TACS Automatic Vintage Lens — hands-on review
After the SaStek review, I’m taking a closer look at another unusual watch and be warned, if you are a serious watch purist, and please note that I’m emphasising the serious part, maybe you should just continue browsing our more serious articles because the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens can’t be enjoyed without a good sense of humour.
Before developing a passion for watches, I was an ardent photographer, a hobby that I still enjoy practising, and when I saw some pictures of the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens on the Microband Watches Facebook group, I wanted to learn more about this watch that combines two of my passions. I first thought, OK, here is a new microbrand with a cool idea, preparing a Kickstarter campaign, but then I visited the TACS website, and I was surprised to discover a rich collection of quirky watches, where timekeeping is taking a backseat in favour of more playful ideas of watches inspired by everyday object. This is actually the main philosophy of Yoshiaki Motegi (Yoshi), the Japanese designer behind TACS. The brand has been around for a few years, they presented their first collection at Baselworld in 2010 and ever since then, TACS have been focusing their presence on the Asian market. The limited edition Automatic Vintage Lens is their first project that is aiming to reach a wider customer base and I have the feeling that this is why it is launched as a Kickstarter campaign.
The packaging is far from being high-end, but the design is outstanding — the humble cardboard boxes have been tweaked in a clever way, and they are decorated with minimum text using a beautiful typography. It is a fantastic example of Japanese packaging design: understated elegance and clever user-friendliness. As I opened the box, I was expecting to see the lens-shaped crystal of the watch, but instead, surprise, surprise, the “lens” had an old-school leather lens cap on it. If you never felt excited in the presence of a vintage rangefinder camera, I’m sure seeing my wrist shot with the lens cap on will make you raise your eyebrows in disapproval.
But this is a watch about having fun, I can’t see it, and I won’t recommend it as the main watch for anyone, for several reasons. First of all, at 47 mm x 16 mm this watch is huge, probably too big to many of you. Secondly, reading the time is a whole exercise on its own, the hands are hard to see and the numerals are printed so small, I had to get my reading glasses to see them. Even here, once I managed to read the small print on the dial, I discovered another example of Yoshi’s humour. These are the exact numerals: 4.6, SIX, 35, 42 43, 49 50 51, and 58. Because of their small type and their random position, they look more like aperture marks on a lens than numerals on a watch dial. The bi-directional rotating bezel serves no purpose, it will turn in a smooth way, mimicking a manual-focus lens.
Besides all these humorous features, there is a lot to like and to respect about the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens. The centre of the dial is reserved to a gold-plated skeletonized Miyota 8250, a reminder that this is not a quartz watch, but a limited edition automatic timepiece. By the way gold plating, I like the way TACS is using it by keeping the gold plated surfaces matt, it’s not that polished bling gold plating that low-end watches use, but it’s exactly the gold coating I would find on my Nikon lens. The only exception where the gold is on a polished surface is the hands, helping with their visibility, and the crown that I would have personally preferred to be matt. Black PVD is strategically used on the dial, the bezel and the case to highlight the lens-like features of the watch.
I left for the end the “lens” part of the watch, made from sapphire crystal. It is probably the most striking and absolutely original feature of this watch. I did not take it apart, so I can only guess, but it looks like that there are several layers of glass that give the illusion of a camera lens. The way it would let the light hit the dial, or it would reflect it back mirroring the surroundings, is very similar to a camera lens. While wearing the TACS Vintage Lens, I would look at my wrist and admire the optical spectacles, completely forgetting about the time. I can see the second hand turning and the escapement going back and forth, but I don’t care about the time, photography is all about freezing time.
The Automatic Vintage Lens is matched with a thick branded leather strap, another unmistakable hint at old-school photography, reminding me the strap of the thick leather bag I used to carry my photography gear around. The buckle is gold plated and it features the A from the TACS logo.
The TACS Automatic Vintage Lens is not the first watch that is paying homage to photography, there is also the Swiss Valbray known for its obturator-dial watches, but they cost thousands of dollars and they miss the cool lens-like crystal of TACS. Despite all its qualities, watch snobs will be hard to impress with TACS, but if you are photography fanatic, you will enjoy the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens for all it has to offer, not just as an homage to your hobby, but also as a carefully designed watch.
This is a limited edition model, TACS will make only 500 pieces of the Automatic Vintage Lens and you can order them as of today on Kickstarter. Early bird prices starting at $3,299 HKD (approximately $429 USD/$560 CAD), which is more than the usual price for a three-hands watch on Kickstarter, but you have to take into consideration that there is an awful lot of customization done on this piece and it has very little to do with the watches that were put together from off-the-shelf parts. Delivery is estimated for November, so if you are in Christmas shopping mood, the TACS Automatic Vintage Lens could be a cool gift for your favourite photography-nut.
TACS on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/2cywA6w