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Ticka was a subminiature camera developed in 1904 by the Swedish designer Magnus Niéll. It resembles an antique pocket watch and was the ideal companion for inconspicious photography. In the US, the camera was produced by the Expo Camera Company and became known as the Expo watch camera. In the UK, the camera was made by Houghton and received the name Ticka.
The camera is slightly thicker than a pocket watch of the same era and is about as wide. The lens is at the top and has a cap that is disguised as the wind-up knob of a watch. It has a metal ring for attaching it to a carrying chain.

The body of the camera was made of nickel-plated brass and had the letters HTC engraved as a monogram at its back. In 1906, there was even a limited edition, made in solid silver, one of which went to Queen Alexandra [2] who was a keen amateur photographer. It was engraved with the Royal Crest and her monogram 'A'.
Ticka camera from 1906

Unlike its predecessors, such as the Photoret, the Ticka recorded its images onto rollfilm, allowing 25 exposures with a frame size of 15 x 23 mm. The film was contained in a small film cartridge that had the shape of a half moon. The camera is opened by rotating a lever at the bottom until the point where the back panel comes off and the interior is exposed.
The image on the right shows the interior of the Ticka. At the bottom is the lever that is used to remove the back panel. It is connected to a concentric disc that lifts the back panel when the lever is rotated. The top half contains the black chamber, the area between the lens and the film, where the image is projected onto the film.

The bottom half contains two pins: a fixed one at the right that is used as a guide for the fresh roll of film, and a rotatable one at the left that acts as the pick-up reel. It is operated by a wind-up knob at the front of the camera.
Interior of the Ticka camera

Every half turn of the D-shaped wind-up knob advances the film by one frame. An exposure counter is visible through a small hole to the left of the knob. It counts the odd number of exposures. The wind-up knob can only be rotated one way and 'clicks' on each new frame.
Note that the lens cap has to stay on whilst the shutter is being enganged, as the shutter is not self-capping and exposes the film. Once the shutter lever is in place, the lens cap can be removed and a picture can be taken by releasing the shutter with a small brass pin aside the lens.

The camera comes with a viewfinder that is clipped onto the shaft of the lense. It can be used in two positions. A small mirror projects the image from the lense at the front onto a lens at the top. It allows the camera to be used horizontal, as in the image above, or vertical.
Ticka camera with the view finder up and the lens cap removed

This way the camera can be used for landscape photography (vertical) as well as in portait orientation (horizontal). The image below shows the camera in vertical position. A later version of the camera had a fake watch dial at the front, with the hand fixed in a V-shape, indicating a time of 7 minutes past 10. The hands were in this position to show the angle of view of the camera.
Due to its small size and its disguise as a pocket watch, the Ticka was ideal for inconspicious photography. According to a note inside the camera, it was patented throughout the world.

The idea of the Ticka camera was based on the earlier Photoret (introduced in 1894) that in turn was based on the Lancaster of the same year. The lancaster was housed in a watch-like case, but had to be unfolded before pictures could be taken. The Photoret on the other hand, was fully self-contained and allowed six pictures of 13 x 13 mm to be taken on a revolver-type film disc.
Using the camera in vertical position (portrait)

The Ticka was produced from 1906 to 1914 and was arguably the most popular watch-type camera of all times. Only three months after the production had started in the UK, the manufactuer - Houghton - reported that 10,000 units had already been sold [1].
Ticka camera and pouch Ticka camera from 1906 Rear view of the UK-version of the Ticka, showing the HTC monogram. Ticka in horizontal position with the viewfinder up Viewing the image trough the viewfinder Case opening lever at the bottom Opening the case Back panel released from the case
Interior of the Ticka camera Ticka camera with the view finder up and the lens cap removed Font view of the lens Engaging the shutter Releasing the shutter Aiming the camera at an object Using the camera in vertical position (portrait) Advancing the film to the next frame

Related patents

  1. John Wade, Cameras in Disguise
    ISBN 0-7478-0637-3. pp. 16-18.

  2. Wikipedia, Queen Alexandra of Denmark
    1844-1925. Retrieved March 2013.

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