Many of my readers probably don’t know that I worked as a professional photographer for some time and left that job about 5 years ago and started to work in a watch related company. But since that photography has always stayed in my heart and from time to time I go out on a photo walk with friends around the city to shoot some photos. I especially like old film cameras like USSR’s made Zenit or an Old 70s Canon and even an old Polaroid. They just have that great build quality that most of the newer cameras lack like the materials used in old cameras like genuine leather, steel, aluminium etc. are all materials that will last for may years while the plastic cameras we get now are made from cheap plastic and don’t look that good nowadays. Why am I telling you that? Well if a photography and old cameras are close to your heart you will like the watch I’m going to show you as much as I do!
Today we have a Tacs AVL II (Automatic Vintage Lens II) for a review! And ever since I discovered this company I always wanted to try this watch! And now we finally have a chance to look at one! Tacs or as they are also called Tacs-Image is a small Japanese company and was founded by Motegi San. His vision was to make timepieces that captured the essence of unique ideas, turning them into a thought-provoking designs that looked appealing while remaining functional. Before the camera inspired watch AVL II and it’s smaller brother “Nato” they were basically making minimalistic fashion watches, but it seems that they have found their niche with vintage camera inspired watches. The AVL II consists of 3 watches on bracelet (black PVD, black faux-patina PVD and bare stainless steel) and 3 watches on a leather strap (Gold colour and two bare stainless steel ones). I chose the one on a bracelet in bare stainless steel. But Tacs were super cool and thrown in also a leather strap and a couple of accessories.
When the watch arrived, in all honesty I was blown away by the box and all the accessories. Let’s start with the accessories. Tacs sent me the watch and there were also 3 smaller boxes. In one we have a Horween leather strap which was cool and the strap is really good btw, but about that we will talk later. Then we have a lens pen, at first I thought “what could it be?” and actually it is a real lens pen, just like you have for your camera to clean the lens, actually this is very handy if you are a photographer as I think you will rarely use it to clean the watches crystal, haha. And in the third package we have a link removal tool which actually is pretty good, even my watchmaker said that it would be something he would use if his Bergeon tools weren’t accessible. And of course the watch! The box it comes in is a pretty small one, but built really good, it is heavy, made from wood and with stainless steel and lather details. Definitely is one of my favourite watch boxes of all time and the most creative one too! The first impressions were wow! The watch looks and feels really good! The build quality and everything super cool! And one of my favourite things is the leather protector case it comes wrapped in, it looks just like an lens cap for an old camera. You can take it off completely and wear the watch without it, or leave it on and whenever you need to check the time, you can flip it open and check the time. The one thing that maybe I dislike is the size, it is a pretty big watch!
The Tacs AVL II has a more or less square case, on top of which is mounted a 47mm diameter “lens”. The case is made of 316L stainless steel and is really well machined! The case diameter is 47mm, the thickness is 16mm (19mm with lens cap on) and from lug to lug it measures at 52mm. The watch is really big and may not fit most of wrists, but on my 18cm wrist I think it is the biggest I can wear without looking like I wear wall clock on my wrist! The case itself is really well finished with brushed finishing, with a solid-feeling knurled screw down crown, a display case-back revealing the uninspiring but reliable Miyota 8-series movement and a nice screwed-on plate with the serial number or an inscription of your choosing. The bezel action is great, it’s not your traditional “clicking” watch bezel but instead a smooth-turning action with just the right amount of resistance to feel like focusing an old-fashioned camera. The sapphire crystal is stunning, like a real lens it has a slight internal “double-dome” which I imagine is really hard and expensive to make. On the case back we have also a sapphire crystal, just flat! Also one of my favourite parts are the wooden inlays on top of the case and on the back. I like when companies use other materials with steel, especially wood as steel is cold and wood is a warm material which works well together. Usually, I’d be critical of these “gimmicky” touches like printing the diameter of the watch or the beats per hour (BPH) of the watch on the case, but with the AVL II all of these touches actually add to the charm of the piece. The case s water resistant up to 100m (10ATM), I believe it would be safe to swim, because of how well the case is built and the screw down crown, but better don’t try it! In my opinion the construction is as solid as a watch costing ten times the asking price and I was really blown away by the small details on the case! Oh and did I mention that the watch is Made in Japan? Yes, it is made in Japan and it is a rarity in microbrands, I have only had 2 other watches Made in Japan in for reviews and they all were well made, just like this one!
Now we come to the, or a no dial so to speak of – instead, the hands float over a semi-skeletonised section in the centre and a series of concentric rings. It really does look like a camera lens, even if the markings make it quite hard to distinguish the hours. Likewise, the hands are black and silver and they blend into the case. There is no lume to help pick them out which is a shame, as that makes telling the time really difficult – especially at a glance. On the flip side, telling the time hardly seems to be the point of this particular watch in my opinion and I would call the whole watch a one big “gimmick” for photo/video enthusiasts, which I can’t say is a bad thing at all, haha!
Tacs chose the Miyota 82S0 movement to power the AVL II. The movement beats at 21600 VPH, with 42 hours of power reserve. Unfortunately, the movement does not hack, though it does hand-wind. At this price point, the inclusion of the Miyota 82S0 movement is actually a surprise as many watches at this price point sometimes even us Sellita movements, but I guess I understand why?! They probably spent most of the budget on the case, packaging and mainly on the sapphire crystals, and making sure everything works well together and seems like the lower end Miyota was their only choice to put in here, but I wish they chose at least the 9 series movement from Miyota. I’m usually not a fan of the Miyota 8 series movement due to the loud rotor, but here due to the thick case and well made materials you don’t hear it at all. The accuracy on this one was around +15 to +17 seconds a day.
My example came with a stainless steel bracelet. The bracelet is pretty good with solid links, milled clasp, quick release spring bars and a decent finishing. The problems are that it doesn’t have endlinks that form to case and the links are held together with push pins. Also a problem, at least for me is that the bracelet makes the watch wear a lot bigger and it already is a big watch. The bracelet tapers from 24mm at lugs to 22mm at clasp. So if you are considering to get this watch I would suggest getting it with leather strap! As you can see Tacs also sent me a leather strap to test it with the watch and it actually came in a really cool leather pouch. The strap they sent me a thick Horween brown leather strap with stitching. The strap is realy good, if a strap is made from Horween leather it will always be really well made, it will be super supple despite the big thickness and the leather has this soft, buttery feel to it. The first keeper is made of stainless steel and has the strap specification engraved on it and the tang style buckle is also signed just with Tacs logo. The strap is pretty thick, but makes the watch wear a bit smaller and makes it more comfortable too.
Overall I really like this watch and I’m not saying that because of a free watch or because I love photography that much, I just really think this is a cool watch and designers went crazy with the design. I really love when a company experiments with designs and I love these type of watches more if it is executed really well, and this one is really thought out and well deigned piece that not only looks good, but also is functional in a way! I also bet you won’t find such an interesting piece for the money that is Made in Japan and with this level of finishing.