When Devon Works
decided to create a new timepiece, the company knew that mere attention to
detail would not be enough to make it different. They had to think entirely out
of the box and go beyond the idea of what a watch is supposed to look like. With
this no-holds-barred approach, Devon Works decided to do something bold,
something exciting, and something that would stand out and be noticed.
"The idea (of moving beyond the standard watch design) has
been around for a while, and this was the perfect time to finalize the work and
put it on the market," says Jason Wilbur, director of design at Devon Works,
and the lead on the Devon watch project. "We produced the 3D CAD drawings, but
that wasn't enough to give us the true sense of the impact that the real watch
inspiration for this luxury watch came from industrial conveyor belts and motorcycles.
Called the Tread 1, the original design for the watch was completed using SolidWorks
3D CAD software. The virtual drawings were a great starting place, but didn't
have the impact that a prototype would offer. "We needed to have a real watch
on our wrists because, without it, we knew it would be difficult to get the new
concept across," Wilbur says.
† for a photo slideshow
As the lead on the project, Wilbur was intimately involved
in the design of the watch, which features an interwoven time belt system
rather than a digital readout or circular analog dial. "We went outside the
boundaries of what a watch is supposed to look like," he says. The series of
belts indicates hours and minutes in exacting motion, while the belt indicator
for seconds runs continuously. In the final, real, version, accuracy is assured
using a proprietary optical recognition system that monitors each belt
position. For the real watch, the belt assemblies would be mounted on a central
chassis that allow for perfect clearance of the moving parts, as well as to create
the illusion that the parts are floating within the case.
striking aspect of the Devon watch does is its five-piece case design made from
high-grade stainless steel.
aesthetics of the timepiece were designed around a combination of technologies,
which meant that we needed to use multiple technologies for the prototype as
well," Wilbur said. A total of five prototypes were built to assess
design ergonomics and to help as a sales tool to get retailers interested in
the final product.
"This project wouldn't even have gone over without using a
prototype. You just can't explain what this watch looks like. It's so far out
of the normal idea of what a watch is," he says. "But, when you pull up your
sleeve and they see the full power of the timepiece, selling it becomes
Devon Works contracted with Solid Concepts Inc., based in
Valencia, CA, to produce all five of the watches.†
To create the watch, Solid Concepts not only had to use
multiple types of machinery and materials, they also provided post component
finish work including polishing, microfinishing, laser cutting, screen printing
To manufacture the prototypes, the outer case, watchband
links, band clasp, tuning knob, and back plate were all CNC machined from
aluminum. Of course, the smaller the parts that have to be fabricated, the more
important finished part tolerance becomes. The watch not only had to be made
out of the right materials, all the pieces had to fit together perfectly. After
machining, Solid Concepts polished anodized each of the components. The Devon
logo was laser cut from 0.020-inch aluminum, brushed, and silkscreened. Each of
the four belts (one belt for hours, two belts for minutes and one for seconds)
was silkscreened with the number graphics on black vinyl, then hand trimmed to
size. The belts were stretched into place and wrapped around the internal
components where they were bonded into place.
All the other internal components were made using the
company's PolyJet rapid prototyping process, then finished and painted to give
them a metal-like appearance. Each piece was located and bonded into place
according to the CAD data received from Devon Works. The watchband itself was
made using PolyJet master models and then QuantumCast with shore 90A urethane
rubber. The watch crystals were CNC machined clear acrylic, and hand polished
to optical clarity. Internal and external screws were purchased from a
The final watch looks exactly the same as the prototype. The
only difference is that the components move as they were designed to do. The
belts are driven by compact microstepper motors, one for each of the four
belts. A lubricant-free pulley system moves freely via the integration of
jeweled bearings. A temperature-compensated crystal provides data to the
onboard microprocessor that drives the motors, all powered by a lithium polymer
rechargeable cell. On the final watch, the window into the mechanical movements
is a crystal produced from scratch-resistant and anti-reflective polycarbonate
with bullet-proof durability.
"It takes a trained eye to tell the difference between the
final manufactured timepiece and the prototypes we had built," Wilbur says.