Origo Rendezvous Peak Watch

Origo Rendezvous Peak. Click to enlarge.

A Sturdy Timepiece

Even on day hikes in the backcountry, a good watch and compass are prerequisites to a safe trip. The Origo Rendezvous Peak watch is a multi-sensor timepiece you might consider for your own gear list. In addition to digital time (with 12 or 24 hour displays), you also get a digital compass, barometer, chronograph and altimeter; all of which can be set to standard or metric units.

In addition to the sensor functions, the Rendezvous Peak includes stop watch, a count-down timer, and alarm clock for those early wake ups. These secondary watch features need no calibration or special attention. They work regardless of atmospheric conditions or magnetic pull, or the need for sensors. There just pure digital functions; functions that have been perfected for decades. It is the primary assets of the Rendezvous Peak watch in which you must be familiar and comfortable in order to get the maximum capabilities from this instrument.

Compass mode shows direction, 172-degrees south. Note upper right says sunny day; lower center shows time.
Compass mode shows direction, 172-degrees south. Note upper right says sunny day; lower center shows time.

Perhaps, the first thing you’ll notice about the Origo Rendezvous Peak watch is how the watch fits like a saddle on your wrist. It almost wants to clip on in place. Its design incorporates the watch housing into the wrist strap in such a way as to form fit onto your wrist. At first it was a bit awkward, like slipping on a turquoise Apache bracelet, but it soon offered a sense of a secure fit that doesn’t tend to spin around your wrist when worn semi-loose.

The watchband is hefty and uses a robust metal buckle that secures the watch in place; a band-lock feature where the tip of the wristband has a lock-hole that snaps into a lock-pin on the underside of the wrist-band loop, behind the buckle, to virtually eliminate the potential for the wristband tip to slip out of the loop.

As with any multi-function watch, it’s up to the person wearing it to become familiar enough with the device to use it to its full potential. We found watch set-up, calibration, and accuracy to be fairly reliable when measured against analog instruments such as a magnetic compass, a mercury-filled thermometer, and standard barometer. As a sensor watch, the weather forecasts, altitude, and thermometer are all based on atmospheric measurements the sensors are constantly interpreting. There were times when the watch forecasted clouds and rain, even though there were no visible thunderheads on the horizon. There were, however, thunderhead clouds and storms in the region, the weather activity was just not affecting me where I stood.

Altimeter mode indicates elevation in center, graph on top, and time on bottom of watch face.
Altimeter mode indicates elevation in center, graph on top, and time on bottom of watch face.

Another thing about sensor watches that should be noted, in general, is that the temperature reading on the watch display is most always eight to ten degrees warmer when the watch is latched to the wrist. All wrist-born sensor watches do this. Unless the sensor can be fully insulated from the human body and the heat it gives off, this is something you learn to live with by simply adjusting the watch temperature down. It’s also an engineering win we can look forward to one day. With the watch off-wrist, the temperature reading is point-for-point about as accurate as a traditional thermometer. So these minor deviations from perfection are not an issue in the review of the Rendezvous Peak; it’s merely something you compensate for without reading anything more into it.

Compass

Like most compass watches, your direction of travel is designated by the top of the watch face. This would be the 12 o’ clock position on a watch with hands, but the same principle applies to a digital watch. And the compass needs to be horizontal for greatest accuracy. You can do this easily with the watch on your wrist; just keep your wrist level with the horizon. If you read the compass in a vertical position, say at eye level, with your wrist-top pointing at your face, the compass reading will not be as accurate; neither will your arrival at your destination.

Another feature built into the Rendezvous Peak is a digital warning on the watch face that says, “Distort.” This indicates you are too close to an unusual magnetic field. The fix here is to just walk away from the source of interference.

Keep wrist horizontal for accurate compass readings. Backpack is Lowe-Alpine FTX Cerro Torre 65:85.
Keep wrist horizontal for accurate compass readings. Backpack is Lowe-Alpine FTX Cerro Torre 65:85.

You can also lock in and track your compass bearing for when you need to follow a specific direction for any length of time. In this mode, your locked-in bearing will display on top, and the actual bearing you are traveling will flash in the middle of the display. Once your bearing of travel is locked in, any difference or turns you might make will also be graphically displayed to keep you on course. This function is great for folks who really are relying on their topographical maps and compass orienteering skills to get where they want to go. It’s good to know this watch has this capability in the event you really want to use all of its technology beyond its aesthetic charm.

Per the straight-forward instructions that came with the Origo, we started by going online and looking up the declination angle for our region of the U.S. This declination angle is the difference between magnetic north and true north. Our declination angle for Southern California is 14-degrees east. So with the watch in calibration mode, we entered the declination angle into the watch, locked it in, and spun the entire watch around three times in order to permit the digital watch calibrations to lock in.

The thing to remember is that when you plan your trip to a different region of the country or globe, you must determine what the declination angle is for the area you will be hiking in. And this becomes routine, as will your ability to re-calibrate depending on where you are at, but that comes with practice and also increases the value of the watch when you need it to be accurate.

Altimeter

Knowing the altitude you are traveling in can be a big help for any number of reasons.  At the upper reaches of elevation, you have a monitor to prevent you from over-exerting yourself in the thinning air. You may have limits on your health profile that would make it unwise to climb past, say, 12,000 feet. In more extreme situations, the altitude tells the mountaineer when it’s time to tap into oxygen or slither into the full-down suits. And it’s also a kick to know what the elevation is at a glance.  Whether you are on the trail and hiking in alpine mountains or rapidly descending from upper elevations to a valley floor on the high desert, it’s good information to have.

You may want to re-calibrate your Rendezvous Peak watch after every big outing. Or you can calibrate it once at a known accurate elevation and leave it locked in. Either way, the watch will graphically display the peaks and valleys of your current activities. The digital readout will tell you your maximum altitude since you locked in a known elevation during calibration. It will also show you accumulated elevation (total vertical rise since set-up). In reviewing this watch, it made sense to reset the watch before a trip to a different topographical region and have the graph and digital record show just for that trip.

Accumulated altitude records total elevation changes as a whole. It's best to reset to zero for big trips.
Accumulated altitude records total elevation changes as a whole. It's best to reset to zero for big trips.

For example, the last trip this watch was on the altimeter recorded a maximum altitude of 10, 629 feet (Reeds Peak in the Black Range of New Mexico) with an accumulated altitude of 56,501 feet above sea level over the entire trip and up to the time of this writing – that’s the entire accumulated elevation rise added up to the point of…well, what would be the point? Having 56,501 feet on the display gives no new information. It’s time to reset and start over. And this takes no time at all, just press the “adjustiel” (adjust) button on the left upper side of the watch crown and hold a couple seconds until it goes to zero.

Barometer

Operating strictly on sensor information, the barometer can be helpful in determining general weather changes. You must first calibrate your known sea level altitude (Internet search for your location) and set the weather conditions for your location at the time of calibration.  Changes in barometric data will be shown on the watch face as a graph and a small icon.  At the top of the watch face a barometric pressure graph shows pressure changes for the previous 30 hours. As this review was being written, the barometric pressure graph showed barometric pressure dropping steadily, and the graphic icon indicated potential precipitation.  This forecast tracked fairly close to regional weather forecast at the time. But a forecast is only an estimate given the data that is collected; it is not a crystal ball.

There are four graphic icons that will indicate precipitation, cloudy, sunny, or sunny with clouds. The icons appear on the right at about the 2 o’ clock position of the watch face. Each graphical weather icon changes according to the rise or fall of barometric pressure. It’s simply a calculation the watch sensors perform and respond to in a programmed fashion. And the forecasts tend to concur at times, and differ sometimes, with other multi-sensor watches with weather forecasting capabilities based on barometric pressure changes.

Fr. Duverge', a Benedictine monk and priest from France, and a woodsman who helped evaluate the Rendezous Peak watch on a 20-mile hike using only compass and topo map.
Fr. Duverge', a Benedictine monk and priest from France, and a woodsman who helped evaluate the Rendezous Peak watch on a 20-mile hike using only compass and topo map.

Overall, the Origo Rendezvous Peak watch is a well-built, low-profile recreational watch with some useful features and capabilities. It’s a great instrument for gadget-oriented folks who will take the time to master the functions and diligently calibrate the watch before a big hike or climb.

Setting the Rendezvous Peak watch up initially was not any more or less complex than dialing in your cell phone or a new computer. However, the watch is only as accurate and useful as the owner’s familiarity with keeping the watch tuned.

Accuracy regarding digital time is unquestionable. Even though the on-board compass is relatively accurate for general navigation, a high-quality magnetic compass (with declination calculated in) is still the standard for the most accurate orienteering. It would be a good idea to have both in the backcountry.

When the altimeter is calibrated with a known elevation, the Rendezvous Peak watch delivered fairly accurate readings on a consistent basis.

Time, altitude, and compass where the three most relied upon functions the Rendezvous Peak was held to on several moderate and upper elevation hikes and  backpack trips it was worn on. The barometer was less a factor as most of these trips occurred in late summer, and the chance of severe cold, snow, and ice were not a huge concern; but it’s a different story in winter were barometric pressure changes can be very useful in knowing what the weather might do.

Altitude measurements of the Rendezvous Peak seemed to give accurate information as it was calibrated at a known elevation from the set-up. On the Continental Divide Trail, as well as sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, trail junctions most often have elevation chiseled into the trail signs. By and large, the Rendezvous Peak watch was pretty darn close to the altitude calculated by the U.S. Forest Service using purpose-built land surveying instruments.

During one of our backpack trips, one that was entirely based upon compass orienteering using topographical maps, the Rendezvous Peak had to be “re-booted.” The watch face went blank. We were frequently checking compass bearings every time we vectored in a different direction of travel. We were following creeks (Bear Creek) and using landmarks such a Preachers Peak to change vectors or follow an old Indian or game trail for a certain distance. It was at one of these map checks that the Rendezvous Peak watch had a slight stroke.  Because we were keeping a certain pace in order to reach our destination at a decent time before the sun went down, it was more than an hour until we could take the time to sort out our little stroke victim.

Our solution was to remove the battery and re-install the same battery (The Origo Rendezvous Peak watch came with a replacement battery also). That seemed to do the trick, and the watch used stored information to get back on track with the compass. On this trip, magnetic compass was relied on and the digital compass was used as a test concurrence instrument. But the digital compass delivered pretty accurate readings that closely matched the magnetic compass. Now, it’s well known that being off by 5° can mean missing your landmark or destination by miles, when the overall distance is significant, but the magnetic compass and the digital compass of the Rendezvous Peak watch stayed reasonably close on accuracy.

As for the chronograph and multiple time functions and alarm settings, they are nice to have and different folks will use them according to their needs, but they seemed a little extraneous. Sometimes more is less, and for a recreational watch the Rendezvous Peak might be more user friendly if it focused on doing just a few things unquestionably well.

By Rick Shandley

What we liked:

  • Construction is sound
  • Time Keeping is highly accurate
  • Primary functions are fairly accurate
  • Set-up is straight forward

What we liked less:

  • Many functions: Few needed
  • Temperature reading not isolated from body heat

Specifications:

MSMRP: $170

Made in: China

Dimensions 1.6”x 0.5”

Weight: 2.5 oz

Type: Rendezvous Peak in Black finish and standard display

Features:

Compass with adjustable declination angle and bearing lock

Altimeter with one-button access

Eight hour altitude graph

Altimeter data memory for 75 previous events (date, time, altitude)

Temperature

Barometer with graphic weather icon and pressure trend graph display

Chronograph

Two Alarms

Water Resistance: 100m or 165 feet

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