TACS’ most iconic model was the AVL II, which was fashioned to resemble a DSLR camera. The AVL II became a hit amongst photography enthusiasts in particular, and had some horological street cred due to its automatic movement and low price point. The ATL follows in a similar vein, being inspired by the twin-lens film cameras of old. Let’s see if it’s any good!
TACS – Video Review
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the TACS ATL, do check out my Youtube review below:
TACS – the Brand
I’ve previously covered the brand story of TACS in my previous review of the AVL II. If you haven’t already done so, you can read the article here.
TACS ATL – Build Quality
While photography inspired watches are not unique, the ATL differentiates itself from the competition in part due to its specifications.
Firstly, the TACS ATL features sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. There also seems to be an anti-reflective coating applied, as it’s substantially less reflective than the AVL II. In addition, the water-resistant rating of the watch is stated at 100M, which renders the AVL II feasible in almost all situations that don’t involve prolonged submersion in water.
The automatic Miyota 8N24 movement powers the ATL, which is unsurprising as it’s one of the few affordable skeletonised movements out there. It beats at 21,600 bph, hand-winds, has about 42 hours of power reserve, but does not hack. I’m usually not fond of the Miyota 8 series movements due to the stuttering of the seconds hand, but this issue was not present on my ATL.
The ATL comes on a Horween leather strap, which feels absolutely fantastic. The stitching looks great, the strap was thick enough to offset the bulk of the watch, and the leather quality is top-notch especially considering the watch’s sub-US$500 price point. It even has quick-release spring bars for fuss-free interchangeability.
All in all, I would say that the ATL has solid specifications for a sub-US$500 watch, with sapphire crystal, workhorse Japanese automatic movement, and a quality Horween leather strap. That’s already better than some Seiko watches…
TACS ATL – Design
That said, the star of the watch is its ingenious design that pays homage to vintage twin-lens cameras.
According to TACS, twin-lens cameras first came into prominence during World War 2 when photojournalists used them to document the horrors of war. With twin-lens cameras as its inspiration, the brand came up with the design for the ATL after two years of development, and I must say I’m very impressed by it. For one, it definitely pays homage to twin-lens cameras – the resemblance is uncanny. The dial is full of little details that pay tribute to its inspiration, from the twin open hearts to the leather patterned dial that evokes the leather detailing of old twin-lens cameras. It’s an eminently striking design, one that’s full of depth and texture.
In fact, the dial of the ATL was so detailed that I decided to put it under a macro lens (apt, I know). Upon closer inspection, the bridges of the skeletonised Miyota 8N24 movement reveal a frosted finish, which lends a utilitarian feel to the watch. It’s thematically congruent, as the original twin-lens cameras were known to be robust equipment that could withstand the conditions of war. The leather patterning is well-done too, with the patterns embossed clearly. Furthermore, the twin-lens concept is incorporated into the seconds hand as well – a nice little detail.
The ATL is 46.5mm wide, and TACS decided to indicate this by smartly inscribing the number on the bezel, surrounded by photography symbols that denotes the lens diameter and infrared focus mark. It’s a cheeky little detail that resembles camera lenses. The bezel itself is sterile and bidirectional, thus rotating in both directions the same way a camera lens does.
Another detail is the hour index plate. It shows the hours and minutes between 8 and 10, with its brushed stainless steel colour providing sharp contrast against the mostly black dial. Due to the applied nature of the plate, it also increases the depth of the dial. In total, TACS states that the multi-layer dial of the ATL is comprised of 19 different parts, each painstakingly put together by a watchmaker in Japan.
On the side, the watch is brushed, though the crown and bezel are polished. The crown is screw-down, and also signed with the TACS logo. Viewed from the side, it’s clear that almost half of the ATL’s thickness comes from its bezel, which means that on the wrist the watch doesn’t wear as thick as its dimensions might indicate. There are also engraved numerals (10-14, at the positions of the corresponding minutes), and the frequency rate of the movement indicated on the side. I’m not a fan of these superfluous touches, and feel that the ATL would have looked cleaner without them.
At 46.5mm and 14.8mm thick, the ATL is quite a chunky watch. If you have a smaller wrist, or are a lady, the watch might be too big for you. On my 7-inch wrist, the ATL is right at the maximum of what I deem acceptable. It’s also hefty at 130g, so this is one you will definitely feel on the wrist. That being said, the ATL doesn’t wear as thick as I initially thought (as mentioned above), though it probably still wouldn’t slide under a shirt cuff.
Overall, the TACS ATL is superbly designed. The dial is meticulously detailed, and full of both texture and depth. Most importantly, the ATL does a great job at referencing the twin-lens cameras of old. You don’t even need to be a photography enthusiast to notice the inspiration – I was dining in a restaurant with the ATL on my wrist when the waiter commented on the watch, saying that it looked like “those old cinema cameras”. It’s literally a conversation starter.
Shootout – TACS ATL vs TACS AVL II
If you’re looking to purchase a camera-inspired watch, the best alternative would be TACS’ own AVL II.
In terms of specifications, both watches are virtually identical. Both the ATL and the AVL II utilises sapphire crystal, are powered by skeletonised Miyota movements, and have lovely Horween leather straps.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I much prefer the ATL. Though both watches are unmistakably inspired by photography and cameras, the ATL appears to have more depth and texture. I really like the ATL’s monochromatic look, and I think it’s simply more striking than its counterpart. The ATL is also slightly more wearable, coming in a tad thinner and slimmer than the AVL II.
However, where the AVL II has the edge is in its price point. Currently, TACS is running a sale on the (older) AVL II, making it about 15% cheaper than the newer ATL. In other words, you’re getting the same specifications and build quality for substantially less. If you’re just looking for a camera-inspired watch and don’t want to spend more than you need to, the AVL II is worth a look.
Conclusion – so the TACS ATL “shiok” or not?
Definitely so. It has decent specifications, an intricate, multi-layered dial, and simply pops on the wrist. As compared to the AVL II I reviewed last year, the ATL is more thoughtful in its design, and is slightly more wearable to boot. Even though I’m not really a photography enthusiast, I appreciated the little details that are an ode to a historically important piece of equipment. It’s also a great conversation starter, as I mentioned earlier with the anecdote about the waiter. The ATL is the watch I wear when I meet photography enthusiasts, and it never fails to spark a conversation, even amongst those that usually don’t give a hoot about what’s on my wrist. As the icing on the cake, it’s fairly affordable as well with a sub-US$500 price point – what’s not to like?
For those interested in purchasing the TACS ATL, you can apply the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” upon checkout to enjoy 15% off all TACS watches store-wide. After the discount, the ATL would cost US$492/ ~S$667, which I think is a great price for a thoughtfully designed watch. If you’re a fan of photography, you will definitely fall in love with the TACS ATL!
- Water Resistance: 10 ATM / 100 meters / 330 feet.
- Diameter: 46.5mm, excluding crown.
- Lug Width: 24mm.
- Height: 14.8mm.
- Case: 316L marine grade stainless steel with aluminium ring
- Case Back: Scratch resistant sapphire glass with metalisation
- Dial Type: See-through twin lens, 19 parts with 11 layer dial
- Dial Glass: Scratch resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating.
- Bezel: 316L steel with aluminium ring
- Straps Included: 1x 24mm Horween Leather strap, with quick-release
- Movement: 21 jewel Miyota 8N24 skeletonized automatic movement.
- Oscillation: 21,600 BPH, (6 ticks per second.)
- Hacks: No.
- Hand Winds: Yes.
- Automatic Winding: Yes.
- Power Reserve: Over 41 hours.
- Manufacturer’s Warranty: 2 years.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah So Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.