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LeCoultre Co., Switzerland, for Compass Cameras Ltd. A fine and very rare aluminium miniature 35 mm. film camera
LeCoultre Co., Switzerland, for Compass Cameras Ltd. A fine and very rare aluminium miniature 35 mm. film camera
LeCoultre Co., Switzerland, for Compass Cameras Ltd. A fine and very rare aluminium miniature 35 mm. film camera
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This lot is offered without reserve. On lots marke… Read more THE COMPASS MINIATURE CAMERA ‘BUILT LIKE A WATCH!’The Property of a Descendant of the Original Owner
LeCoultre Co., Switzerland, for Compass Cameras Ltd. A fine and very rare aluminium miniature 35 mm. film camera

SIGNED MADE BY LECOULTRE CO. IN SWITZERLAND UNDER P-8 PATENTS AND & COMPASS CAMERAS LTD., NO. 3635, CIRCA 1940

Details
LeCoultre Co., Switzerland, for Compass Cameras Ltd. A fine and very rare aluminium miniature 35 mm. film camera
Signed Made by LeCoultre Co. in Switzerland under P-8 Patents and & Compass Cameras Ltd., no. 3635, circa 1940
Case: roll film back for 35 mm. film, optical viewfinders, three filters, extinction meter, spirit level, rotating fitting for tripod bush in the base, circa 70x58x31 mm., signed
With: period leather pouch, photocopy of instruction manual
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This lot is offered without reserve.
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Lot Essay

The present Compass Camera is one of the exceedingly few examples of this rare 1930s model to appear in public to date. It is furthermore believed to be the only German version of a Compass Camera known to exist to date.

The Compass Camera is a rare combination of complexity, beauty and practicality. It has deservedly become an icon of design in the years since its launch in March 1937. Machined from plated aluminium alloy, it was quite remarkable at the time in being one of the most technically advanced cameras any company had ever made and certainly the first complicated miniature camera, measuring just approx. 70 x 58 x 31 mm. The Compass Camera was no mere novelty, in fact its functions covered almost every aspect of photography, and the telescopic lens provided an optical sharpness which meant that the user could create quite detailed and sophisticated images.

The idea and design of the Compass Camera was conceived by the Englishman Noel Pemberton Billing (1881-1948). The Member of Parliament, businessman, pilot, writer and engineer invented over a hundred objects including the plane that would give rise to the Spitfire. In the late 1920s, the brilliant inventor made a bet that he could create a camera of unprecedented quality comprising every possible function and yet small enough to fit inside a cigarette packet. To produce the camera he set up his own company in London – Compass Cameras Ltd.

Naturally, the small size and complexity of the camera meant that it has to be constructed to extremely precise tolerances and who better to choose for the job than one of the most famous and respected Swiss watch houses. In an ingenious move, Pemberton Billing contracted LeCoultre & Cie. for its engineering and manufacturing. At the time, the Manufacture LeCoultre & Cie, which would subsequently become Jaeger-LeCoultre, already had hundreds of calibres to its credit, including the world’s smallest and thinnest movement, as well as the iconic Atmos clock. The connection with the watch industry was immediately turned to advantage for publicity purposes and in the advertising of the period the Compass Camera was headlined as being ‘Built Like a Watch!’ to emphasize the precision of its construction.

The Compass Camera remained in production until the early 1940s with approximately 4000 cameras made in total before production was halted by the outbreak of World War II. Surviving examples are always much sought-after among collectors.

For further detailed information on the history and use of The Compass Camera see: https://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/ch/en/chronicles/news-events/compass-camera.html; Dave Todd, 'The Remarkable Compass', Photographica World, no. 47, pp. 15-16; 48, pp. 9-11, John Wade, Amateur Photographer, 31 January 2020.

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