I was amusingly surprised when the video I made of the original Devon Tread 1 watch went viral (you can see it here on YouTube). Posted in 2010, the video showed me playing with the Tread 1 and displaying how its belt-driven time telling system worked. It had about 450,000 views at the time of writing this article - and it was an off-the-cuff video I took on one of the Devon guys kitchen counter here in LA. Later, I was lucky enough to get a Devon Tread 1 for a while and wrote about it here in the full review.
2012 sees the release of the special limited edition "Steampunk" version of the Tread 1, and I am happy to offer this exclusive review and first ever hands-on look at it. It is Devon's answer to an artsier version of a mechanical art watch, and it is something which I am happy they decided to make. If you think the Tread 1 was a niche product, I wonder how you feel about the Tread 1 Steampunk? In most respects, the Steampunk version of the Tread 1 is the same as the original. Mechanically it is the same (although it features the latest firmware), and the case dimensions are more or less comparable (the differences come in with all the Steampunk cladding). Having said that, the new parts make it feel like something rather different - and no, those aren't loose screws coming out of it.
The watch does however contain a lot of screws - mostly decorative. The steampunk aesthetic is derived from a mixture of Jules Verne-style science fiction and Industrial Revolution era technology and machinery. Most people think of it as retro-futuristic, and I have to admit a lot of it is rather cool. One hallmark of steampunk creations is an "aged" looked that has the things not looking brand new. This is actually why bronze is becoming a bit of a trendy material in some watches. The Tread 1 Steampunk uses a lot of it to create a convincing aged look - which is actually charmingly ironic as the innards of the Tread 1 are thoroughly modern. No "real" steampunk items would have a computerized micro controller!
In hues of gold and brown, the Tread 1 Steampunk holds its own in the complex world of high-end steampunk-ish creations. Compared to some other things out there, the Tread 1 Steampunk is actually a bargain. Then again, as a luxury timepiece it isn't at all inexpensive.
It is hard for me not to smile wearing the Tread 1 Steampunk on my wrist. I actually know it looks silly to many people, but it just tickles me properly in all the right places. Maybe it is a lifetime of enjoying video games and sci-fi, or perhaps it is simply my "male instincts" which tell me that this watch is cool. Is it cooler than the original Tread 1? It is really something totally different. In fact, I would venture to say that given the color and aged look of the Steampunk, it is actually more "fashionably versatile" than the more futuristic looking unit.
Size wise the Tread 1 Steampunk isn't small. The case is 56mm wide and 50mm tall. The case is also 18.5mm thick. It does however wear much more comfortably than you might expect - this is due to the richly wrapping lugs. The metal case seems to mix steel and bronze elements and is matched to a good looking brown leather strap. Devon did a good job of mixing the colors and textures nicely. Steampunk enthusiasts will no doubt swoon.
The design elements on the Tread 1 Steampunk are essentially "armor cladding" on the original case. This includes the bronze plates and screws. I first wrote about the Devon Tread 1 Steampunk watch here, showing renders of the design. You can see how the final version is slightly different, but not radically so. The "Frankenstein's Monster" neck screws are still there and very proud looking. Not too sharp to the touch actually. My favorite touches are the screw rivets all around the case and the patina which forms over the bronze surfaces. This patina continues to develop over time and changes the look of the watch slightly. Hardcore collectors love this stuff.
One element that didn't make it from the Tread 1 Steampunk concept was a different color for the numerals on the belts. Devon was supposed to use a more tan color that matched with the bronze and brown colors. Perhaps it wasn't legible enough. The black belts with white text still do it for me. Though it would have been interesting to perhaps use brown colored belts to give the appearance that the belts are made of leather or something such as that. What Devon did do is change the color of the internal mechanics giving them a brass finish as opposed to a polished steel look. I think that was a nice touch, and is used throughout the movement mechanism.
It just dawned on me that some of you are reading about the Devon Tread 1 for the first time, meaning that you are not familiar with the concept. I will quickly go over it, but please refer to the review of the original Tread 1 for more details on how it works, and everything that it does. The concept of the watch is simple: to use a series of electronic one-step motors in conjunction with a small computer to move belts that tell the time. There are windows on the dial where you read the correct hour, minute, and seconds. It is quite easy to read and live with.
Devon doesn't call the watch a simple quartz movement, but rather an electro-mechanical movement. That isn't inaccurate. The movement was specially design by Devon and is very complicated. It has a lithium ion battery that lasts about 2-3 weeks, and the watch can be turned off to save power, or placed in a power saving mode that has just the hour and minutes (not the seconds) displayed. That power savings mode is how most people will leave the watch anyways - mostly because the constant sound of the motors running can get a bit tedious to the ears. In power saving mode it happens just once each minute. Full-bore "all belts alive mode" is for when you really want people to notice what is on your wrist.
To control the watch you have a sort of joystick that looks like a crown sticking down on the case. It works rather well once you learn how it operates. Does this make for a good daily wear timepiece? That really depends on who you are. Action heroes, Bond villains, and rattlesnake boot wearing oil tycoons could probably get away with wearing the watch daily. Most others will choose it a few times a week when they are feeling like they want to converse with the world. You really don't want to wear this watch if you aren't seeking attention.
Devon will produce just 150 pieces of the limited edition Tread 1 Steampunk. It is built right here in California, and offers a true American charm that you won't find from European high-end watches. For those with the budget it is hard to resist adding it to a well-rounded and ambitious collection. You'll certainly want to wear it a lot as well. Price is $25,000, which is up from $17,490 for the standard model. Online it can be purchased via the Devon watch dealer Watchismo.