I am pleased that Scott Devon considers my opinion valuable enough to run designs by me and ask me questions about the future of his rather cool high-end electromechanical watch brand. As part of this exchange I learned that the highly-anticipated devon Tread 2 replica watch that we saw hands-on on here at Baselworld 2012 was likely to be put on hold. That was distressing to me as the Tread 1 needed a suitable follow-up, in addition to the fact that I liked the Tread 2.
Nevertheless Scott wasn’t happy with the design of the Tread 2 as it was after Baselworld. The project was re-assessed and it was possible that the Tread 2 wasn’t even going to be released. This was despite the fact that Devon had orders for the watches. There was even a possibility that the Tread 2 was going to be skipped in favor of another model.
In the end, the Tread 2 prevailed, but in a new and more distinct form. The case and concept of the Tread 2 has been re-thought. The tonneau-style case comes in steel with DLC black coated versions in a few colors. This time it has a single sapphire crystal and two, not three belts. The idea is for the watch to be smaller, quieter, more wearable, and less expensive. When it comes out soon, the Devon Tread 2 will have a price under $300 (compared to close to $500 for the Tread 1), and I look forward to checking it out.
Getting a message from a brand-rep allowing you to test-drive a watch you’ve been lusting after for about two years is always good news. Getting to do that in the horological hotbed that is Baselworld is even better. Lots of opinions, lots of opportunities to talk about the watch and lots of people wanting to take a look at something everybody knows exists but only few have seen in the metal: a Devon Tread 2. We’ve fully reviewed the Tread 2 “Shining” during the fair and give you the rundown in this extensive coverage.
In terms of traditional watchmaking, Devon doesn’t really fit in any perceivable category and kind off creates its own. It is not an automatic nor a mechanical watch as it is very much battery powered but a very special one at that. The concept first displayed in the rather gargantuan Tread 1 is further developed into the more wearable Tread 2 and comes in many variations so far, including a chocolate delight and a golden nugget.
Despite still being a sizeable watch, the Tread 2 is much more wearable then the Tread 1 is. You do not have to be a bodybuilder, or have “Arnold Schwarzenegger” stamped in your passport to be able to pull off the Tread 2. Obviously, the first iteration of the time-through-belts watch is much more noticeable and thus guaranteed to spark a conversation. It looks radically different from anything else on the market, especially the Steampunk or Exoskeleton versions.
Don’t be fooled by the more modestly shaped and sized Tread 2 though; it is still a magnet for attention, even from seasoned watchmakers. While going through novelties at various brands visited during the fair, and talking to the industry’s heavyweights during Baselworld’s annual Schnitzel Dinner for instance, just about everyone wanted to know more about it. And that is exactly what this watch will do for you, not just from insiders in the watch community but also from people in general. Mind you, it does cut down battery life since they all want to see the belts whirl around.
The most notable features of the Tread 2, or any Devon for that matter, are the belts. Time is indicated through very thin but strong nylon belts that driven by micro-motors. Where the Tread 1 featured four belts (1 for the hours, 2 for the minutes, 1 for the seconds) the Tread 2 features just two. One for the hours, and one for the minutes OR seconds. That’s right, the minute belt can be turned into a seconds belt quite easily.
Besides the time indication, it also features a power mode and a chronograph, both accessible through the articulating crown-lever and integrated pusher. For a seasoned journalist it is tempting to use a common word like “display” to describe this watch but it is better to talk about “settings” actually. In most watches the functions are visible whether they are in use or not, but this is not possible in the Devon. The articulating crown leaver allows the wearer to access all the settings for the watch by simply pushing it up or down accordingly. We go into detail a bit further in this review about the different options.
Regardless of the obvious indications, the replica Devon Tread 2 has one BIG feature that cannot go unnoticed. The movement of the belts is a sight to behold, but happens in the blink of an eye. You really have to enter one of the settings to enjoy the action.
Dial and hands
Basically, there is no real dial and no real hands to show. Time is indicated through the moving belts, as mentioned, but other than an open worked plate to let you know the correct hour and minute (or second) at any given time is the only part that can be described as a dial. For the rest you can simply gaze through the sapphire crystal and see all the components that make up the “engine” of the Tread 2. You can see the actuators rotating the belts after every passed second, minute or hour and you can see the whole unit at work when switching it off.
The belts are made of very light, very strong fiberglass reinforced woven nylon and are only 0.05mm thick. Depending on the model at hand, the belts have white or red numerals on them. The source of the belts is aviation, not unsurprisingly, since they are used in various indications aboard modern airliners.
Despite the lack of hands, the time can be read very intuitively through the cut-out windows hovering over the belts. The horizontal belt displays the hours, and the overlapping vertical belt the minutes or seconds. When powered off, the hour-belt moves to 12, and the minute belt moves to any digit between 1 and 10. When it is at ten, the battery has a full charge and when at zero it is empty. In the chronograph setting, the hours belt move to 12 and jump to 1 after the first minute has passed. The minute-belt turns into a seconds belt and shows time through half-second increments. In total 12 minutes can be measured after which the hours belt will have made a full rotation. You could measure more than 12 minutes, by simply remembering the number of full rotations by the belt.
Case and Strap
The 316L stainless steel case is actually rather light compared to its size and appearance. Total weight comes to a very reasonable 90 grams for a watch this big. You would expect a bit more bulk but it is surprisingly easy to wear. The tonneau shaped case is milled out of a single block of steel, and measures 42mm wide by 44mm tall and 14,5mm thick. It is slightly curved to better fit the wrist, and combined with the unexpected lightness it is comfortable. The case features some nice design cues, which serve a function in some and aesthetics in other. The screws surrounding the crystal fit the engineered look of the Tread 2 perfectly for example. On the other hand, the prongs protruding between the lugs are more of designers’ choice the watch could probably do without to be honest.
The Tread 2 I got to enjoy came on a no-nonsense black leather strap, which was pre-formed and padded and attached to a steel tang and buckle. The pre-formed strap is comfortable to wear, but doesn’t really give you a luxurious feeling. Devon states only to use the best hides possible to attach to their product, but the strap didn’t feel all that impressive. It is however, a nice sturdy strap, which aids the strong design of the watch. It’s just that, somehow, you would expect something a bit more up to par with a 10k watch.
A more appropriate name for the movement would likely be “engine”. For each belt, micro motors are mounted on a central housing, which makes it look like the movement is floating inside the case. The motors operate in a precise, stepped succession in order to move the belts around. Given the way the movement is mounted, it allows you to see everything in action. You can really see the motors gears turning the belts. On top of the movement, the plate to cover the belts and indicate minutes and hours is screwed in place.
The movement is powered by a lithium-polymer power cell that is wirelessly charged through the caseback. It is able to hold enough power to keep the Tread 2 running for as much as two weeks on a single charge. Reality is however, that during wearing and playing with it, the battery can deplete quite a lot faster. During this review, which involved a lot of playing with the watch, the battery dropped from full to 80% after only the first two days of wearing it. Obviously it was exposed to a lot more abuse than normal.
Precision cut ruby bearings are used in various parts of all Tread movements, cutting down on maintenance and increasing durability. In terms of accuracy, the Tread 2 will only deviate up to half a second a day.
the Devon Tread 2 (and Tread 1) do not cater to everyone’s wishes and yes, it might not be super impressive in terms of traditional watchmaking. But let’s be honest, wouldn’t it be very boring without this vast diversity in the industry? Besides that, the watches from Devon Works remain some of the coolest battery powered watches out there, despite a few drawbacks and concerns. It is provocative, a talking piece, and an entirely unique take on timekeeping, which is a thing to be applauded.