Well there are quite a few choices in hiking and backpacking watches, but the core features seem to be an altimeter and a compass and for us lazy people solar powered so we don't have to worry about batteries.
I've had a Suunto Vector for years and thanks to Roanoke Watch Repair, it is back in order (although corroding inside and with a missing tab to keep the back in place and also the "1" digit no longer works!). The big brands are Suunto but other like the Casio Pathfinder PAG-240 or if you are a real nerd, then the higher end PRW-2000A also sets itself by atomic clock or the Casio PAW-1300. Note that Casio uses ProTrek as the name in Japan and Pathfinder in the US:
- Casio PAW1300. $181 and is word with atomic time keeping, compass and altimter. What else could you need? Plus it is 4.5 stars on Amazon.
- Casio PAG240-1CR. $147 on Amazon and just lacks the atomic clock feature. $146 gets you the leather and cloth band PAG240B-2CR
Here are the notes:
I use a Casio Pathfinder pag-240 solar watch. The altimeter is accurate and has other features like electronic compass, barometer graphing, sunset/sunrise times plus record keeping. Plus the solar feature means no dead batteries ever. in GEAR » Altimeter Qs -- BackpackingLight.com Forums
The Suunto, HighGear, and Silva Tech4O watches have persistent problems with reliability and waterproofness. Often they work fine, and there are positive reviews, but also many reports of failures and experiences like hearing from a customer service rep that, despite the "10 meter" or "30 meter" water resistance rating, "getting it wet is not recommended."
Casio seems to be the exception. There are good and bad reviews, of course, but the overall pattern suggests that Casios are far more waterproof, more reliable, and have better battery lives than any other brand of altimeter watches. in GEAR » Altimeter Qs -- BackpackingLight.com Forums
Casio sells this outside of Japan as Casio uses the ProTrek moniker instead of Pathfinder, but my model is a PRW-2000A that I like alot.
Not only is it solar powered but it also autosets itself nightly to the regional atomic clock broadcast. in GEAR » Altimeter Qs -- BackpackingLight.com Forums
Casio PAW-1300. The sheer number of watches Casio makes can be a little overwhelming, but this watch is solar powered, altimeter works reliably, calibrates the time daily off the atomic clocks, compass seems a little wonky unless I've calibrated it recently. in GEAR » Altimeter Qs -- BackpackingLight.com Forums