July 30, 2010
by Ariel Adams
Here it is, hands-on coverage with a close to final production ready prototype of the highly anticipated Devon Tread 1 watch. While it tells the time and is a luxury item, the Devon Tread 1 shares very little with the rest of the high-end watch world. Despite the fact that it has plenty of moving parts, this isn’t a mechanical watch in the traditional sense. It uses a micro-controller board, rechargeable battery, and small motors to power the movement, as opposed to being a purely mechanical machine that is spring powered. There are a series of small, micro one-step motors in the movement that pull the treads that indicate the time. The treads are sophisticated reinforced nylon belts that move around the dial in a ballet of synchronized moves. The video should illustrate that well. The Tread 1 is really among the most gadgety watches I have ever had the pleasure of wearing.
I wrote a bit more about it on the Jameslist Blog when it was first announced, but I wanted to wait to get further into it, until after I got my hands on the watch itself for some play time. Size wise it is pretty big. The squarish case is a nice mixture of curves and angles, but its dimensions are hefty. Still, the Tread 1 is surprisingly comfortable to wear. Unlike other large sizes watches with “novel” designs, the Tread 1 is a watch I think I could wear for hours and hours without and discomfort. Part of this has to do with the curved lug structures, and the form fitting, thick rubber strap. The case is in steel, due to have various levels of polish, and the back part of the watch will be DLC (diamond like carbon) coated. This prototype is sans DLC. Crystal over the dial is not sapphire, but rather the same type of polycarbonate that are used for bullet-proof windows. While at this thickness the Devon Tread 1 won’t stop a bullet, it does provide for something a bit more durable on the shatter resistance side than sapphire. Though sapphire would be more scratch resistant. However, a sapphire crystal of this shape would be extremely expensive and difficult to manufacture, significantly upping the price of this watch.
It is a good idea to understand why this watch came into existence. It is the brainchild of Scott Devon, owner of the Devon line of luxury goods. Devon is working to have a full line of clothes, fragrances, and more. There was even the Devon GTX supercar, that may eventually see its way to full production. The two existing cars are beautiful American supercars. The Tread 1 is hopefully the start of an entire new type of luxury watch brand. American in spirit, design, and manufacture. Most of the parts in the Tread 1 watch are made by aerospace part suppliers, and the watch is assembled in Southern California. Almost no one who is supplying parts to the Tread 1 has ever made, or supplied parts to a watch before. This is a new experience for them all, which gives the Tread 1 a look and feel that is unique among the legions of novel European watches that are theoretical competitors. At the same time, while the Tread 1 isn’t a cheap watch, it is far less expensive than other wild looking watches of this type that you’d find coming out of Switzerland. Further, almost all the part in the Tread 1 are made specially for the watch. Save for the small motors and screws…
As a computer and a electronic device with motors, using the watch is a bit different than standard mechanical watches. The movement functions include the hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as a function for indicating the power reserve of the battery. On a full charge, the lithium ion battery should last two weeks. The watch can be “turned off” by pressing in the crown for a few seconds. This stops the treads, but allows the watch to continue telling the time for along time until you turn it back on again. The crown is more like a switch. It is a pushers, and can be moved from left to right like a switch. It doesn’t spin all the way around. When adjusting the time, pushing the crown in one direction adjusts the hours, while pushing it in another direction adjusts the minutes. The final crown will have a nice Devon logo engraved in it by the way.
You’ll find that despite the complexity of the techie looking dial, the time is really easy to read through the proper windows. The tread with the seconds indicators on it is constantly moving horizontally on the lower dial. It makes a noise that sounds like a bionic quartz watch. To make a smaller watch with less power consumption, Devon is also working on a Tread 2 model that only shows the hours and minutes. No release or schedule for completion has been set for the Tread 2 however.
Like all those gimmicky wireless charging pads for you phones, the Tread 1 also uses wireless charging to keep the battery powered. Only here, induction charging makes more sense. There will be a unit built into the watch case that is used for charging the watch. Simply place it down on the charger and let it do its thing. The case itself needs to be plugged in to the wall. Apparently the induction charging system was a pain to engineer, but it seems to work well, and produces a safe and convenient way to charge the watch. Power for the battery only last two weeks because of the large draw of power used up by the constantly moving seconds belt.
As the Tread 1 is closer to a computer than a tradition watch, it is something with software – which can be upgraded. The same place in Southern California that will assemble the watch will also service it. Devon is set up to fully support its customers and service the Tread 1 timepieces when necessary. Enough people are confident in the product that they have some major retail partners, including Tourneau, which will be one of the places you get get a Tread 1 watch in a few months when they are released. Also look for a dedicated Devon boutique to open in Beverly Hills soon.
At $15,000 the Devon Tread 1 is sort of alone in the the market. Other fancy luxury watches that tell time in unique manners are closer to, or above $100,000. Then again, those are purely mechanical pieces with different types of materials, and manufacturing practices. Can you compare watches that the Devon Tread 1 reminds you of, with the Tread 1? Not really in my opinion. I see the Tread 1 as a luxury gadget that tells the time. Being American, and California grown, it shares more in common personality-wise with luxury sports cars, motorcycles, airplanes, and other modern high performance machines, than say traditional watch making. Not everyone is going to love the Tread 1, but I think it is pretty cool. It will CERTAINLY grab people’s attention, and you’ll be impressed at how it isn’t like all the things you see out of Switzerland – but rather an actually novel timepiece that will make a satisfying addition to any collector’s treasure trove, who is beckoned by the design and technology that Devon has created.