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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Freestyle Watches Navigator 2 > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Freestyle Navigator 2.0 Watch

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

Freestyle Navigator 2.0


INITIAL REPORT - September 16, 2009
FIELD REPORT - November 24, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - January 25, 2010



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
September 16, 2009

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Freestyle A
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: www.freestyleusa.com
MSRP: USD $125

Listed Weight: Not provided
Measured weight: 61 g (2.15 oz)

Listed width (diameter): 45 mm (1.77 in)
Measured width: 45 mm (1.77 in)
Measured depth: 14 mm (0.55 in)
Color: Black band/Black face (Other color scheme: Black band/Silver face)


ITEM DESCRIPTION

The Freestyle Navigator 2.0 watch comes from a line of watches designed to be "high-quality, water resistant, [and] durable" timepieces suitable for the active lifestyle. The Freestyle website states that the watch is good "for life - surf, skate, snow, wake, ski, bike, action sports, extreme sports" or whatever. To give the watch this capability, it is built with a number of features, elucidated below.

Water resistance. The watch is built with water resistance to 100 m (330 ft/10 atmospheres). This makes the watch suitable for most water sports, but not deep water diving.

Compass. The watch contains a compass which is stated to be accurate to 1 degree. It can also be re-calibrated if needed. The compass has 16 cardinal directions, although it was unclear to me why this is superior to the good old 4 directions I normally use. It also has a feature which allows declination adjustment. The online product manual includes a chart of the proper declination adjustments for major cities around the world. This photo shows the compass in action, with the single arrow on the upper left of the photo pointing north, and the triple arrow indicating south. As can be seen, my kitchen table is oriented at 29 degrees, which is north by northeast.

Navigator compass

Other features. In addition to these specialized features that make the watch suitable for hiking (and a wide variety of other sporting activities), the watch has a nice array of "typical" watch features, including 2 time zone settings, a 30-lap chronometer with running or split time measurements, 2 interval timers, and 3 separate alarms. When the timer is used in split-time mode (i.e., lap timing), the times for each individual lap can be viewed by using the "recall" function. Also, the timer can be set to different modes, such that the watch will do different things (i.e., stop, reset, or start counting up) once the time has expired. The watch also has a lighted dial which is activated by pressing one of the buttons. The light can also be set to be turned on just by touching the bezel of the watch.

All of these features are controlled by a set of 4 buttons located around the perimeter of the watch, in a fairly standard arrangement. The watch has a bezel marked at the 4 cardinal directions (N, S, E, W) which can be rotated relative to the face of the watch. There is no crown on the watch, as all functions are controlled by the buttons.

The watch itself appears to be made of a metal alloy with a steel backing. The band is made of a rubberized material which attaches seamlessly to the watch face. One of the innovations in the watch is the use of "Free Fit Technology," which is a mesh band in the center part of the watch band, as shown below.

Free Fit strap

The buckle of the band has two narrow teeth which can fit anywhere into this meshing, giving the band complete adjustability.

clasp from side Navigator  clasp from top

Also, the free end of the band has a small hole in it, which fits into a clip which prevents the free end from sticking out from the band itself, as shown below.

Navigator clip photo


INSTRUCTIONS AND WARRANTY

The watch came with a booklet in 7 languages describing "watch care, warranty, and contact information." This appears to be a general instruction pamphlet, since some of the instructions (such as cautions about using the crown underwater) are not applicable to the Navigator 2.0. The other instructions are straightforward, and include a caution about severe impacts on the watch and advice to avoid exposing the watch to chemicals and such.

The warranty policy is also presented in this booklet. The warranty is fairly generic, and covers the watch for "defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the watch (under normal use)." Notably, the battery, watch band and crystal are not covered, nor is "accidental breakage or damage due to normal wear or misuse of the product." This makes me concerned, since a hiking watch has the possibility for receiving a lot of abuse. Hopefully, the Navigator 2.0 will prove itself sturdy enough so that these concerns will never be tested.

Although I initially thought that instructions for the watch were not included, I was eventually able to find them in a "hidden" compartment in the base of the packaging material. Seven small instruction packets were included, each one in a different language. Given that the 4 buttons are marked on the watch face as "start/stop," "lap/reset," "mode," and "light," I assume I could have figured the whole thing out with a little bit of trial and error, but the instructions were helpful. The instructions are also available on the Freestyle website, where they are easy to locate and download if needed.


TRYING IT OUT

When I pulled the watch out of its packing, I was first intrigued to see how the watch would feel on my wrist. My current watch is a Timex Ironman series watch, with basic features that are fairly similar features to those of the Navigator 2.0, excepting the compass. The Navigator is just a little bigger in the face but about the same depth as the other watch. Having never weighed my watch before, I was rather surprised to see that the Navigator 2.0 was about 50% heavier than my Timex (which weighed in at a svelte 40 g/1.4 oz). When I put it on my wrist, I could tell the Navigator was heavier, but it does not feel "heavy" to me. As can be seen in the photo below, the two watches are just about the same size.

Timex and Navigator

The Free Fit band allowed me to easily adjust the watch to the proper size, although the clip which holds the end of the band makes rapid adjustments on the fly difficult. In order to adjust the band, it is first necessary to disengage the clip from the end of the loose end because with the clip in place, there is not enough slack in the strap for me to slide the buckle out. Anyway, I found the watch comfortable to wear.

Looking at the dial itself, it is well laid out with each of the displays (time, date, feature, etc) easily visible. The watch also has a second indicator which sweeps around the outside of the watch to allow an easy measurement of seconds elapsed. In the photo at the top of the report, the second indicator is the little arrow at about 26 seconds. In the photo just above, the second indicator is at 45 seconds.

Around the perimeter of the watch under the crystal are markers at the four cardinal directions, as well as numbers indicating 30, 150, 210, and 330 degrees. Other numbers are not shown because of the markings for the four buttons. Because the dial is black with white numbers, I found that it was sometimes difficult to see the numbers unless I turned the face to a specific orientation relative to my overhead light. The bezel rotates freely around the watch with stops every 6 degrees (i.e., 15 stops between 0 and 90 degrees). The marking on the bezel for East is replaced by the Freestyle logo in a slightly raised position, so I found that using this gave me the best leverage for moving the bezel.

I next spent several minutes playing with the buttons. The first thing I did was adjusted the time, which was easily done. I next played with all the combinations of buttons in order to test the compass, timer, alarm, and chronograph features. I found that everything worked intuitively as expected. The buttons are easy to manipulate, and the controls are fairly similar to other digital watches I have owned (included my current Timex). The features cycle in the order of time -> compass -> chronograph ->recall ->timer -> alarm and back again to time.

The compass seemed to be reasonably accurate as I tried it out sitting in front of my computer. It indicated both true north as well as the orientation in 1 of the 16 cardinal directions. The only feature that I was unable to get to work was the bezel-activated backlight. Following the instructions, I was able to get the proper icon to display, but manipulating the bezel does not make the light go on.


EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NAVIGATOR 2.0

So far, I like the Navigator 2.0. It is a very snazzy-appearing watch, and would look quite respectable with a suit and tie. The watch seems sturdy and the features seem well thought-out and functional. I generally buy fairly inexpensive watches since I can be hard on them. This watch seems like a step up from my usual, and I expect it will show enhanced durability to go along with its nice sense of style.


THE STORY SO FAR

    Impressive
  • Comfortable, adjustable wrist band
  • Good features for reasonable size and weight
  • Compass feature very handy
    Concerns
  • Will I have trouble seeing the dial in the bright sunlight?
  • Why doesn't the bezel-activated backlight function properly?


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FIELD REPORT

November 24, 2009


FIELD CONDITIONS

I have worn the Freestyle Navigator 2.0 as my everyday watch for most of the past two months. This has included one actual campout, when I wore the watch while camping and hiking around Ray, Ohio. The weather on that trip was 65 F (18 C) during the day and 33 F (1 C) overnight. Other than that, I have worn the watch while golfing, biking, and officiating soccer matches, not to mention traveling and working. This usage has occurred in a variety of weather conditions, including warmth, cold weather, and rain.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

Over the preceding two months, I have had the chance to test out many of the features of the Navigator, so I will discuss them in the order they can be accessed.

Timekeeping
The first and foremost function of a watch is to keep the time, and I have had no issues with the Navigator in this regard. I have not noticed any problems with the time running fast or slow, as I have sometimes experienced with past watches. I have crossed time zones with the watch, during which I used the Time 2 feature (accessed by pushing the watch's upper right button). Setting the secondary time was a snap, and the letters "TM2" above the time let me know that I am using this feature. Although the time change is convenient, I would have preferred if the date stayed on the display when using this feature.

Also, I described in the initial report that there is a digital second hand that sweeps around the outside of the watchface. After studying this watch for a while, I realized that it takes exactly 16 seconds for this marker to make a complete circuit. I assume this is because the watch shows the 16 cardinal directions in compass mode, but for timing, this is really inconvenient. Of course, there is a digital display for the seconds so I don't need this feature to time something to the second, but it seems like as long as the manufacturer wanted to include this feature, it should have been made more useful.

Compass
When I got the watch, I tried the compass out next to my standard needle compass. I was worried because the two compasses did not align, and I was pretty certain that the other one was accurate. I consulted the directions on how to recalibrate the compass. The instructions indicated that the compass button is held until the compass resets, and then I was supposed to spin the compass slowly for at least a minute. These steps were followed, and amazingly enough, the watch compass now aligns with my other one!

In terms of usefulness, I really like this feature. I have found both the indication of north and the bearing indicator to be quite useful. I have even used it while driving when I got lost trying to make my way through a set of windy suburban roads (after pulling the car to a stop, of course).

Chronometer/Recall
I have used the Chronometer a number of times, and it works quite well. I typically use it for a single time reading, so I haven't really used the lap timing feature with recall mode. My only comment again concerns the flashing indicator which is shown at the watch's periphery. In chrono mode, a full circle is completed every 2 seconds. I guess this looks interesting, but the 2-second elapsed time for each cycle is of no practical use, at least not to me. The chrono is easy to reset, which is done by holding the bottom right button.

Timer
Again, this works as expected. It is easy to set and the beeping sound made by the watch is easy to hear when I'm using the timer. I also appreciate the capacity to decide what happens when the timer reaches 0. Most times, I just have it beep and stop, but I have also used the count-up feature, which tracks the time between the timer elapsing and when I hit the button. This lets me know how late I am.

Alarm
The Navigator has 3 alarms, which is more than I would ever need. I have used the alarm while traveling. As for the other features, I found it easy to set. The beeping sound is annoying enough that it woke me easily at the prescribed time. The other thing that is nice with this watch is that it is easy to tell when the alarm is on (when the watch says "DLY") compared to when it is off (when it says "OFF").

In terms of general comments, I have not found wearing the Navigator to be taxing in any way. When I wear my old Timex watch, I can feel that this one is somewhat heavier, but it does not bother me. The Free Fit watch band has allowed me to adjust the band easily, and the mesh part of the band is holding up without any problem. As I have worn the watch more, the clip holding the free end of the watchband has loosened up a little bit, making it easier to get the watch on and off. When I am wearing the watch outside in the daytime, I have no problems seeing the watchface. However, checking the time in the late afternoon or dusk can sometimes require tilting it in different directions to catch the light at the proper angle. This has been just a minor annoyance at times. Using the backlight feature works well, although I have still not been able to get the bezel-activated feature to function.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, I have been very satisfied with the Freestyle Navigator 2.0. It is a nice timepiece with convenient and useful features, and the compass provides a handy bonus for the backcountry.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
January 25, 2010

FIELD CONDITIONS

I have worn the Navigator on two outings over the LTR phase of the report. The first was an overnight at Delaware, Ohio in early December. I was cabin camping on that trip but spent a few hours tramping around outside. Temperatures were in the 20's F (-6 to -2 C) during the day when I was outside, and around 50 F (10 C) in the cabin overnight. The second trip was to Portsmouth, Ohio in mid January. This trip was one night of cabin camping in a rustic cabin and one night of tent camping. Overnight lows both nights were right around 40 F (4 C) with highs around 52 F (11 C) during the day. On the night I tented outside, it began raining around 6 am, so I was somewhat wet by the time I got back to the cabin.

In addition to these camping trips, I have been wearing the watch while exercising, which has been to the tune of 15 miles (24 km) of running per week since mid December.

Over the course of this test, I have worn the watch for routine wear of about 120 days, including 8 days on the trail with some light hiking, and another 75+ miles (120+ km) of running for exercise.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

In general, this watch has continued to be a sturdy timepiece, and I have found numerous occasions to use the compass, the timer, the chronometer, and the alarm. All of these have functioned as I expected from a good timepiece. The crystal of the watch has a few small marks on it, but there is no sign of cracking or significant damage. As noted above, I just wore the watch while walking through a modest downpour, and there is no sign of leakage.

One concern I have about the watch is its ability to resist falls. I have had the watch reset itself twice over the four months I have been using it. The first time this occurred, I don't really remember banging my wrist against anything to a significant degree, and only realized later that the watch had reset. The second time, I dropped it on a carpeted floor while putting it on and it reset. This did not represent to my mind a major trauma to the watch, so I was a little annoyed I had to reset the time and date. Later, I realized that the compass calibration was also off, so I reset it in the fashion described in the Field Report. Since then, it has maintained its proper orientation. I also realized that the 1st and 2nd time settings are not synchronized, which seems somewhat unusual to me. As I write this, the 1st time setting reads 9:18 pm, whereas the 2nd time setting is 10:03. As I will never be in two time zones that do not have the same minutes, it would seem like the manufacturer might want to change the software so the minute readings are synchronized, but other more creative hikers may find this flexibity more useful than I did.

One thing that I have come to like about the Navigator 2.0 is the plastic band. Although this is a small thing, the fact that the band is plastic means that it does not absorb sweat, so that the band does not smell, despite the fact that I have been wearing it for the last 5-6 weeks while exercising. I like this fact, since a sweaty smelling watch band can be one of the effects of an extended backcountry stay. The Free Fit band also continues to offer an easily adjustable setting. The mesh portion of the band shows some slight wear in the area where I keep the setting, but there are no signs that the mesh will give out at any time soon.


SUMMARY

Overall, I am quite impressed with the Freestyle Navigator 2.0 watch. It has all the features I have come to expect in my watches, with the added benefit of an easily followed compass for the trail. Although it carries slightly a few more grams than my prior trail watch, the added benefit of the compass outweighs this concern. Thus, I expect to make the Navigator 2 my future trail watch of choice.

Things I liked about the Freestyle Navigator 2.0:
  • Great features, including the compass
  • Adjustable band is comfortable and works well
  • Band and watch casing are sturdy
Things I disliked about the Navigator 2.0:
  • Tendency to reset after dropping is concerning
  • Lack of synchronization of the two time modes

This concludes my report on the Freestyle Navigator 2.0 watch. My thanks once again to Freestyle USA for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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