Houghton Ticka

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Houghton Ticka

User manual at Butkus, incomplete
User manual I downloaded from somewhere.

In 1865 Alice sat under a tree in the meadow where a white rabbit was rushing by. That seemed of no particular significance, save for a rabbit carrying a large pocket watch and grumbling about being late. From here, Alice lumbered into Wonderland to become world famous, and a pocket watch got to have a camera styled after it. There were wrist watches then, but the prim and proper gentleman, or rabbit, kept a timepiece in a vest pocket. As rumor suggests, this is the purpose of the little pocket sewn inside the right jeans pocket.

The Ticka watch birth date is fluid, depending on the source. Some peg it to 1902, while others to about 1915. Either way, cameras of that time were mighty objects, where a compact camera could be the size of a two-slice toaster. Creative minds of the era encased cameras into a hat, cane, buttons, matchboxes, cigarette boxes, books, and so on, to the infamous Charley the Tuna. Neither practical, but all innovative. So a pocket-watch-styled camera was one of many trappings for the gentleman on the go.

I wonder about the output technology, as printing was via contact, and mid-century enlargers were still half a century in the future. See below a viewer for Ticka / Expo, though I doubt it was useful.

The idea caught up; similar cameras were made on both sides of the ocean, in the UK under Ensign and the US under Expo. It is said that a Swede inventor came up with the idea, so there is another question: why did the German camera makers pass on it? Guess not practical enough. It took the Germans till 1939 for Steiner and Heckelmann, an obscure accompany, to come up with a similar product.

I would have left this metamorphosis here, but in the late 1990s, I was at a cellphone showroom where I noticed a whiteboard marking sales of pigs. I was puzzled, so they proudly presented a phone with a camera, nicknamed a flying pig. History repeats itself in century intervals.

The Ticka came in several flavours:

  • The ordinary Ticka, chrome plated.
  • Ticka Silver, not sure if solid or plated, only a few were made. Rarely appear for sale.
  • Ticka watch face, with printed-on watch hands. The median between the hands points to the lens direction.
  • Ticka focal plane, focusing Ticka, with an upgraded shutter and glass. Recognized by exposed, elaborate gears and levers. I am yet to see any offered for sale.

The watch is a tiny affair, even at today’s standards. A flat cylinder, puck style, just over 50mm /  2” in diameter and 20mm / ¾” tall. A replica, although oversized,  of a pocket watch, with only the viewer and the winding latch to show otherwise. The top ring is a lens cover, and the lens is in its stem, hardly visible.

The snap-on viewer comes in two styles: the standard triangular-shaped that swivels for portrait or landscape modes or the pillbox-style viewer, which is pretty uncommon. A hinged winder is on the flat side of the body. A hinged, rounded lever at the opposite side of the lens opens the cover. The cover is held in place by compression only onto two notches, with no hinge or bracket.

There are few controls on the body. A small tab proud of the side cocks the shutter when slides towards markings I for instantaneous and T for time. An even smaller, pinhead size pin triggers the shutter. That’s all. An elaborate ‘Ticka’ engraving adorns the front, and Houghton’s credentials are at the back.

The ¾” film comes on two tiny spools with wood spindles. Assume it has to be loaded in a darkroom.


Similar watch style cameras:

Photo quint
Steineck ABC
Magic photoret
Lancaster Watch camera

List number 7809
Brand Ensign
Format 3/4″
Model Ticka Watch
Introduced 1905
Country UK
Qty made
Initial price 8/6 + 1/6 for finder
Currency GBP
Type Niche
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 90 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 90 gr,  Body with lens
ASA range N/A
Kit lens 25mm
Lens make
Filter size N/A
Lens mount Fixed lens
Mount size N/A
shutter Guillotine
Light meter None
Winder Wing nut
Lock No
Speeds T, 25
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync No
Sync speed NA
Timer No
Battery N/A
Battery style
Battery voltage NA
Integral flash None

More at Pacific Rim Camera


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