TACS was founded by Japanese designer Yoshiaki Motegi, wanting to create watches that tell a story and are rooted in lifestyle. The brand until a couple of years ago was not known outside Aisa, but a Kickstarter campaign
to raise funds for to introduce the Automatic Vintage Lens to the world created enough buzz that today more people are familiar with the playful universe of TACS. At the time, I had the pleasure to do a hands-on review of the limited edition Automatic Vintage Lens, a watch that really impressed me by its playful approach to watch design without compromising the attention to details and the quality of execution. The first Automatic Vintage Lens was limited to only 500 pieces that were quickly sold out. And now the timekeeping camera lens is back with new updated/upgraded specs, please welcome the AVL II.
Why would people wear watches these days? A topic we often discuss with TimeCaptain when we meet and many of his blog posts here will analyse this anachronistic phenomenon. I think that wearing watches is about being a rebel, it is a way of fighting back at this new pixelated world that invades our existence. Some people will take this rebellion even further, instead of taking pictures with their phone, they will capture special moments with a film camera. When I see a girl with a vintage rangefinder in her neck, she reminds me of my youth when I was a carefree photography student, roaming the streets with my camera, always keeping my eyes open, trying to create poetry with light. You can do that with your phone too, but only if your battery will last enough to take 24 pictures, without looking at them before you get home. A film camera will impose constraints, there is a limit to the number of exposures, just like a mechanical watch that has a limited power reserve. As humans, we can relate to these limits, our existence has its limits and our life is all about what we do with it within these limits.
You see, this is what the AVL II does to me, I look at it and I get carried away in nostalgia. For Motegi San, it’s mission accomplished, the AVL II tells a story. I’m sure it won’t be the same story for you, everyone will get a something else from the AVL II, you just have to open your soul to it.
In this review, I will do my best to write about all the tiny details that make the AVL II so special, but I’m afraid that there will be things that escaped my attention. Even after knowing the AVL and now spending a few weeks with the AVL II, I still discover something surprisingly new about it every day. There are watches that after a quick look you can tell that they were mass-produced, without any effort to innovate, without any love. And there are watches like the AVL II that were forged in the fire of love for the craft, fine examples of industrial design and watchmaking. If the AVL II is far from pretending to be a high-end watch, it is a superbly designed object and this is why I think fans of modern design should take a closer look at it.
Before we would get to the watch, the packaging, a laser engraved wooden box with metal inserts, will prepare you for all the excitement that will follow. It’s rare that I would post these many pictures of a box in a review, but this packaging deserves all the space I can give.
A big watch with a leather “lens cap”, I can tell you that it turns heads on the street. If you want a conversation started, you got it! At 47mm in diameter and 16mm high, it won’t go unnoticed. I have a small wrist, some might say it’s too small for a 47mm watch, but I don’t care because it feels awesome, the AVL II is a watch for rebels.
Take off the “lens cap” and the fun continues. You have the rotating bezel that reproduces the feeling of turning the aperture on a vintage camera. The dial is under several layers of sapphire crystal that give the impression of a wide angle lens. Reading the time is still challenging, this is not the purpose of this watch. Like a steampunk accessory, the AVL II is an instrument that became a work of art.
Almost anywhere you would turn the case, you will find a little engraving or an insert, a great way to use the generous space a watch with these proportions can offer. At first, it looks similar to the original AVL case but at a closer inspection, there are few subtle upgrades. One of the most obvious changes is that they left the stainless steel uncoated, which actually makes the AVL II look even more like a camera.
The watch is matched with a thick Camel Horween calf leather strap with a branded buckle and a gorgeous metal keeper that has the strap specifications engraved on it. How cool is this? A trivial component like a strap keeper is given attention and love.
The AVL II will retail for USD $550, but until October 13, the pre-order price is USD $440, or if you want to make it unique, for $459 it will be engraved with your message. As with the first AVL, there are lots of custom build components in this watch, it has nothing to do with watches put together from off-the-shelf parts. It is covered by two years warranty and international shipping is included in the price.
If you are a photography nerd, you will have a lot of fun with this watch and even if you won’t take your faithful rangefinder everywhere, at least you can have the TACS AVL II on your wrist as a reminder of the glory days of film photography. Or if you have among your loved ones someone bit by the photography bug who has all the gears in the world, the TACS AVL II is a great gift idea.
To pre-order it, go to www.tacs-image.com/products/avl2