems I have to wait until it has finished scrolling before I can
make the change. The button which has to be held down is the one
which turns the backlight on, and I wonder how much battery power is
being wasted every time I want to correct the sea level pressure or
some other parameter.
The Time zone symbol is in the top left hand corner and is changed
while in the Time mode by 'Press&Hold' on the Set button.
The date and time are changed in the usual manner of stepping
through each part.
The date and time are set separately for each time zone while in
that time zone.
The display format can be changed between 12 hr and 24 hr modes as
part the time change process. The format seems to be the same for
both time zones.
The time display has three modes, as I mentioned in the Initial
report: Time, Barometer and Weather. The manual says you scroll
through them with the Start button; I found the View button also does
this, and is in my opinion the more intuitive one to use as it
changes the 'view' of the screen.
The manual says the pressure display is in mbar, but the units shown
on the screen are hPa. Fortunately, these are effectively the same
thing. No changes are possible to the units. The watch puts an
estimate of the sea level pressure in the centre of the display; the
real absolute pressure is in smaller font in the lower display.
Frankly, I do not agree with the priorities here: I would far prefer
to have the real measured atmospheric pressure at the center of the
display and the extrapolated sea level pressure in the lower area, in
smaller numbers. My reason for this is simple: the 'sea level
pressure' is a guess made by the watch based on a guess at the
altitude, not a real measured value of pressure. As such, it could be
wrong, and in fact is usually slightly in error.
It possible, according to the manual, to alter the thresholds
between the different weather icons. Pressing the Set button in the
barometer mode will take the watch into the 'Set Current Weather'
state. This message, 'Set Current Weather', appears on the screen at
the start of this state. However, details of what is being changed
are not given in the manual and I decided not to interfere with these
settings. Anyhow, the predictions are not too bad as delivered.
In this mode it is also possible to alter the current sea level
barometric pressure, and this turns out to be essential for the
altimeter function to be of any real value. The change is done by
taking the watch into the 'Set Current Weather' state, then pressing
Mode again to enter the 'Set Sea Level Pressure' state. This message
does scroll across the screen - a bit slowly for my preference, but
it helps one get it right! The Start and Stop buttons then raise and
lower the current sea level pressure. This can be a trap of course:
what is set here is the equivalent sea level pressure, not the
current absolute pressure. However, using the weather forecast on the
TV I did correct the sea level pressure many times. It should be
noted that the barometric display resolves pressure to 1 hPa, which
is equivalent to ~8 metres (26'), while the actual altitude can be
set to 1 metre in metric mode. It would seem therefore that finer
corrections can be made in altitude mode.
The watch can measure temperature, and the display shows it to 0.1
degree, Centigrade or Fahrenheit. The units can be changed in the
Barometer mode when temperature is displayed, by 'Press&Hold' on the
I found that touching the metal back panel for more than a few
seconds caused the displayed temperature to start changing. Wearing
the watch gives an temperature somewhere between ambient and body.
This is not a really useful function, at least while the watch is
Altimeter Zero and Changes
Altitude can be displayed in Feet or Metres. The units can be
changed while in the Altitude mode with the Stop button, the same as
The relationship between pressure and altitude is roughly 3 hPa per
25 m (81'), at least around sea level. However, one has to remember
that altitude is always calculated from an assumed sea level
pressure: the watch can not distinguish between a weather change and
a slow altitude change. To get an accurate altitude, one needs an
accurate sea level pressure value.
The watch has a real problem here. It has to have an estimate of the
sea level pressure to work out the altitude, but then it has to use
this altitude to estimate the sea level pressure from the measured
pressure. This simply cannot be done reliably. I believe the software
in the microprocessor in the watch makes some sort of guess when it
sees a pressure change: perhaps if it is 'very slow' it assumes it is
a weather-induced pressure change, but if it is 'fast' it assumes it
is an altitude-induced change. Obviously, mistakes are possible here,
and this was monitored. It should be added that this problem applies
to all altimeters, not just this watch.
One rarely has access to the current sea level pressure while in the
mountains, but a good topo map has contours and should show the
heights of mountains. Instead of setting the sea level pressure
directly one can correct the current altitude to match the known
value, and the watch will correct the sea level pressure to match.
The current altitude can be changed by taking the watch into the CAL
state by 'Press&Hold' on the Set button while the watch is in
altimeter mode. Then the Start and Stop buttons can be used to alter
the altitude display. Pressing the Set button terminates the
Once the calibration has been done the data memories for altitude
can be cleared. There are several of these, and they are stepped
through with the Mode button, as for setting the time. (The same
process applies to the Chrono data mode.) I have not played very much
with these as I found I had little use for the data.
However, on entering the Altimeter mode there is a scrolling display
in the top area, and this shows 'ACC xxxxx MAX xxxxx', where 'xxxxx'
are numbers. The number after ACC is the sum of all height gains
made since the value was reset while the watch is in altimeter
mode . This does not count descents, just the climbing done. You
thought that was a level track? Think again! The MAX figure is the
maximum altitude sensed since it was reset. One can get this display
any time by tapping the Start button. After those figures scroll off
the screen a solid graph of altitude for the last eight hours is
displayed. These values are reset before a trip by going through the
CAL procedure: prompts do appear on the screen. (The manual list the
reset information for MAX and ACC twice: a typo.)
Two alarm times (AL-1 and AL-2) may be set and enabled. The alarms
may be in either time zone. The manual says a 20 second beep sounds
the alarm, but I found it was really a set of four rapid short pips,
repeated every two or three seconds. It isn't very loud, but if the
watch is next to head while I am sleeping it is loud enough.
The watch can be toggled between AL-1 and AL-2 while in the Alarm
Mode by pressing the Stop button briefly. There is no indication of
which alarm time is activated on the main screen, although an alarm
symbol is displayed in the lower section when it is enabled.
Setting up the alarm times is fairly straightforward from the Alarm
Mode, and is done in the same manner as other changes. First put the
watch into the AL-1 or AL-2 state, then enter the change state
by 'Press&Hold' on the Set button, cycle through the various options
(including which of the two time zones is used) with the Mode button,
changes via the Start and Stop buttons, and exit by the Set button.
One often wants to set or disable a previously defined alarm without
changing the time. The state of the alarm can be toggled between On
and Off by going into the basic Alarm Mode and pressing the Start
It is also possible to turn on a 'Chime' mode while setting the
alarm time. This makes the watch sound a little beep every time a
button is pressed. I guess the code for this was pretty short, and
they had to put the option somewhere. If you want acoustic feedback
to button presses, this gives it. A bell symbol is displayed next to
the alarm symbol when this is enabled.
I mentioned in the Initial report that the calibration of the (?
quadrature Hall effect?) sensor seems to be held in volatile memory:
when the battery is replaced the compass must be recalibrated. If the
user makes a major move around the globe it is probably a good idea
to redo this calibration as the change in the tilt of the earth's
magnetic field could affect the accuracy of the compass. The
calibration process includes the vital provision for presetting the
local magnetic declination, after the compass is calibrated.
If the calibration has not been already done, putting the watch into
the compass mode will automatically start the calibration process;
otherwise it is reached in Compass mode via the usual 'Press&Hold' on
the Set button until 'CAL' has stopped flashing. Then the manual says
to hold the watch level and rotate it slowly through 360 degrees,
then press the Set button. If this is not done properly it will
show 'ERR' afterwards. It should be noted that it is not possible to
see what magnetic declination value is stored in the watch without
going through the calibration process.
I tried taking the compass through the calibration process to set
it up for Sydney, Australia. I tried doing this clockwise and
anticlockwise, taking anything from 3 seconds to 60 seconds for the
rotation. I tried minimal overshoot on the 360 degrees and another
half revolution. Nothing worked: I could not get the watch to
Subsequent detailed checking of the compass bearings given by the
watch showed that it gave a reading of 0 degree when pointing true N
and 180 degrees when pointing true S. This should only happen if the
declination had been preset to the local value of 11 degrees. Perhaps
this had been done by the supplier in America? But pointing the
compass true E gave a reading of 60 degrees, while pointing it true W
gave a reading of 227 degrees. Clearly there was a problem. This was
reported to the supplier by BGT. On their advice I reset the watch by
pressing all four side buttons simultaneously (this information does
not appear in the User Manual). This removed the current calibration
data. However, I still could not get the watch to calibrate, and now
the compass did not work at all.
An enquiry to the supplier got the information that this fault had
been seen before a few times - after shipping, and the supplier
organised a replacement. The first watch was sent FedEx: the supplier
sent the replacement by UPS in case the damage was associated with
the FedEx shipping process. I was pleased by the ready response of
the supplier to this problem.
The second watch was immediately tested on arrival. It did not read
compass bearings very well as delivered, but it was not calibrated to
handle the magnetic field in Sydney, Australia - the other side of
the globe. I decided that it should be recalibrated before any
further testing was done. I took it through the calibration process
and this worked the very first time. So far, so good. I then set the
declination at 11 degrees East, as given on the local topo maps. This
too was entered successfully, so the calibration process seemed to be
working - at least to some extent.
<img src="Axis04.gif" width=394 height=551 align=right alt="Compass
So with this success I tried lining the compass up to point magnetic
N, E, S and W. North read 12 degrees: a bit close to the declination
value. Had I got the declination reversed? E read 97 degrees; S read
202 degrees and W read 275 degrees. Repeating the calibration process
and then the test readings, I got 04, 93, 205 and 253 degrees. Since
the same declination was entered on the second calibration, I do not
think I had got it reversed. At this stage I estimated I was able to
align the watch to within 1 or 2 degrees each time against a
structure which had previously been aligned to a fraction of a degree
with a military prismatic compass. It should be added that the 10
second time for readings made these tests a little difficult, and
there was some noise in the results.
I then tested the sensitivity of the compass to tilt while pointing
magnetic N: the reading varied smoothly upwards as I tilted the watch
sideways to the E, and then to the W. A tilt of about 10 degrees gave
a shift of about 30 degrees. This accounts for some of the noise in
the results - but is a huge amount for any compass. However, the
differences seen previously at 90 degree intervals are not
consistent, although the direction of the error is. Clearly, this
second watch was not working properly.
Out of curiosity I then set the watch up on a stable rotating mount
and took several sets of bearings against a reliable magnetic
compass. These are plotted in the top graph in the adjacent figure,
with Watch1 being fairly rough readings at 45 degree intervals and
Watch 2 & Watch 3 being more careful readings at 10 degree intervals
on the mount. Clearly the results do not fall in a straight line. The
deviations between the actual watch reading and what it should have
been (Error1, 2 & 3) are shown in the lower graph. For the
technically minded, it is clear that the error is cyclic, which
suggests to me that one of the quadrature elements may be faulty.
Other electronic damage could be possible of course. Be that as it
may, clearly the compass mode has a problem. One could ask whether
the deviations are simply poor alignment and readings, aka 'user
error', but inspection of the lower graph makes this doubtful. It
shows that over some bearing ranges (eg Watch 3, 230 to 290 degrees)
the difference between successive readings was every bit as stable as
it should be. More detailed analysis of the numerical results gave me
good confidence that the watch had been generally aligned to about 1
I put the watch on my wrist. The adjustments on the strap are fairly
fine but the strap is wider than the buckle, and getting the strap to
a comfortable tension was a bit difficult. The fixed strap angle
appeared to be designed for a wrist slightly fatter than mine.
However, this was not a serious problem.
I have now worn the watch for a while: I remain slightly conscious
of the weight and bulk so far, although this is decreasing over time.
Perhaps I am influenced by having only worn a very small and light
As indicated above, I altered some of the settings. It took me a
little while to understand the logic, but this turned out to be
fairly simple. What I did find was that writing this report made me
read the manual, and this actually helped a lot. There is a human
factors lesson here! Once I understood the underlying logic, the rest
was fairly straightforward.
The View button at the 6 o'clock position is not used in any of the
set-up operations. It alters the 'view' of the display, depending on
which mode the watch is in. For instance, in the Time Mode it cycles
the options in the upper and lower areas.
Switching between some of the display options with the View button
is not fast. Part of this delay may be due to the watch checking to
see whether the button-press is deliberate or a brief accidental
bump. However, when I want to check something not currently
displayed, the delay in switching can be a nuisance. A more
sophisticated sensing of the buttons would be good.
I tried to configure the watch in Time Mode to display the date at
the top, the time in the middle and the pressure at the bottom. I
thought this would be the most useful arrangement. I found that I
could switch the bottom display using the View button, but the listed
displays were the only ones available. Those are Time/Time mode with
date, time & temperature; Time/Barometer mode with barometer graph,
time and pressure and Time/Weather mode with barometer graph, time
and temperature. I could not alter just the bottom part. This was
very disappointing. I can flick between the modes, but the View
button must be held for a short while and then I have to wait while
the readout stops displaying 'Weather' or 'Time' or 'Barometer'. It
is certainly not very convenient. Since the temperature display is
largely useless while the watch is worn, I am left to wonder why the
manufacturer did it this way.
At one stage I had the watch in Time/Weather mode. I was surprised
to see both the sunny weather icon and the full cloud weather icon
displayed at the same time. I thought this was an error, until I
realised the watch was really showing the 'sunny with clouds' weather
sign. I had assumed from the pictures in the manual that there would
be four separate icons for the weather, but I was wrong. The manual
could perhaps be just a little clearer on this.
The vertical scale on the pressure graph is not given. I suspect it
is dynamic, meaning that it would be scaled to fit whatever variation
has been seen, and with an offset to adjust to the local pressure
range. This would be sensible. However, at one stage I noticed that
the pressure graph went steadily up to the top of the display area
and then went horizontal. This suggests saturation of the display
scale, which would make the graph of limited use. Of course, it could
be that the local pressure did go up to some value and then stayed
constant (but I doubt it).
I had dismissed the pressure graph and weather symbols as being of
little value when I first got the watch. After all, if the weather
bureau makes such a poor job of forecasting the weather with all the
computing power they have, surely a little watch would have no hope?
But there is a difference here. The watch only gives a short range
forecast, based on the last 24 hours of pressure and pressure change
(or so I believe). For instance, if the weather looks doubtful but
the watch says the pressure is rising: it will fine up soon. On the
other hand, if the weather looks sunny, with few clouds, but the
pressure is falling: oops, duck for cover. This may be of use after
The temperature display appears so far to be of very limited use. I
am sitting in a room at 19 C (66 F), my body is at 37 C (98 F), the
watch displays 30 C (86 F). I understand that the electronics inside
needs to know what the temperature of the electronics is in order to
read the pressure sensor and the magnetic sensor, but claiming the
use of this as a thermometer for ambient temperature is going a bit
far. However, if I hang the watch up in the tent in the evening I can
see how cold it was in the morning - provided I handle the watch only
by the straps. Looking for the temperature in the morning usually
means it was cold overnight!
I tried putting the watch on the table, but the fixed straps do not
let it sit up in any useful manner. Since I often put my watch on the
table during meetings, this is small a problem. I was able to get it
to sit up by wedging the end of the strap under something. I also
tried putting the watch in a shirt pocket, since I often carry my
watch there when I am walking through rough (Australian) scrub. More
than once I have snagged my watch on the scrub while wearing it: this
risks breaking the strap. However, the fixed straps make storing the
watch in a pocket a little difficult: it's bulky.
Gibraltar Rocks - Little River: Altimeter Zero
The weather was poor the night before but the pressure graph was
rising, so we decided to go and see if the weather turned fine. We
started from home at 188 m (617') with the sea level pressure at 1022
hPa (from the evening weather report on TV). The sea is only a few
kilometers (or miles) from my house. I set the current sea level
pressure the evening before we started.
Well, the weather did turn out fine for the two days. At the top of
the Gibraltar Rocks about midday the topo showed a spot height of
1062 m (3484'); the altimeter showed about 60 m (197') higher. That
would imply the sea level pressure had dropped in the last 12 hours
by about 7.2 hPa. This would normally indicate a bit of a weather
change coming, but the weather stayed fine for the next day at least.
On return home the altimeter showed 271 m (889') and the sea level
pressure showed 1022 hPa, the same as when we started. However, on
checking I found that the sea level pressure had dropped to about
1010 hPa. I suspect the watch had decided that we were doing a
serious bit of climbing and that the sea level pressure should not be
changed. In fact, it did rain the night we got home, so the
prediction was not too far off.
The question which then occurred to me was this: should I correct
the altitude or the current sea level pressure? The latter would
obviously give the right result, but what would the former do? Could
it change the pressure/altitude scale factor? (Undesirable.) The
manual does not give this information, so I checked with Highgear and
received this reply:
<blockquote>This seems pretty typical of altimeter and barometer
readings. I always suggest calibrating the unit as often as possible.
If you know the exact altitude or barometer reading I suggest
entering those numbers into the unit because the more information the
user can provide the unit the more accurate it will end up being.
There is drift in the units due to barometric pressure and changes in
weather which will create the altitude to go up and down and cause it
to within 200ft [60 m] off at times.
Also, when you are driving in the car over a variety of landscapes,
I suggest calibrating the device when you arrive at your destination
for more accuracy. When you change the altimeter this should change
the barometric sea level.</blockquote>
I think the term 'calibrating' should be changed to 'correcting'
or 're-zeroing', but no matter. It means that correcting the
altimeter value on top of the mountain would have been the right
thing to do. It also means that I should reset the ACC and MAX values
when I get out of the car at the start of the trip - or it will
record the car driving as well.
I kept the watch in the altimeter mode for the trip. This let it
record all the height gains and let me see our altitude go up and
down as well while we walked. The graph was amusing; the ACC value
was impressive: all those little ups and downs do accumulate!
Big Storm: Weather Changes
We had a period of fine weather with the pressure sitting up around
1022 hPa after the above trip. The watch tracked the pressure
reasonably well and kept the altitude of our house fairly close to
the nominal 188 m (617') - plus or minus a few metres or yards. But
then we had a sudden storm which actually gave us a huge torrential
downpour and even hail. Naturally the pressure crashed when this
storm happened. I checked the barometer and altimeter during and
after the storm to see how well it had been able to distinguish
between a weather change at constant altitude and a change in
altitude with constant sea level pressure. Was the speed of the
pressure drop too fast for the watch to treat as a weather change?
The pressure dropped to about 1006 hPa during the storm. It may have
gone slightly lower: I was caught in my workshop at the peak and
wasn't going to run through the hailstorm back to the house. After
the storm I found the altitude in my house was reading 210 m (682').
This is a shift of 20 m (60'), or roughly 3 hPa. It would seem that
the rapid drop in pressure had persuaded the watch that I was
actually climbing a bit.
Post Storm: Barometer Tracking
The first watch had a non-functional compass and shortly after
the 'big storm' a replacement watch arrived. With two watches I was
able to see how well they tracked weather changes. In what follows I
quote mainly metres as conversions are not a lot of use: just
remember that 1 metre is about 1 yard. The display shows increments
of 1 metre or 1 hPa, and 1 hPa corresponds to ~8 metres, so obviously
the altitude display is the more sensitive. So I set both watches to
the same altitude (188 m, at home), sat the two watches side by side
and allowed them to track altitude through some 'interesting'
A few days later I found that the altitudes on the two watches were
194 m and 208 m, while my house was still at 188 m. A shift of 6 m
(18') is not that significant, given how the weather tracking
software in the watch works, but I was less happy that one watch
showed a shift of 6 m while the other showed a shift of 20 m. I would
have expected the two watches to have given the same altitude since
they had sat right next to each other for the whole time. That they
behaved differently is a worry. I noticed that the altitude graphs
for the last 6 hours on the two watches also showed different
profiles. The watch showing 208 m thought I had been doing a lot more
climbing up and down than the other watch. This is consistent with
the altitude differences of course.
This was a hard, fast trip through very wild country. We started
from a fairly level road about 700 m (2275'), climbed to 870 m
(2827'), dropped into the headwaters of the river at 620 m (2015'),
then went down the river for a day and a half to about 370 m (1202'),
climbed up to an adjacent range at 700 m (2275'), and finally walked
along the fairly flat range back to the car. That's not a lot of
apparent height change, but the accumulated height gain (ACC) for the
trip (car to car) was an impressive 2388 m (7761')! We must have done
a lot of scrambling up and down the sides of the valley to get down
the river. Perhaps it helped explain why we were a little tired
afterwards? While not an essential bit of knowledge, we found it
interesting to know.
On return home the altimeter was about 60 m (195') out. This is
close to the maximum quoted by Highgear, but we did have a snap
hailstorm one evening, with a huge pressure change. Sadly, the hail
hit 5 minutes before we got the tent up. It was 6.7 C (44F) the
next morning according to the watch which was hanging in the corner
of the tent. We felt it, in our wet clothes.
I wore the watch on my wrist for the trip. It was noticeable, but
not too much. For half the trip I had the watch on the inside of my
wrist for ease of reading and protection, but I found it vulnerable
to being banged on rocks as we went down the river (walking in the
river, regularly climbing over rocks etc). Half-way I switched it to
the outside of my wrist where it faired no worse. The strap was a
little sweaty, but any strap would be. The watch was under a nylon
sleeve most of the time, and did not seem to collect any significant
marks on the face. Only once did the display change, meaning the
buttons were not very vulnerable to accidental pressing.
Several weeks of mild weather
Each of these tests started with the altitude and sea level
pressures being set to identical values. For the first test, altitude
and barometric pressure were monitored for a week at home when the
weather was fairly mild: no huge pressure swings. Under these
conditions the software should be able to handle the slow changes in
pressure and treat them as being purely weather-related. There was a
slight shift in the altitude of our house, from 188 m to 180 m and
176 m, on the two watches. These shifts, of 8 m (26') and 12 m (39'),
are fairly reasonable for the length of time involved. I am
reasonably confident the house did not move during this period...
Monitoring over a longer period of mild weather showed similar
stable behaviour. At times the two watches differed by 0 hPa, which
is perfect; some times they differed by 1 hPa, which has to be
treated as acceptable because of the digital nature of the watch
display. Occasionally there was a 2 hPa difference, but again this is
within the 'normal' range of digital behaviour given that there are
I spelt out a number of tests to be run in the Initial Report. I
have listed some of them here with the answers obtained so far.
Factory support: since the watch is obviously faulty, how will this
Initial support was good with a replacement being sent promptly
without the quoted charge, but the replacement was also faulty. I do
not know what the shipping process was doing! After that there was
silence: I suppose they were wondering what was causing the problem,
but I fear they may have simply given up. Fortunately, this was not
the first case they had met, so they did not appear to think it was
all my fault. However, I am not sure what would have happened if I
had actually bought the watch in a shop: I imagine I would have
eventually returned it for a refund.
How easy is it to learn how to use all the functions?
For the most part, not too bad. 'Set' is used to get into and out
of set-up and calibration states, while 'Start' and 'Stop' would be
better labelled 'Up' and 'Down' (unless the Chrono is being used a
lot). Some less-used functions have sent me back to the manual; I am
slowly remembering the more useful ones. To be able to do all the
set-ups and calibrations in the field I would need to take the manual
with me, but I think I can live without it. I found the scrolling
text displays rather slow, but in the early days they did reassure me
at times that I was doing the right step.
How usable are the various push buttons, and is it easy to
accidentally knock them and change the operating mode?
The buttons are quite large and easy to operate. The accidental
bump problem seems to be solved with the little delay.
Are the watch strap and the strap pins robust enough?
So far, so good. A little sweaty, but they all are.
How long will the plastic watch strap last?
I had found some other straps to have a very limited life: they
went brittle, cracked and broke. But so far so good with this one.
Does the watch face survive being bashed around a bit in our
scrub, or while abseiling in canyons?
Again, so far so good - but I have been careful.
Is the watch comfortable to wear?
I had found some watch straps restricted the blood circulation,
resulting in a cold hand. This happened here, but is really a
function of how tight I do it up.
Is the unit so heavy that I am overly aware of the weight on my
It is a little heavy, but tolerable.
Just how good is the waterproofing, and how long does it survive?
This is especially relevant when swimming and abseiling in our
canyons; not all my 'waterproof' watches have survived. Again, so far
so good, but it has not been severely tested.
Is the watch readable at night with the EL illumination on for
only 3 seconds?
The answer here is definitely yes, with or without my glasses, as
long as I am looking at it the right way up. If the watch is upside
down I get the wrong button, which does nothing. The View button is a
guide to the right way up.
What sort of battery life does it have?
Despite a fair bit of compass testing at the start, it is
How much low-battery warning time (if any!) does the unit give
before it stops working?
Unknown at this stage.
How easy is it to replace a battery in the field? Including
getting the waterproof seal back together!
Unknown at this stage.
I must start by pointing out that the compass option was a bit of
a failure. I ended up with one watch completely non-functional in
compass mode, and a second with sufficient errors that it was useless
as a compass. The cause is not known at this stage.
Is the compass generally as easy to use as a conventional liquid-
It is easy to use, but using the watch as a compass uses a lot of
power (says the manual), and I would worry that doing so would
flatten the battery half way through a trip. Frankly, even if it was
working perfectly it would not be very useful, and a simple
conventional liquid-filled compass remains my preferred option.
Can I get the same field accuracy from the watch/compass as I get
with an ordinary compass?
I can usually orient the watch in compass mode to within about 1
degree, and certainly within 2 degrees, relative to another
compass . This was confirmed during some bench testing of the
defective units. Whether I can use the watch to that accuracy in the
field has not been tested owing to the 10 second limit and the
faults, but frankly I doubt it.
Can I align the watch/compass with a map without the conventional
I cannot line up a map properly in the 10 seconds available. I can
orient the compass to point North, then orient the map with it later,
but that is prone to error or drift. I don't use it for this in
Can the compass be used and read easily while on the move?
It can be used and read easily, but with limited value. The 10
second limit and high power consumption means it is not suited for
the sort of continuous navigation we do through heavy scrub, when I
may have my compass in my hand for an hour or two at a time. I do not
use it for this.
How tiring is it to hold my wrist rotated so I can operate and
read the compass while I am travelling? Or is it necessary to take it
off and hold it like a thumb compass for this?
It would be a little awkward, but the 10 second limit makes this
Does the preset declination remain stable - how is it set and how
easy is it to set? What resolution does it have?
It is a digital setting, and stable. It is set after the compass
goes through the full calibration sequence.
How well does the compass function handle the tilt in the
Rather poorly, I think, although I do not know whether the fault
rendered it more susceptible. In principle the calibration process
should make some adjustment for the variations in magnetic field
Is the altimeter easy to use in the field?
Is the altimeter adversely affected by the cold during ski
touring or canyoning?
Not so I have noticed - but the watch does not get that cold when
on my wrist or in my pocket.
Do typical barometric variations make the altimeter of limited
The variations are fairly small in comparison with the height of
major mountains, but they do make precise altitude uncertain.
Frequent correction from the topo map is the only solution, and this
applies to any altimeter relying on pressure measurement. Even so,
the altimeter function is often quite useful, and the use of it grew
on me. It is of particular use in fog in the mountains.
How useful is the extrapolated sea level pressure, and does it
Can the watch distinguish between slow weather changes and
climbing a mountain?
I do not think the watch can handle this difference when one is
slowly climbing. But again, this applies to any altimeter relying on
pressure. Nor, it seems, can it reliably differentiate between sudden
weather changes and slow climbing.
My own opinion is that Highgear (or perhaps the Chinese
manufacturer) has claimed a little too much here. By placing so much
emphasis on the estimate of sea level pressure by placing it in the
middle of the display, they give the impression of far greater
reliability than is justified. Their method of distinguishing between
weather changes and altitude changes is not that good. I suspect that
having this feature was a marketing decision, not a technical one.
How easy is it to correct the altitude for barometric variation
when the altitude is known?
Easy enough, but I do not always bother. On those occasions when I
am able to compare the watch with a topo height, I often just
remember the offset. Otherwise I would be forever recalibrating it -
which takes time.
How useful are the barometric and altitude graphs on a watch face
These turned out to be of some value. When we see a serious fall
in barometric pressure which is not explained by climbing, we have a
good warning of a weather change coming. We have seen the weather go
from fine and sunny to hail in a few hours, and this sort of pressure
change can be seen. The altitude graph is also cute, but we found
that the two watches often showed different scales. What was a large
change in height on one graph was a smaller change on the other. This
was a little puzzling.
How useful is the weather prediction facility?
Well, despite initial doubts, we have found the pressure graph to
be useful, especially if we combine that information with the cloud
patterns we see. The weather symbol may not give much extra
information beyond this, but never mind. We got used to having this
How useful is the thermometer function when the watch is on my
Pretty much useless except first thing in the morning. The
thermometer on my pack was more useful.
How quickly does the thermometer register a change such as being
taken off my wrist and hung up in the tent?
The manuals says to wait "a few minutes"; I usually leave it for
at least 10 minutes before checking it. This seems to be adequate.
Key likes, dislikes and Summary
Multiple parameters on screen
Secure button operation
Accumulated height - as a 'fancy that'
Neutral or not useful
The digital compass and its 10 second operation do not match my
needs and I do not use them
The temperature measurement is too affected by my wearing the watch
to be of real use
The data storage is not something I would use very often
Failure of the compass section
Very large body (this is relative to my taste)
Rigid strap arrangement
Poor choice of items displayed with time (prefer altitude or
absolute pressure to useless temperature)
Long wait on screen changes until text display (eg "Barometer") is
replaced by real data
Putting the estimate of sea level pressure rather than the
measured pressure in the middle of the screen.
Having to have the watch in the altimeter mode if I want to record
cumulative height changes
Would I buy it?
I would like an altimeter/barometer for walking, but I would really
prefer a smaller one than this. The other features - compass, data
storage, thermometer, do not add much value for me. In general I
prefer a unit which does only one job, but does it very well and is
compact. The compass function proved to be a disaster, at least after
shipping. Finally, the price is rather high relative to the value it
brings to me. I think I would be looking for a smaller dedicated
altimeter unit closer to my ideal. However, these are my personal
preferences, and others may find it quite suitable.
All that said, I will probably continue to use this watch for the
altimeter function until I find the 'perfect unit'. Despite the
criticisms I have made, I do find that function useful.
Reviewer: Roger Caffin
Email address: r dot caffin at acm dot org
City, State, Country: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I started bushwalking (the Australian term) when I was about 14 yrs
old, took up rock climbing and remote exploration walking at
University, later on took up ski touring and canyoning. These days I
do all my trips with just my wife. Our preferred walking trips in
Australia are long ones: about a week in the general Blue Mts (east
coast of Australia) and Snowy Mts (alpine region), and up to two
months long in Europe and the UK. Ski touring trips would also
typically last up to a week. We favour fairly hard trips of some
length and prefer to travel fast and light. Many of our trips are
exploratory in wild country which sees few other walkers. In between
these long trips we do some day walks, often exploring the start of
longer trips. On average, we would spend at least two days per week
walking or ski touring. Over the last year or two I have become
converted to the concept of ultra-lightweight walking, and have been
cutting my total pack weight down from 18 - 20 kg (40 - 45 lb) to
about 12 kg (26 lb) for week-long trips. I have been designing and
making our own ultralightweight gear for our own use.