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The Tacs AVL II is a classic watch conceived through the lens of a camera

While it’s easy to list brands that make beautiful watches, not everyone will be able to name beautiful cameras. But go and look at pictures of almost any vintage camera, anything made by Hasselblad or cameras made by Leica, to see just how stunning cameras can look. What happens when the two worlds collide? You get the utterly incredible Tacs Automatic Vintage Lens II, or AVL II.

This isn’t a smartwatch, or even a hybrid, but a celebration of some very geeky pleasures: Watches, cameras, and collecting. Created by Japanese brand Tacs and designed by Yoshiaki (Yoshi) Motegi, the AVL II is the sequel to a limited edition watch launched on Kickstarter in 2016. The timepiece sold out, but now those who missed out have the chance to buy a new 2018 version. We’ve had a close look ahead of the launch, and adore what we’ve seen.

Stunning design

Before we get started, this is about as far removed from a “novelty” designed watch as you can get. This isn’t a “looks a bit like a camera” watch. It’s a watch made using design aspects taken from cameras. Look at it as a whole and you can see the camera body, the lens, the camera’s eye, the focus ring, ISO marks, and a lot more. That’s all combined with how you expect a watch to look as well. There is an astonishing level of detail here, and all of it is subtle — nothing screams “tacky,” and instead it’s a wonderful balance of recognizable camera design traits, and the style of a desirable timepiece.

The bezel has a machined edge and turns like the focus ring on a camera. Look on the inside ring and, just like a camera lens, it shows the diameter of the watch face — 47mm in this case — and informs the wearer the watch has an automatic movement made with 21 jewels. Move further inside and rather than minutes and hours, there are just a few numbers noted down like ISO markings. The deeper you look, the more you see the different layers. It’s really stunning.

Right in the center is a glimpse of the skeletonized Miyota 82SO automatic movement, which is further revealed through a window on the back of the case. On the front dome, sapphire glass with an anti-reflective coating covers the face, resembling a fish-eye camera lens, and there are different layers here too, creating a magnified view from some angles. A flat sapphire glass panel covers the movement on the back.

The rear cover is screwed down, the case is made from 316L stainless steel, and a thick Horween leather strap secures the watch on your wrist.

Technology and wearability

In terms of technology, the automatic movement has a 40-hour power reserve, and the watch has water resistance to 100 meters. The crown screws into the body to keep it watertight, and the strap has a quick release mechanism to help change it. The second hand gives the watch face life, while the hour and minute hands are two tone and still easy to read despite being on a similarly-colored background.

The design makes a statement, and it’s definitely not for anyone afraid of getting stares.

The AVL II is comfortable to wear right from the start, with the thick leather strap quickly adapting to our wrist. It’s fairly heavy at 150 grams, and the case is deep at 15mm. No, it’s not going to easily fit under a cuff, but to do so would miss the point. This is a watch you’ll want to show off. The design makes a statement, and it’s definitely not for anyone afraid of getting stares. It’s also perhaps not the watch we’d wear to formal functions, but we do think it’s suitable for almost all other situations and outfits. It’s undeniably masculine, though.

Wearing it for the first time, two different people commented favorably on the Tacs AVL II. Neither said it was because it looked like a camera, it was because the style is so unique. We had to point out it shared a design with some cameras, which mean it’s clearly emphasized as a watch first, and an homage to cameras second. We expect that the AVL II, like the first model, will appeal to camera and watch fans equally.

Price and availability

The Tacs AVL II is unusual, stylish, individual, geeky, and eye-catching. We keep stealing glances at it on our wrist. You can register your interest with Tacs for the AVL II now, and it’s due for release on September 10, but we don’t know the price yet. The AVL 1 cost $450 during its Kickstarter campaign, so a similar price seems possible. The build quality, style, and uniqueness of the piece makes it worth this price, if the design appeals.

We’ll update this story and refine our thoughts when the price is officially confirmed, and after we’ve worn the watch for a longer period of time.

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