Belt-driven Devon Tread watches

New in the Watchismo Vault collection, the $17,500 Devon Tread watches, which use a cunning system of belts and optical sensors to keep and display the time. No, I don't have $17.5K to drop on something like this, but if you asked me to imagine what a $17.5K watch should look like, it would be something much like this: "The exposed movement is a mesmerizing display of the patented interwoven system of conveyor belts. This series of belts includes critical elements that allow the optical recognition system to know every belt position at all times."

Devon Tread


  1. Quite an impressive horological contraption.  A Great piece, for sure.

     But the Devon logotype, tied in as a metal ligature……. A poor design choice.

    1. Depends on how many reasonably priced cars you already have… if you’ve already got two, then, yeah, this is more useful than a third.

      1. I have five reasonably-priced cars, and only one of them approached the cost of this watch.  Come to think of it, of the cars I’ve owned in the last twenty years, I acquired six of them for less money in total than this watch goes for.

        But that’s because I’ve had a lifetime of cheap-ass transportation.  Even my only skateboard was secondhand.

  2. Nice watch. The belts remind me of my old job at the cheese packaging factory. All that is missing are miniature pieces of cheese being transported by the miniature conveyor belts, and a miniature quality assurance technician picking out the discoloured or chipped pieces and throwing them in a locked bin to prevent garbage theft.

    Hey, for $18,000 I can imagine anything I want.

    1. There comes a time when every man must pause and consider the decisions he’s made in life that have lead him to steal reject cheese out of the trash.

      1.  There also comes a time when one needs to step back and consider the decisions society and corporations have made that would lead to them throwing away perfectly good cheese simply because it is off color or chipped, while people are starving.

        1. I’m not sure it’s any real kindness to feed the starving with copious amounts of cheese.  I mean, that stuff’s pretty good in moderation, but…

  3. This watch needs a “demo mode” so you can show off all the belt action.  It would go through a battery daily, though.

      1.  I mean a demo mode that ‘s easily accessible, so that you can show everyone who asks “What is that?” how the belts move. The seconds belt will move every five seconds, but that’s not all that exciting. Gotta catch the wearer at xx:59:55 for the whole show.

  4. There’s something very unseemly about a publication such as yours shilling ~$17000 toys. 

    Also, Watchismo is a sponsor of Boing Boing, is it not? Aren’t these posts usually headlined “Sponsor Shout-Out” and tagged “sponsors”?

    1. It’s not exactly unethical to talk about something you think is cool without qualifying it as an advertisement… especially if you’re saying it entirely because you actually think it’s cool, not because a sponsor sells it.

      1. Again, Cory has been posting Watchismo stuff for years, long before they were a sponsor, just search the BB archives… He’s a timepiece freak.

        1. Well, it does blur journalistic integrity without an editorial disclaimer about the relationship. What is really, um, interesting, is when we, here in the comments, point this out, our comments tend to end up getting deleted by the Boing Collective (to be replaced with admin’s and mod’s posts explaining away the issue, and posts from the fellow who owns Watchismo further explaining the issue. That got weird some months back).

          I think we’re fine with Cory being a gadget freak. Hell, we all are, and we’re fine with Boing being buddybuddy with their sponsors, but with Watchismo ads appearing inline with blog posts, and Cory’s frequent posts about Watchismo inventory, it is straight up muddy. 

          I frequent this place less and less now. I was compelled a while back to order a new watch from Watchismo, but I do feel kind of, um, for lack of a better term; swindled, a bit. Just a bit.

          Just put in a disclaimer, guys, when Cory wants to nerd out on a watch from the sponsor. That’s all ‘cha gotta do.

          1. What is really, um, interesting, is when we, here in the comments, point this out, our comments tend to end up getting deleted by the Boing Collective

            Yeah, it’s fascinating that we don’t want to have the exact same off-topic whining showing up in every post that features a product. Just fucking fascinating.

    2.  Cory has been posting Watchismo stuff for years, long before they were a sponsor, just search the BB archives… 

  5. This is cool until you notice the big curved plastic (polycarbonate) cover on top of it all. They’ve made it super-transparent in the image above, but it’s many times more visible in the second video on their product page, and reflects a big glare.

    It takes a cool tactile piece and makes it look like a plastic toy.

    1. For real. Who would even care about shipping costs if they’ve got money like that for a friggin watch?

  6. “critical elements that allow the optical recognition system to know every belt position at all times ”

    why is that? so the watch knows exactly what time is actually being displayed? Meaning, the belts aren’t really keeping accurate time, but just displaying it?

    1.  The belts only display the time that the quartz watch keeps track of. Casio watches with hands work the same way.

    2. Could be those “critical elements” are simply the sprocket holes (or “perfs” in film parlance) that keep the belts from slipping.  I wouldn’t have thought it’d need any OCR system at all if it’s tractor-fed rather than friction-fed.

      1.  Any system that moves a thing with a motor needs to know where the thing is currently located, so that it can be sent to the correct position. This is done with an index sensor. For example, an extra hole punched at a known position in the belt may be sensed optically. How they do that in this tiny machine is a good question.

        1. I’d have thought that the drive gear itself would be indexed like the timing sprocket at the end of a car engine crankshaft, since the perfs keep the belts from slipping.  But I’m no watchsmith; I’m sure these guys know what they’re doing.

          1. You can see the drive gears; they’re much smaller than the belt length, so they cannot indicate the position of the belt to the computer. It has to watch the sprocket holes in the belt itself to learn where the belt is. Or some similar trick based on the belt rather than the gears. (Disclaimer: I work on telescopes, so I know all about making wristwatches. OK, really, I make wristwatches, so I know all about making telescopes. Something like that.)

            Edit – the reason that an index signal is needed is that the computer doesn’t know which digit the belt is displaying. How can it get that information from the gear? The gear makes many revolutions for one belt revolution.

          2. Again, I’m no watchmaker and I’m sure the guys who made this thing wouldn’t have utilized an optical recognition system if they didn’t need to (although this isn’t exactly the poster watch for utilitarian design), but your explanation doesn’t make sense to me.  The computer need only count the revolutions of the drive motor shaft.  The belt is designed not to slip, so a constant multiplier would be required for each digit.  It’s difficult for me to judge based on the still frame above, but it looks like there are three perfs per digit for the hours belt, so that belt should have 36 perfs in total (assuming it’s a 12-hour rather than 24-hour clock).  If the drive gear has six teeth (which looks likely), then six revolutions take you through twelve hours, every time.

            So I’m not sure why they couldn’t monitor the revolutions of the drive gear itself rather than the belt, unless your point is that the drive gear itself is too small to trigger any kind of revolution-counting system, which for all I know might be the case.  But theoretically it shouldn’t be problematic.

          3. Ah, I understand your point now.  Seeing the watch aligning its belts in the video Cuffbuster posted above demonstrates the need for optical alignment, since the four belts apparently run independently of each other.  But if they operated by more traditional clockwork (not as a circular clockface, but in a manner wherein a full revolution of the second hand physically drives a 6 degree movement on the minute hand, and a full revolution of the minute hand physically drives a 6 degree movement of the hour hand), then an optical system would be unnecessary, since the belts would have to be synchronized with each other exactly once, during assembly at the factory, and would never get out of sync with each other.

            And man, would that watch be a bitch to set.  Either you’d have to have a mechanism to disconnect the seconds belt from the minute and hour belts, or you’d have to spend most of an hour setting the watch (if it’s more than a few hours slow or fast) or risk breaking belts.

  7. It is an amazing piece of industrial inspired technology but the case size; 53mm wide,  is to garish for anyone over 30. In fact, anything over 40mm starts to become ostentatious and reeks of “bling” in my opinion. The Casio G-Shock line come in at around 43mm each and they are large watches. Eninem wears a G-Shock. It looks like an abalone shell on his wrist but he is not a tall person. If you are tall and have large wrists, the Devon may look real sharp on you. 

    1. It looks amazing, and totally appeals to the watch lover in me… but damn, it is GINORMOUS!

      1. I’m sure that Casio could get it down to a reasonable size in about four product generations, if there were a market of more than 10 people in the world.

  8. It’s not new…it’s been out for a few years at least.   I think it’s cool, but not for 17K. I mean, it’s an electrical movement. The major challenge when designing a watch like this is getting enough power from a movement of reasonable size.  Even then, you need to regulate that movement.  That’s where a lot of the R&D goes.  Given an electric motor, you can be somewhat lax on how careful you address mass and friction.  If you want to see the real deal check:

  9. It’s a neat watch.  And yet I find that the juxtaposition with the Goats post is just making me think, I could fund the remainder of the Goats storyline, and still have 7K left over.

  10. I like that it’s digital.  Too many of these fancy pieces are analog.

    But then, it’s probably a good deal more fragile than the typical fancy analog watch, too, what with all the extra moving parts.

  11. I must have gremlin blood in me.  I have an almost irresistible urge to throw a teensy little wrench into the works.

  12. Ordinarily I dislike most of these Watchismo ads, but I have to say, that watch is pretty fuckin’ cool. 

    But $17,500k? Good lawd, wat. Honestly, it’s begging for a knock-off to be made and sold for… 1% of the price, and that’s still a stretch.

    1. I pretty much guarantee that you’re not going to find a $175 knockoff, or even a $1750 knockoff. Knockoffs use cheap standardized movements,  and re-engineering that here would be hard. $17,500 is actually a very good price, considering that everything in that watch is custom.

        1. Look, today’s technology is tomorrow’s art! Any watch over $5,000 is intended to be an “artifact” if you will not a watch. If you want a watch that tells perfect time and that is your sole goal,  get a Casio F91W for $12.50 at Sears. It’s military grade and Wikipedia tells me it is the favorite of terrorists. Ironically the Casio G-Shock line is military grade as well and is a favorite of our armed forces. So there you have it: you can get a military grade timepiece for under $90.

          But if you want a piece of art that a watchmaker nearly went blind creating, or an engineer that wanted to tell time in a way that has never been done before which includes a moon-phase, chronograph and world time and they are a limited few, get the Devon or otherwise.

  13. What they fail to mention in the article is the “transformer” function, whereby you can ride your watch to work. Which makes this positively cheap!

  14. > […] if you asked me to imagine what a $17.5K watch should look like  […]

    If you asked me, then a $17.5K watch shouldn’t look anything. it should be nearly invisible wherever it is strapped, quickly telling me time in most convenient fashion with least hand movements involved.

    That above is not a watch: it is a design/fashion/luxury item, accidentally having a shape of a watch. Litmus test: nobody who actually needs a wrist watch would even think buying it.

    1. Litmus test: nobody who actually needs a wrist watch would even think buying it.

      Nobody who actually needs a car to get around in would seriously consider buying a Lamborghini Countach either, but that doesn’t stop it from being an actual automobile.  Also, someone who did buy it would probably glance at it to check the time rather than consult a different timepiece somewhere in the room.  It’s just that some people have more money to spend on trifles like this than the rest of us do.  It doesn’t mean this thing is, like, useless at being a timepiece.  In fact, I’d hazard a guess that part of the justification of the price would have to be that this watch keeps reasonably good time.

    2. When you’re paying $17.5k for a watch, you’re probably not wanting an efficient timepiece – the Casio F91W that’s been mentioned earlier meets that need for $10 or so. Or, I paid $11 for a CA53W, if you want a calculator thrown in.

      When you’re paying $17.5k for a watch, you’re probably wanting jewelry. Which this definitely is.

  15. If you are going to do horoporn, might as well go all the way.  I choose the $265,000 Trapezium.

    Is it worth it?   You bet it is.  Because “regardless of the viewing angle, a trapezium is visible.”  

    Now that’s value for money.

  16. I’m a Watch Guy and this isn’t my kind of thing but it’s very impressive.  I wouldn’t wear it but if I had one I’d sure spend a lot of time looking at it.

    1. But isn’t it ultimately extremely impractical? Takes a whole lot of time when the hour and minutes both change, meaning you have to wait at least 10 seconds to read the time.

      The perfect Vertu phone companion ;-).

  17. This post is worthless without a video showing the movement in action. Since I can’t even begin about ever affording something like this, I’d love to just see it work…

  18. I can’t reply to your later post…

    I have worked on a similar display mechanism before… it is because the belt mechanism is a simple state machine, all the “internal clock” knows is how to advance the belts and track them based on if it has current knowledge of their location, but if the motor drive battery goes flat for example, or the watch is “booted” for the first time, the drive circuitry has no idea what the status of any of the belt positions are.

    Those “index” holes I assume are basic sprocket drive holes. Somewhere on each belt is also a “zero” home index (maybe a hole, maybe a reflective patch on the back of the belts), which you can see the watch cycle each belt looking for in one of the videos on first start up… once it “knows” the status of each of the belts, as you say it can pretty much ignore the sensors as it knows it can keep track of the display just by knowing how many units i has advanced each belt. Still, if you have the sensor there it pays to use it and keep track of things anyway, just to confirm everything is as you expect it to be. You can see once it finds the status of the belts it zips them to their correct display locations pretty quick.

      1.  Heheh, no, I like overly dramatic display devices I guess… And this is like if you were to combine a harley davidson motorcycle, skeleton clock and wristwatch, so seems to float my boat – if not for the price though :) I am though, a definate back-yard hacker and love all things fiddly and like to pull ’em apart in my head if I can;t do it for real…

  19. So… question. In three months, is the paint on on the tread going to break off? Seeing how it’s being bent around the edges. Just sayin..

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