Go up a level Introduction and contents

The Expo uses a roll film 42cm long and 17.5mm wide for a negative size of 16mm x 22mm. The feed and take up roll where retained in a drop in cartridge. The pocket watch style cameras included a B setting and a snap shoot I setting. Different cameras may have different fix apertures. The film advance includes a counter and the cameras are made of chrome/nick plated brass. Sterling silver cameras were also made.

Ticka/Expo Cameras

For more than 35 years  from the time of the first American patent by Magnus Niell on 6th September 1904 the Expo was the most popular watch form camera. The Swedish inventor, Magnus Niell, also worked for the British company Houghton and it's successors. The British patent for the Ticka ("every tick a picture")  was applied for 14th October 1903. Three more patents in 1908 included a developing device, focal plane shutter and a drop in film cartridge.

The camera is 2 1/8 x 7/8 inches and weighs 2 3/4 ounces.

The roll film is sufficient for 25 exposures on a strip 17.5mm wide and about 42cm long. The frames are 5/8 x 7/8 inch (16x22mm). The spools were fitted inside a simple cartridge which meshed with the film winding key. The shutter is approximately 1/25th and there is also a time setting. The cap, attached by a chain, has to be on the camera when it is armed so not to expose the film. The Expo shutter is not self-capping, meaning that arming the shutter exposes the film.  Once the shutter was armed, the cap could be removed and the shutter release pressed to make the exposure.  The lens, fixed focus 30mm f/16, was protected by the 'winder' which was in fact a lens cap. Some models had an f/6.5 lens.

The early versions used a lever to open the camera to change the film. Later versions clipped on and had a raised edge to assist in removing to access the film chamber. The film counter advanced on every complete turn of the winged winder incrementing in odd numbers only. One half turn moved on a single frame. 

In 1908 the British Journal Photographic Almanac announced two new models. The first is called the Watch Face Ticka and the monogrammed top was replaced with a pocket watch face with the hands fixed at seven minutes past ten, roughly indicating the angle of the picture. The second model introduced was the focal plane Ticka camera from the patent in 1908. The upgrade included a focusing Cooke f/6.5 lens and an adjustable focal-plane shutter with five speeds of 1/75, 1/100, 1/150, 1/200 and 1/400 and time. The original Ticka sold for 8s 6d (0.375GBP), the watch face Ticka was 10s 6d (0.525GBP) and the focal plane Ticka for 2 10s (2.50GBP). The watch face Ticka was still listed in 1914 but the focal plane Ticka had disappeared before and is hence the rarest of the production models.

From it launch the Ticka was accompanied by three forms of finder: two waist level and one optical direct finder, a time shutter, printing box, post card printing box, developing outfit, printing frame, negative box, photographic album and a Ticka tripod. The camera was sold in two different outfits.

The impact of the Ticka was undoubtedly affected by the introduction of the Ensignette but remained on the Houghton's catalogue until 1918 although it is unlikely that any were made after the outbreak of war in 1914. 

One other production model of the Ticka was made in 1906. The Silver Ticka was made of solid sterling silver instead of the nickel-plated brass of the other models and bore hallmarks to that effect.  It was sold with a finder in a morocco case for 31s 6d (1.575GBP).

A monogrammed Silver Ticka was presented to Her Majesty the Queen. Queen Alexander was an accomplished photographer. It was subsequently given to the Queen's wardrobe man, Francis Henry Smith and sold by his descendants at Christie's South Kensington, London where it was purchased by David Lawrence (see 'Spy Camera' by Michael Pitchard and Douglas St Denny). 

The success of the Ticka was seen elsewhere. In Germany it was patented in 1904 and in the USA the patent of 6th September 1904 was quickly taken up by the Expo Camera Co who manufactured the camera from 1905 - a year before the British Houghton production. In 1910 an improved model was introduced with the Expo name in an oval frame rather than the flowing Expo monogram that mimicked the Ticka name on the British camera. The lever to open the film chamber was simplified to a clip on with a raised edge to assist in levering. An even later variation moved the number counter to the top, near the lens and the counter was incremented with each half turn.

The Expo Camera Co was taken over in the late 1920s by the dealer G Gennart. Later models of the camera feature different company names on the face plate.  In 1935 there were also coloured cameras in red, blue and black enamel and these cameras are extremely rare. 

The success of the Ticka and Expo gave rise to a version in 1910 from Uyeda Camera Co of Japan. This was called the Moment and even have a monogram resembling the word Ticka in shape. Very few were made.

A modern reproduction has been seen for sale, resembling a Ticka but with a heavier engraving and not accepting the standard film.

Gallery Ticka/Expo

The gallery consists of a film that appears to have been taken about 1910 (or perhaps as late as the early 1920s) and came from an old Annapolis, Maryland estate (USA). It is most likely that they were taken with an early version of the Expo (purchased from the same estate at the same time).

Expo Police Cameras

From the makers of the Expo Watch Camera which had a production run of 34 years is the Expo Police camera. This camera is called a "miniature detective camera" and according to William White, in his book "Subminiature Photography", this camera was the precursor to all the "matchbook" cameras of the late 1920s.  This makes it one of the "milestone" subminiature cameras. 

There are two models of the Expo Police Camera. The first was sold between 1911 and 1924.

The second model is known as the focal plane Expo Police camera. There are a few internal differences but what marks it out from the earlier version is the swivel waist level finder.  The focal plane model was advertised for 7.50USD, compared to the 5USD of the original model. The second model is rare, one being purchased for 300USD and resold in December 1991 for 1500USD

Both models use special daylight loading cassettes to make twelve 30x28mm images. They are about the size of a box of kitchen matches, made of stamped out metal, painted in black. The two shutter settings are marked as T and I with the two Waterhouse1 stops operated by a sliding plate. 

The film winding knob has a "D" winding key and there is a film counter. The counter balance of the shutter release is engraved with the logo Expo.  The chrome nameplate on the back states "Patented throughout the world, EXPO POLICE CAMERA, Expo Camera Co. NY, USA.  Inside is a decal  stating about the same as the nameplate and incorporating an Eagle, Stars and crossed rifles. 

The box has a drawing of a police man, stylized printing declaring "Expo Police Camera" and the logo "Expo" is on the bottom of the box.


Go up a level Last updated 22nd January 2003

1. John Waterhouse 1842-1922. A system of small plates with a hole placed in front of or behind the lens.