The Automatic Vintage Lens II (AVL II) is undoubtedly TACS trademark model. The AVL II is meant to evoke the lens of a camera, and is thus billed as the perfect watch for photography enthusiasts. Let’s see if it’s any good!
TACS AVL II – Video Review
For those who are interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube review below!
TACS – the Brand
TACS is a Japanese microbrand founded by Motegi San. The brand adheres a core philosophy – that design should be simple, minimalist and pure. To that end, founder Motegi San seeks to make timepieces that capture the essence of unique ideas, turning them into thought-provoking designs that are both aesthetically appealing and functional. One of those ideas was to capture the essence of a camera and implement it in watchmaking, which led to the birth of the Lens series, TACS’ best-selling line till date.
TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II – Build Quality
I would say that the specifications of the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II are decent for the price.
Firstly, the TACS AVL II utilises a rather unique fish-eye 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. The brand states that there’s a layer of anti-reflective coating applied, though in my experience I still got a fair bit of unwanted reflections (as seen in the photo above). Elsewhere, the water-resistant rating of the watch is stated at 100M, which renders the AVL II useable in almost all situations that doesn’t involve prolonged submersion in water.
The TACS AVL II is powered by the automatic Miyota 82S0 movement, which is unsurprising given that it’s one of the only affordable skeletonised movements on the market currently. 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 the AVL II that I received. Unfortunately, the movement is sparsely decorated – I would have liked to see a custom rotor at the least.
The TACS AVL II (Dark Metal) comes on a matching black Horween leather strap, and it is actually quite nice. Stylistically, the black buckle, keeper, and stitching of the black Horween leather strap complements the dark case of the watch well. The strap itself is also thick enough to support the rather bulky watch, resulting in a comfortable wearing experience. Furthermore, the Horween texture adds a ruggedness to the strap that I appreciate. There’s even quick-release spring bars for easy changeability! On a whole, it’s definitely one of the better straps that I’ve encountered in this price point.
Last but not least, there’s even Swiss Superluminova C3 on hands, dial markings, and bezel markings of the TACS AVL II! It’s not the brightest, but it’s there if you ever find yourself needing to tell the time in the darkness.
All in all, I’m satisfied with the specifications of the TACS AVL II. There’s sapphire crystal, a Miyota skeletonised movement, 100M WR rating, a quality Horween leather strap and even Swiss Superluminova C3 present – not much to complain about!
TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II – Design
Nevertheless, no one is going to buy the TACS AVL II for its specifications. Instead, the USP (unique selling point) of the watch is its camera inspired design.
In case it isn’t evident, the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II is modelled after the lens of a camera. Visually, the watch is stunning. The watch really does look like a camera, especially when viewed straight on. It is clear that the TACS team has devoted a ton of effort into capturing the essence of a rangefinder camera in a wristwatch package. I love how the watch incoporates its play on shapes – a circle within a square, which is in turn contained in multiple circles. The fish-eye sapphire crystal is unique too, providing a visual distortion that is in line with its photography theme. It’s an effect that I personally have not seen before in previous watches, so I applaud TACS for their innovation. There’s also a considerable amount of depth in the dial due to its multiple layers, the bottommost of which is skeletonised, allowing one to glimpse the Miyota mechanical movement underneath. Given the mechanical nature of rangefinder cameras, it’s a smart execution that again pays homage to traditional photography.
Furthermore, the white printed text on the outer edges of the dial is reminiscent of the specifications one finds on an actual camera lens. It’s clear that TACS went all out in their attempt to evoke the silhouette of a camera lens – just put the watch next to one (as I did in the photo above), and you might be hard-pressed to tell the difference. However, while the scattered printed numerals are stylistically cool, they actually hinder the watch’s practicality. There’s no minute track on the dial, and at times I did struggle with reading time accurately. Legibility can be an issue too, especially in low light conditions.
The camera inspiration of the TACS AVL II extends to the bezel too. There’s a bi-directional rotating bezel on the watch. The bezel is sterile, so don’t expect any clicks as you might on a dive watch. To be honest, there’s little practical purpose to the bezel – you can’t use it to tell elapsed time or read a second-time zone. Instead, it’s another nod to photography, whereby the bezel rotates just like how a photographer would adjust a camera lens. Again, if you’re a photography enthusiast, this is a detail that you will definitely appreciate.
There are different case variants of the TACS AVL II available, but my pick of the lot would be the Dark Metal one shown above. The reason is simple – most cameras, especially the lens, are black. As such, a blacked-out watch best evokes the image of a camera. Furthermore, the blacked-out colourway has a nice stealthy vibe to it. It looks a little more “hipster” if you will. There’s a unique serial number plate screwed to the side too. Customers can also choose to personalise their timepiece (up to 10 characters) for an additional $19 USD.
On the side, we get a screw-down crown that is neatly signed with the TACS logo. The crown itself is appropriately sized, making hand-winding the watch a breeze. In addition, tucked beside the crown is a design cue based on a camera loop. Once again, it’s another feature that further enhances the camera inspired aesthetics of the watch.
At 47mm wide, the TACS AVL II is a big watch. Though that might sound imposing, the short lugs of the watch render the watch sufficiently wearable. Still, I consider the AVL II to be at the very maximum of what my 7-inch wrist can accommodate. It’s also quite bulky at 16mm wide – this is one that will definitely not fit under a shirt cuff. If you have a smaller wrist, or simply a preference for smaller watches, you might want to look elsewhere. I should also point out that the AVL II is pretty hefty, and will definitely make its presence known on the wrist.
Overall, the TACS AVL II is an intelligently designed watch that pays homage to the world of mechanical photography. Its camera inspiration is evident throughout almost every aspect of the watch. My only qualm is the large size of the watch, which may alienate those with smaller wrists. Personally, I would have preferred the watch to be a tad smaller at 45mm, and ideally less than 15mm thick – that would certainly have broadened its appeal.
Shootout: TACS AVL II vs TACS Vintage Lens
If you’re looking for a watch inspired by photography, available options are unfortunately few and far between. In fact, the best alternative to the TACS AVL II may be the brand’s very own Vintage Lens model, which retains most of the aesthetics of the AVL II.
In terms of specifications, the TACS Vintage Lens definitely pales in comparison to the AVL II. The AVL II is powered by an automatic Miyota 82S0 movement, while the Vintage Lens uses a Miyota 2036 quartz movement. The AVL II also features a unique fish-eye sapphire crystal, which is significantly more scratch-resistant than the hardened mineral glass of the Vintage Lens. The AVL II also has a higher 100M WR rating – twice that of the Vintage Lens. Indeed, the AVL II outperforms the Vintage Lens in almost every regard.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the TACS AVL II is also substantially more detailed than the Vintage Lens. For one, the dial of the AVL II is more layered, where the “aperture” of the dial reveals a skeletonised Miyota movement. There’s the lovely reflection/refraction of the uniquely shaped fish-eye sapphire crystal too. Furthermore, the bezel of the AVL II is finished to a higher degree. Finally, the case of the AVL II is forged out of multiple components and provide more visual intrigue as compared to the more simplistic case of the Vintage Lens.
The TACS AVL II is undeniably a better watch than the Vintage Lens, both in terms of its specifications and design. However, its near ~S$700 price tag may prove to be out of reach for photography enthusiasts who dare not fathom spending the equivalent of an entry-level camera body on a watch. That’s where the Vintage Lens comes in. For less than half the price of the AVL II, the TACS Vintage Lens retains most of the novelty factor that comes with the AVL II. If you just want a cool, funky watch that reflects your photography hobby, the Vintage Lens gets the job done for less money.
Conclusion – so the TACS AVL II “shiok” or not?
The TACS AVL II is a must-have for photography enthusiasts. The watch encapsulates the spirit of photography in every aspect of its design. It has solid specifications too, with good build quality that should last you quite some time. While it is not exactly inexpensive, the AVL II is still relatively affordable especially when you compare it to the likes of the Leica L1 and L2 watches. The biggest stumbling block (no pun intended) is probably the chunky 47mm case diameter of the watch. If you happen to be passionate about photography and have a preference for larger watches, then the TACS AVL II will be the perfect watch for you.
For those interested in purchasing the TACS AVL II, you can apply the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” upon checkout to enjoy 15% off all TACS watches store-wide. After the discount, the AVL II (in Dark Metal) would cost $416.50 USD/ ~S$565. Judging from the myriad of positive reviews online (I’ll link some down below), I’m definitely not alone in finding the AVL II to be one of the more unique watches I’ve reviewed thus far!
- Water Resistance: 10 ATM / 100 meters / 330 feet.
- Diameter: 47mm, excluding crown.
- Lug Width: 24mm.
- Height: 16mm.
- Case: 316L marine grade stainless steel with a dark gunmetal-colored finish, designed to look like a camera case.
- Case Back: Scratch resistant sapphire glass exhibition case-back with decorated movement plate.
- Dial Type: Three layer dial designed to look like a camera shutter, with inset skeletonized movement
- Dial Glass: Scratch resistant sapphire crystal in the shape of a fish-eye camera lens with anti-reflective coating.
- Bezel: Bidirectional free rotating bezel that mimics a camera lens movement, with camera lens markings.
- Lume: Swiss Super-Luminova C3 on hands, dial markings, and bezel markings.
- Straps Included: 1x 24mm Horween Leather strap
- Movement: 21 jewel Miyota 82S0 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 Wahsoshiok 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.