Watson Alpha - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Watson Alpha

1892

W. Watson & Sons

London

England

Image of Watson Alpha

Lens:
f8, Watson Rapid Rectilinear, iris diaphragm to f64. Serial no. 4602 .

Shutter:
Thornton-Pickard T&I, speeds 1/15 - 1/90, T. Roller-blind. Disc speed indicator.

Construction:
Polished mahogany body, black leather square cornered bellows.

Format:
4" x 5" plates held in double dark-slides.

Focusing:
Bellows, scale to 5 yards. Double extension.

Identification:
Lens is reversed, diaphragm adjusted from inside bellows. Non-reversing back.

Movements:
Rising front, cross front, tilting back.

Serial Number:
1179 .

The Alpha is one of the earliest Hand & Stand cameras, it was shown at the Royal Photographic Society meeting on October 1892. The camera had a basic specification to which a number of extra features could be added, Watson used the model numbers of 1 and 2 but this seems to designate a standard configuration of extra features. Early, basic, models had a polished mahogany body with fold-down front and single extension pull-out front standard. To this could be added: double extension with rackwork, rising front, cross front and tilting back, the recommended lens was a Watson Rapid Rectilinear, a Thornton-Pickard roller-blind shutter was also recommended along with a viewfinder for waist or eye-level use. An unusual aspect of the Alpha was that the lens, on the standard configurations, was reversed being inside the bellows, the roller-blind shutter was mounted directly on the front standard. Presumably this arrangement meant that the camera body could be shorter but to change the aperture the lens had to be accessed from within the bellows. The camera had a horizontal aspect for landscape format it was turned on its side for vertical format photographs. Where a cross front was fitted the shutter was fixed to this sliding panel, on simple models without rise or cross movement the roller-blind shutter was attached to the front standard by hinged clips. Standard sizes were quarter-plate, 5" x 4" and half-plate, around 1895 9 x 12 cm and 18 x 13 cm were also available.

Around 1895 brass binding was offered, aluminium fittings could also be used rather than brass and the camera could be leather covered in which case the metal work was bronzed (a common finish for Watson). A Bausch & Lomb shutter was included in the price list of extras.

A stereo model was advertised in 1897.

In 1901 an 'Improved' model was introduced, this had a reversing back and falling front, a conventional brilliant finder was fitted. The Holostigmat lens was offered as well as the Rapid Rectilinear.

Later models were available with Compound or Koilos shutters. In 1909 the Alpha De Luxe was introduced which is best treated as a separate camera.

References & Notes:
BJA 1893, p. 930. BJA 1894, p. 1051. BJA 1896, pp. 1012, 1013. BJA 1898, pp. 1103, 1104, 1106. BJA 1899, pp. 1128, 1130. BJA 1902, p. 1162. BJA 1903, p. 1218. BJA 1909, p. 1162. BJA 1910, p. 962.


Company Details:

Watson & Sons

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