I presume you calibrated to a known altitude, it sounds like you did, since you knew your beginning altitude. Even having a barometer lock, a sudden weather change (sudden and sharp drop in barometric pressure) will still affect the altimeter, as it is solely based on a calculation based on pressure. If there was a weather change, that could explain your drastic variance. Don't be too bummed on one occasion of the Core having an accuracy hiccup. Mine has them every now and then, but overall is still one of my favorites.
It would be my fave if Suunto hadn't discontinued the brown face! You hear that Suunto!?
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30M is the nominal rating Suunto gives the Core. The depth gauge on the watch goes to 15m, however, so shallow dives will be about the limit for the Core. More than that, and you should look at the Suunto D series Dive Computers. If you're concerned about the all around water resistance, it'll shrug off just about anything short of deepwater dives.
One addition goes on top (cervical) for neck protection and one goes on the bottom (coccyx) for coccyx protection.
Suunto says about 9 months with average use, probably 9 months to a year with general timekeeping duties. The battery change is going to be a little more involved than say the Core or Vector, which can be done in the field. The Elementum will either need to go back to the dealer or a jeweler, or sent back to Suunto for a battery change. The caseback for the Elementum has four Torx screws holding it, rather than screwback, as other Suunto models.