Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Watson Acme Camera

W. Watson & Sons [Ltd]

Name: Acme
Type: Field Camera
Manufacturer: W. Watson & Sons [Ltd.]
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: The Acme field camera is very well constructed of Spanish mahogany with dovetail joints and brass fittings (occasionally aluminium). The front panel clips into a pair of latches built into the baseboard and is then held in position by side stays.
Production Period: 1892 - 1940s

The Acme field camera is a very well constructed camera that was made over a remarkably long period with very few design changes (see Notes below). It is constructed of Spanish mahogany with brass fittings (and occasionally aluminium as became fashionable during the 1890s in particular). These cameras are usually equipped with a turntable although some early models may have a solid base with a tripod bush. The standard model has square section, double extension tapered bellows.

The camera was made in a variety of standard sizes ranging from plate through to 15" x 12", based on contemporary advertisements.

An Improved version was introduced some time in the early 1900s alongside the standard model. This had triple extension, an improved rising front and a revised layout for the slider for the rear section (the slotted brass track is on the top face of the baseboard rather than its side).

The camera normally carries a name plate identifying the maker, but does not identify it as an Acme.

Plate / Film Size: 1/1 plate (whole plate)
Lens: Watson 8 x 6 R.R., Iris setting f/8. Serial 4843
Shutter: T-P Time & Instantaneous (fixed to lens panel)
Movements: Rising front, tilting front; tilting back with limited swing. Reversing back. Rotating turntable in base
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1905
Serial Number: Serial 11402 on underside on the base of the rear assembly.  The serial is also stamped into the side of the three matching DDS.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 495

Image of Watson Acme Field Camera

Description

The Watson Acme field camera is a very attractive camera, with a full range of movement (front and rear tilt, rising front). The Watson name plate is fitted to the lens standard below the lens. This records the manufacturer name as "W. Watson & Sons".

The camera has square section double extension maroon, square section taper bellows, which are in very good condition. The camera is fitted with spiral racks and twisted pinions, introduced in 1895 but still identified as a feature of the camera in advertising in the 1900s.

The large Thornton-Pickard shutter may well be a retrofit to the camera as the manner in which it is screwed onto the front panel is not consistent with the quality of workmanship one might expect of Watsons! However, the lens mounted on the shutter may well be the original. The lens is marked with serial number 4843. The lens has an original leather cap.

The base carries a lockable rotating tripod mount. This example does not incorporate brass binding on the base (compare with the example below).

The camera came with 3 matching DDS (all carry the same serial number).

~ # ~ # ~

Plate / Film Size: plate
Lens: Watson Holostigmat Series I, 7 in, Iris setting (dual marked for 7" & 12" focal lengths). Serial 388
Shutter: Thornton-Pickard Time & Instantaneous (to fit on front of lens)
Movements: Rising front, tilting front; tilting back with limited swing. Reversing back. Rotating turntable in base
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1900
Serial Number: Serial 10640 on underside of baseboard.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 471

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This example of the Watson Acme is in the smallest and most common plate size. As with the previous example, the maker is identified on a name plaque as "W. Watson & Sons" and therefore dates to before 1908 when they became a Limited company.

The lens may not be original - the mounting ring screws are not neatly installed. However it is an early Watson lens. The lens is marked with serial number 388. The Lens Vade Mecum [10] identifies this series as starting in 1901 but does not give any further evidence that helps with a date. Presumably this is a convertible lens (7", 12"); the front and rear elements are both marked 12". The lens has an original leather cap.

The base carries a rotating tripod mount and brass binding strips. These are identified as optional extras during the 1890s in Channing and Dunn [2]. The 1895 advert in Photographic Advertising from A-Z [8, Volume Two, p377] does not show the brass binding.

The camera came with an original leather case and 3 DDS. The Thornton-Pickard shutter appears to be intact, but the inner ring has dried out so it will not fit over the lens. It has its original bulb actuator, which is also dry but intact.

Notes

I am engaged in some research into cameras made by W. Watson & Sons in order to try and establish some guidance on likely manufacturing date based upon the serial number. This is in fact quite difficult to do currently as many patterns of Watson cameras were made for very long periods with few significant design changes.

If you have a Watson camera, then I would be grateful if you could provide me with further information about your camera, even if it is not serialised. Please refer to the Watson Research Project page for further information.