Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

The "Argus" Camera

W. Watson & Sons

Name: Argus
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Manufacturer: W. Watson & Sons
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Wooden bodied, leather covered box with integral mirror assembly and focal plane shutter. Folding focusing hood, with cover hinged on rear edge (see notes). Square section parallel bellows with rack and pinion focussing.
Production Period: 1904 - ?


Plate / Film Size: ¼ plate
Lens: Holostigmat Series I, F=6½", f6.5 (serial number 1364)
Shutter: Focal Plane Shutter, speeds to 1/1200 sec
Movements: Rising front, reversible back
Dimensions (w x h x l): 15 x 19 x 15cm (closed, excluding dark slide and lens)
Date of this Example: c1907
Serial Number: Serial 14150 on underside
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 627


ClicPic Photos copyright © 2014 David Purcell. Do not use without permission.
Click small picture to enlarge.   ClicPic Gallery Software.


The Argus camera is a reflex camera in ¼ plate size, finished in finest Morocco leather and built of Spanish mahogany according to an advert in the 1907 BJPA, and seasoned for many months "and guaranteed to withstand any climatic influence".

The camera carries a rectangular label above the lens panel that identifies both the camera name explicitly and the maker. The label is for W Watsons & Sons, with no "Ltd" so therefore presumably was made before 1908. Refer to the Notes below for more information.

The camera has black square section parallel bellows, operated by rack and pinion. The advertising makes much of the fact that the rack and pinion is operated from the opposite side of the camera to all the shutter controls.

The camera came with a McKenzie Wishart Daylight slide mounted on the reversible back.


There is conflicting information about the date the Argus reflex camera was introduced and the production period, but it appears that it might have been advertised initially in 1904 but more widely from 1905. It does not appear in the 1904 BJA, but is advertised in the 1905 edition as "Watson's new reflex camera". The 1907 BJA carries a 4 page description of the camera as part of the standard Watson advertisement block, suggesting that it must have been introduced comparatively recently. By 1912 their advertising features the Perspect reflex camera and the Argus is not mentioned, and it seems possible that the Argus was phased out of production when the slightly more advanced Perspect was introduced.

The 1905 BJA shows a line drawing of the Argus camera where it is very evident that the cover for the reflex hood is hinged along the front edge. The 1907 BJA shows a completely different line drawing but as with the earlier drawing, the hinge line is along the front edge of the cover. The 1909 BJA has a different drawing again, but now the hinge for the hood is along the rear edge of the cover, which matches the pattern on my example of the Argus reflex camera.

That suggests to me that my example dates to late 1907 or early 1908, shortly before Watsons became a limited company. It would be interesting to find an example of an earlier pattern of the camera with the hinge for the reflex hood cover along the front edge.

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.