Setting (and Syncing) Time on a Suunto Spartan or Suunto 9

How to set time (and date) on a Suunto Spartan or Suunto 9 should not be anything that requires an instruction manual.

To know how to best use such a watch, however, it helps to know a few things even around that.

Especially when it comes to synchronization of the time with GPS (or otherwise), it helps to know the watch’s behavior.

First Use Wizard-Time Setting

Upon first starting up a Suunto Spartan or Suunto 9, there is a point in going through the first use wizard where time and date are to be set, after entering personal data and selecting one’s current time zone.

There, the watch tries to get a GPS fix to automatically get the current time – and that alone should tell us something about the way these watches work.

It’s quite unlikely that this feature is much used then and there, since one doesn’t usually start a watch up with a good view of the sky, outdoors.

So, it’s more likely that you interrupt that to set time and date manually, instead.

Set Time Manually

If you need to adjust the time manually, you just need to go up to the “Settings” menu, into “General” options to “Time/date”.

Time/date entry in Suunto Spartan and 9 menu

There, you (again) go through the time zone settings to end up at the screen showing the time and date that are currently set.

If you want/need to change it, you’ll have to push the lower button to “Modify” the data, then you can set time and date yourself.

There is a somewhat hidden reasoning behind the way this works…

New Timezone? Set It Yourself!

The Spartans or Suunto 9 are GPS watches that do not take the current time zone automatically from a current location.

So far, to my knowledge, only the luxury travel Suunto Kailash has a database of locations and time zones, so that it can automatically adjust the current time zone when it updates and records a current location.

When I visited the Vatican City in Rome, this managed to put me into “Dominica” and show a completely wrong time. Considering how the borders of time zones sometimes veer away from their otherwise straight lines, this is not a straightforward feature to implement.

Considering how difficult it can be to get a GPS fix on an airplane or at an airport (yes, some people manage; I never did in recent years), where timezone updates may be the most useful, I find it okay that Suunto is focusing on other features.

That means that, if you travel somewhere and get into a new time zone, you need to set the time zone manually. If you also want the time displayed to be changed to that in the time zone you have set up, right then and there, you will also have to modify that manually.

Region (timezone) setting on Suunto 9 or Spartan

GPS Time Synchronization

What a Spartan or Suunto 9 does do, however, is to sync the time via the GPS system’s UTC signal, then interpret it for the currently set time zone.

Even if a time one has set up manually (or happened to have on the watch for another reason, whatever that could possibly be) is completely different from the actual time, it does get updated to the actual time at the current time zone whenever there has been a GPS signal.

Of course, to get a GPS signal, you have to either go for a run (in which case you probably don’t have the watch set to a completely wrong time, so will only get a sync of the time by a few seconds, if some difference happened to have appeared). Or you go into the Navigation pace and initiate a search for your location.

A note: It can and often does take some time for the time to get updated, which is especially noticeable when it happens only a few seconds (let alone up to just about a minute) after having exited from the “Your location” screen.

Other Synchronization

Things are a bit odd when it comes to other connections…


When you sync your watch with a computer/Movescount using Suuntolink, the time does get updated (to that of the computer, as far as I know… I have only ever tried that at home, since that’s where my computer with Suuntolink on it stands. Thus, I’m not sure if the time zone set up on the watch comes into play).

It is quite uncertain how this is going to play out, and I’m not checking that in too much depth, since Suuntolink should increasingly become important only for updating watch firmware as Suunto moves away from Movescount and towards the new Suunto app.

That’s a whole different, currently somewhat complicated, issue…

Suunto App

Syncing with the Suunto app, interestingly, does not update the time on the watch at all.

(Traveling, this is the one way I have found automatic time and time zone updates to make sense – with a smartwatch linked to a smartphone.

Then, the smartphone gets the new time zone from the mobile operator, and the smartwatch takes it from there. It was only the Casio ProTrek Smart with which I saw that work, and work well, though.)

2 responses

  1. Angel Preciado Avatar
    Angel Preciado

    Ugh, the Ambit3 use to do it automatically when synced to app on phone.

    1. Update: A newer Suunto (9; 5) now also syncs automatically with the app, if set up like that. With a little oddity…

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