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ScottPhotoCo
27-Jul-2013, 19:58
Good afternoon all! I just wanted to share some information on a camera that was given to me today as a surprise part of a previous purchase.

I posted previously about a Folmer Graflex copy/duplicating camera that I picked up (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?105598-Oops-I-did-it-again). As it has a huge stand I was unable to pick it up the day I purchased it. Today I went back to pick it up and there was a leather box sitting with it that "went with the camera". I peeked inside and saw some film holders and added it to the pile in the back of the van.

When I arrived home I started looking at the contents and was surprised to see a camera in the leather box. It has a tag on it that says:
W. Watson & Sons LTD
Manufacturers
313 High Holborn
London

This thing was DUSTY. I finally figured out how to open it (it's totally different from any of my other cameras) and cleaned it up and began exploring. First, it is in amazing condition. It seems to have been used little if any from the condition of everything. The bellows have a few corner holes that I will repair but look almost new in shine and pliability. It has a built in curtain shutter that needs a good cleaning but still functions, albeit very sporadically.

I believe that this was built in the late 1800's but I have not confirmed that yet. As I began looking at features and craftsmanship I am completely blown away at the thought and quality of this camera. It has front rise, fall and shift as well as rear tilt and swing. Granted, the movements are limited but amazing in their engineering and build. The quality and build of the wood frames is incredible and the brass(?) parts are in amazing shape. The back can be removed and turned to accommodate either portrait or landscape orientations.

Size wise this is similar in size to my 8x10 cameras. It is full plate and came with 3 plate/film holders. This is another thing that completely blew my mind. The functionality and build of each of the holders is beyond anything I have ever seen. Each holder side is numbered with an inlay that looks like white/ivory material with black numbers. These holders have four clasps on the outside that allow the entire holder to fold open clamshell-style to reveal the internals. It has two inserts that look like film sleeves that are removable (i'm guessing) to allow a plate to be used as well. These holders are built very solidly and have a few other really interesting features. First, the darkslides have a safety mechanism which requires you to pinch a little metal tab in order to be able to pull the slide. Second, the darkslides cannot be completely removed but stop at the fully open position. One of the little details that really surprised me is that the darkslide, when fully open was built to bend out of the way by means of a hidden, interlocking series of cuts in the wood that allow it to bend. This is so well constructed that you would never notice it unless you were expressly looking for it. Unbelievable. Lastly, the holders have a very interesting way of mounting to the back by unlatching the ground glass which then swings out of the way to allow a very well thought out way to safely mount your holder. The holders have ridges on the sides similar to some of the old Graflex film holders. You simply set one side of the holder about 2/3rds of the way in and slide it about an inch sideways and it literally locks into place with a click. To release the holder there is a button that allows you to release and remove the holder the same way that you put it in.

There are many other little details to this camera that I can't even begin to detail but I can say that the engineering and attention to detail is better than almost anything I've ever encountered.

I have attached a few really bad photos just to share but I thought you might enjoy seeing what I'm talking about. If you know anything else about this camera or maker I'd love to know as much as possible.

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co

99388993899939099391

ScottPhotoCo
27-Jul-2013, 19:59
A few more...

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IanG
28-Jul-2013, 06:01
Very nice, the Watson were available for many years, these tail board versions were often sold to government department and the military. They were made up until about 1960.

Ian

Tin Can
28-Jul-2013, 06:50
I wrote before I read, I was so excited to see this masterpiece.

The upper switch must be the holder lock!

I see the front shift and rise, but what is that in the upper left of the rear camera opening? Looks like a switch?

And the lens board hooks were copied by Galvin.

Very nice original condition!

Nice camera!

IanG
28-Jul-2013, 07:40
It's a Watson "Premiere" Square Bellows Camera introduced in 1883, and checking the company's adverts they were still made along with the TP shutters in the late 1950's by 1955 only Half plate though. The company were at that address from 1861-1940, then 1946 untilwhen they ceased trading somewhere around 1958-60.

The 1950's Watson cameras still took British book form plate/film holders, and the cameras & shutters look the same as those made many years earlier. Contrary to the Earlyphotography.co.uk website the Company traded as W. Waton & Sons Ltd from 1908-late 1950's.

Ian

Steven Tribe
28-Jul-2013, 12:12
I understand your excitment. Earlyphotography.co.uk is your best source, in spite of the error Ian found, for information and photos about this and the near relatives. The basic design is standard for both UK and Continental (1/2, 1/1 plate and 13x18cm and 18x24cm) Tailboard designs- unless they have the rotating bellows system. Book type holders are unbelievably well-made.

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 13:07
Thanks Ian! Super helpful.

Now that I know what it is I'll try to find a date for it. There a a few corner holes in the bellows that I'll repair and then make some images. :)

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co



It's a Watson "Premiere" Square Bellows Camera introduced in 1883, and checking the company's adverts they were still made along with the TP shutters in the late 1950's by 1955 only Half plate though. The company were at that address from 1861-1940, then 1946 untilwhen they ceased trading somewhere around 1958-60.

The 1950's Watson cameras still took British book form plate/film holders, and the cameras & shutters look the same as those made many years earlier. Contrary to the Earlyphotography.co.uk website the Company traded as W. Waton & Sons Ltd from 1908-late 1950's.

Ian

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 13:14
I will definitely take some time and explore that site. So much to learn. :)

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co


I understand your excitment. Earlyphotography.co.uk is your best source, in spite of the error Ian found, for information and photos about this and the near relatives. The basic design is standard for both UK and Continental (1/2, 1/1 plate and 13x18cm and 18x24cm) Tailboard designs- unless they have the rotating bellows system. Book type holders are unbelievably well-made.

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 13:17
Randy,

The switch at the top of the GG holder is a release for the film/plate holder. You have to press the release to remove the holder. Amazing details on this thing.

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co


I wrote before I read, I was so excited to see this masterpiece.

The upper switch must be the holder lock!

I see the front shift and rise, but what is that in the upper left of the rear camera opening? Looks like a switch?

And the lens board hooks were copied by Galvin.

Very nice original condition!

Nice camera!

IanG
28-Jul-2013, 13:52
Thanks Ian! Super helpful.

Now that I know what it is I'll try to find a date for it. There a a few corner holes in the bellows that I'll repair and then make some images. :)

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co

You might struggle to narow the date down much because the cameras didn't reallychange over a long period except for special orders, the harware is standard for a few makes, I've copies of 2 catalogues of brass camera hardware but there were a few manufacturers.

earlyphotography.co.uk is an excellent website, by far the best of its type but there's many cameras not listed. No-one has really done histories of individual British camera makers in detail looking at their full model range over their entire history.

It doesn't help that there was a lot of inter-trading/sub-contracting between British manufacturers so your Watson is near identical to a similar Gandolfi or Perken.

You can have high res a scan of a Watson advert for your camera, photo & a price list, if you want. They key part is the fact it has the Limited company badge which makes it 1908 or later.

I think perhaps US field cameras have a greater following because most can use modern film holders but apart from UK made Kodaks and later Gandolfi most of the UK wood & brass cameras use bookform or similar non standard plate/film holders so most haven't been used for many years.

Many of us find it amazing that cameras taking book form holders were still being made in the UK after WWII and the modern International standards and sold by Watson and Gandolfi.

Ian

Tin Can
28-Jul-2013, 14:02
Concerning camera change over a century.

England was not known for progress in manufacturing. Witness their motorcycle and auto industries that failed to change almost anything for the better.

I used to collect and restore BSA, Norton, Matchless and sometimes Triumph motorcycles from the 60's, for 40 years until last year when I quit and started with LF.

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 14:50
You can have high res a scan of a Watson advert for your camera, photo & a price list, if you want. They key part is the fact it has the Limited company badge which makes it 1908 or later.

Ian

Ian,

Are these at the site you suggested?

IanG
28-Jul-2013, 15:16
Ian,

Are these at the site you suggested?

No the adverts are in some of my books so I'd be scanning them specifically for you.




Concerning camera change over a century.

England was not known for progress in manufacturing. Witness their motorcycle and auto industries that failed to change almost anything for the better.

I used to collect and restore BSA, Norton, Matchless and sometimes Triumph motorcycles from the 60's, for 40 years until last year when I quit and started with LF.

Same can be said about US manufcaturers as well :) countries that lose wars tend to do better because they have to start again which was why the German and then the Japanese camera industries became pre-dominant, and Italian, German & Jpanese motor bike.

On a more topical note the early Japanese field cameras were derived from British design, the US had made some British style field cameras early on but customers seemed to prefer US style cameras.

IAn

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 15:43
No the adverts are in some of my books so I'd be scanning them specifically for you.

IAn

That would be awesome! Let me know what I can do to repay your kindness. :)

Racer X 69
28-Jul-2013, 15:44
http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=99388&d=1374980271

Very interesting how the craftsman who built it made the effort to align the slots of all the screws.

Nice.

ScottPhotoCo
28-Jul-2013, 23:09
Very interesting how the craftsman who built it made the effort to align the slots of all the screws.

Nice.

The entire build seems to have that attention to detail. I certainly haven't seen that attention to detail and craftsmanship on anything new today.

Tim

IanG
29-Jul-2013, 00:20
Don't forget that TP shutter allows inter-changable lenses, the front board/flange and lens is removable. You can easily make some matchg new boards if required.

This quality of finish and the screw alignment is quite common with the better made British wood & brass cameras.

Ian

phil laycock
29-Jul-2013, 02:20
All Watson cameras have a serial number on the base. David Purcell (redbellows.co.uk) has been compiling a list of them for some time. If you contact him he can tell you the age of the camera while adding the number his list. Welcome to the glorious world of British Brass & Mahogany. Regards, Phil.

ScottPhotoCo
29-Jul-2013, 13:52
Don't forget that TP shutter allows inter-changable lenses, the front board/flange and lens is removable. You can easily make some matchg new boards if required.

This quality of finish and the screw alignment is quite common with the better made British wood & brass cameras.

Ian

Thanks Ian. The lens board with the shutter is quite small so I'll probably just leave it alone. I may, however, build another complete front sliding board should I wish to try other options here. :)

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co

ScottPhotoCo
29-Jul-2013, 13:52
All Watson cameras have a serial number on the base. David Purcell (redbellows.co.uk) has been compiling a list of them for some time. If you contact him he can tell you the age of the camera while adding the number his list. Welcome to the glorious world of British Brass & Mahogany. Regards, Phil.

Phil,

Sent him an email. We'll see what comes of it. :)

Tim
www.ScottPhoto.co

Cesar Barreto
29-Jul-2013, 14:17
Years ago I bought a big 11x14' Watson & Son camera and also have always been amazed about the high level of craftmanship, but unfortunately never managed to have it restored, since it's bellow is completely torn and the back is suited for plates and should be replaced. It wouldn't be so dificult to fix those things if the camera wasn't so gourgeous and if any atempt to keep the same quality wouldn't cost me both legs.

Andrew Plume
4-Aug-2013, 02:14
All Watson cameras have a serial number on the base. David Purcell (redbellows.co.uk) has been compiling a list of them for some time. If you contact him he can tell you the age of the camera while adding the number his list. Welcome to the glorious world of British Brass & Mahogany. Regards, Phil.

welcome to this forum Phil

best

andrew

Andrew Plume
4-Aug-2013, 02:15
I understand your excitment. Earlyphotography.co.uk is your best source, in spite of the error Ian found, for information and photos about this and the near relatives. The basic design is standard for both UK and Continental (1/2, 1/1 plate and 13x18cm and 18x24cm) Tailboard designs- unless they have the rotating bellows system. Book type holders are unbelievably well-made.

as Steven has said the earlyphotography site is best for a number of reasons, probably way too many, imo it's an outstanding resource

regards

andrew

Steven Tribe
4-Aug-2013, 02:39
Years ago I bought a big 11x14' Watson & Son camera and also have always been amazed about the high level of craftmanship, but unfortunately never managed to have it restored, since it's bellow is completely torn and the back is suited for plates and should be replaced. It wouldn't be so dificult to fix those things if the camera wasn't so gourgeous and if any atempt to keep the same quality wouldn't cost me both legs.

Dear Cesar!
This is a very poor excuse, unless you are lacking any plate holders! They can be converted easily to take modern sheet film - and you can choose your own format - 11x14 or less, of course.
I think this kind of "locking screws" at the top of the front standards are mostly on cameras designed to be used as process/copy cameras and are perhaps from the 1880's rather than later. But the lack of movements will not detract from real use for many subjects.

Andrew Plume
4-Aug-2013, 02:57
Years ago I bought a big 11x14' Watson & Son camera and also have always been amazed about the high level of craftmanship, but unfortunately never managed to have it restored, since it's bellow is completely torn and the back is suited for plates and should be replaced. It wouldn't be so dificult to fix those things if the camera wasn't so gourgeous and if any atempt to keep the same quality wouldn't cost me both legs.

Hi Cesar

from what I can see, the bellows do not seem to be a complete write off................

you can easily patch up the holes with some good quality black duck tape

good luck and regards

andrew

Cesar Barreto
4-Aug-2013, 05:14
Hi, Steve.

Unfortunately, living in Brazil makes some sort of things almost prohibitive, not just for taxes, but also for bureaucracy at customs. Richard Ritter, for instance, asked for $350 on a new bellows (and yes I'd need to replace as it can be seen on the next picture), which would be charged over 60% at customs, including shipping cost. And things get worst when we break the U$500 barrier and considering the total cost for adapting the back and a pair of 11x14' holders, for sure I'd break the bank for allowing this camera to be back at work again.
And it's also a PITA, as you say, to send things abroad for repairing, since one has to register it first at customs to avoid paying importing taxes twice and those guys are quite unpredictable on how they charge photo equipment. Years ago I bought an 8x10' Kodak D2 camera for some $400 and they didn't even openned the box to charge me over $600 saying it was an "eletronical device". I had to send it back to customs office with a letter explaining the those things didn't exist back at 1890 and also attach a photo showing that it was actually made on wood.

I don't quite agree that this camera could have been designed as process or copy device, since it's so light and a little bit flimsy. It seems to be a great outdoors camera, perfect for a backpack project, at least when I managed to fix those problems.

Thanks for all,

Cesar B.

IanG
4-Aug-2013, 05:34
You can make your own bellows, it's not difficult, material costs are low and so you can experiment first. There's plenty of articles and videos online.

Many make their own backs, there must be a good cabinet maker near you who could make either a conversion piece to accept modern film holders, or a complete new back. I know I can go ito a local cabinet makers here or in Turkey and get any camera part made to my specifications although I prefer to do it myself if I can.

Ian

Cesar Barreto
5-Aug-2013, 05:56
Hi, Ian.
I understand bellows can be made at home and also some wood work, if one has the necessary tools and skil, but as I said some posts ago, I respect the origin and the perfect craftmanship of those cameras and I wouldn't like to maculate it with some sort of improvisation, just to make it fit to field work again.
I guess maybe on Turkey it might be easier to find good cabinet workers, after all you have been doing this for almost 4000 years, while here in Brazil until few centuries ago we were just making bows and arrows. And playing soccer!