Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Watson Premier Tailboard Camera

W. Watson & Sons Ltd.

Name: Premier
Type: Tailboard
Manufacturer: W. Watson & Sons Ltd.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Mahogany and brass tailboard camera with brass binding. Square section parallel bellows. Rack and pinion focussing acting on the inner frame that extends to the rear. The rear panel is fixed to the baseboard by long through bolts that act on metal feet that clamp to the side rails.
Production Period: 1895 - 1950+ (see notes)

The camera was produced over a long period and there were many subtle and various changes to the design, though these are very difficult to date with any precision. (Refer to main text).

Plate / Film Size: ½ plate
Lens: Unmarked barrel lens, f8, with built in iris
Shutter: None
Movements: Rising & cross front, tilting back
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1950?
Serial Number: Serial 15509 on underside
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 433

<Photographs to be added>


The Watson Premier tailboard camera is an attractive brass bound tailboard camera, constructed of Honduran mahogany. The Watson name plate is fitted to lens standard. This records the manufacturer name as "W. Watson & Sons, Ltd".

The camera also has a brass effect transfer, shaped as a lion created out of the letters of the manufacturer's name on the top face of the rear section. As far as I can determine this appeared in advertising from the 1930s, although it had featured earlier in catalogues of microscope equipment.

This camera was made for an extensive period with little change to its design, confirmed by the advert in the BJPA of 1955!

The lens may not be original - the mounting ring is glued in place and appears to be smaller than an original mount (marking at a slightly larger diameter on the wooden panel).


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.

I have recently come across three examples of the Premier camera, all with late serial numbers in the 154xx range, that have markings of the form AP0553/83xx. The "AP" is an abbreviation for Admiralty Pattern. Some of the cameras bear other War Department markings such as the arrow head on lenses or other components. If you have an example that bears these markings, I would also be interested in hearing more about the camera.