TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II

When I reviewed the first TACS Automatic Vintage Lens (AVL), I concluded that it was an enjoyable design exercise and the perfect camera lover’s watch, but perhaps not a watch lover’s watch. TACS has since revised the watch, further enhancing its camera connection. They gave me an AVL II for this review.

The changes from AVL to AVL II are more cosmetic than structural. While the case is all new, it has the same boxy shape and hefty dimensions as the original. As it says on the lens ring, the AVL II is whopping 47mm wide (46.6 to be precise), over 51mm long and 16mm thick. All the key elements remain, two-tone camera body decoration, rotating focus ring, strap loop crown guard, and most importantly, the multi-layered fisheye sapphire lens that is so convincing you may be genuinely disappointed to learn that the AVL II does not, in fact, take photographs.


As you peer through the lens’ aperture, you will see the 21-jewel Miyota 82S0 automatic toling beneath. It is decorated with Geneva stripes and a skeletonized rotor, but you will get a better view of these through the display case back. I’d consider the AVL II more of a fashion watch than a tool watch, but it is good to know it is water resistant to 100m. 


The most obvious change is the color, now a businesslike brushed stainless steel as opposed to the original gold PVD, which goes far to make the watch’s case look more like a camera body, as does the engraved AVL model name in the top right corner and the line detail across the bottom. No surface is left undecorated: the TACS logo lives between the bottom lugs, the movement’s beat rate (“BPH 21600”) is on the right side, there is a serial number plate on the left side, and if you like, TACS will engrave your own message on that flank too. 

To my eye, the most improved aspect is the case back. Gone is the odd collection of dissimilar screws in favor or four evenly spaced and of the same size, and the back now has the same dark, striated insert as the front




Changes that enhance the AVL II’s watch functions are notably fewer. The bezel and crown now both share an attractive and grippy knurled pattern. The bezel insert has a new red pip, which finally gives the bidirectional friction bezel a purpose. Like the old model, the markings on the inner ring mimic distance scales and correspond with measurements of time, but they are only slightly less random than those on the original. The two-tone baton handset returns, showing silver over the black surfaces and black over the silver, but oversll readability is just as poor on the new watch as it was on the old, and there is still no lume anywhere, making the watch impossible to read in any low-light setting.


TACS supplies a thick, 24mm Horween leather strap that shows a pronounced pull-up effect, adding a lived-in vintage touch. It terminates in a 22mm signed buckle. Quick release pins are a welcome addition but the most stricking change is a brushed stainless keeper, perforated and engraved with the strap’s dimensions. It is, frankly, a weird choice. Steel keepers look rugged, but serve little purpose except to scratch things you might casually rest your wrist against and “24x22 Horween” really isn’t information I need emblazoned anywhere.


Just like before, the packaging is excellent, consisting of a neatly finished wooden box with a warranty card the size of a 35mm slide (remember slides?) and tucked into a little cardboard sleeve. The watch itself arrives shrouded with a protective leather lens cap. These are clever touches that make the watch’s initial presentation special.


All in all, my take on the version II is similar to that of the original. TACS has done a masterful job of replicating the look and feel of an old analog single lens reflex camera - even more faithfully than the original watch - but has sacrificed some practical wristwatch functions in the process. Alas, that is perhaps the price of fashion. As for the price of the watch, you can pre-order one now for $440 USD at http://www.tacs-image.com/products/avl2.
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