Once I think I've seen everything, somebody alerts me a mind-blowing gadget like this Steineck Subminiature Wrist-camera. Thanks to Max Busser, founder of MB&F Horological Machines who shared his find (above) from a vintage watch store in Lugano, Switzerland. Needless to say, I've been obsessed these antique spy/detective/novelty gadgets for the last few days and have uncovered a secret force of "Submini" wrist-cameras. A wide array of styles existed over many different eras, originating in 1907 with a pocket watch camera. Others were fit into rings, some were undisguised miniature cameras fit onto a wristband but my favorite remains the Steineck, with its robotic cyclops face and potential for Captain Kirk-ian prop-weaponry!
It all began with these patent designs from 1907 for the first concealed camera in a pocket watch. Later marketed as the "Ticka" (below) with dummy watch face permanently set at 7 minutes past 10 o'clock indicating the viewing angle making it possible to use without the detachable viewfinder. Exposing unsuspecting subjects on a cassette of 17.5mm film (wound by turning the key) and the lens is hidden by the watch crown.
via UK Camera
The above mentioned Steineck produced from the late forties into the fifties. Invented by Dr. Rudolph Steineck of Switzerland and highly regarded as one of the better quality subminiature cameras made. Uses a 24mm circular film disk and automatic film advance. The viewfinder is a reflex concave mirror with a sharp centre line pointer, which permits sighting from above when the camera, worn on the wrist, is held in picture-taking position. Through the centre of the camera is a hole, an alternative direct-vision viewfinder.
A complex mechanism best described from Submin.com's Steineck pages-->Link
The Steineck in more detail from the original drawings and patent summary here-->Link
No tricks here, just a camera on your wrist.
Tessina with watch attachment
Via Link and SubClub
Also from 1981, the Italian Ferro Ring camera. Very high quality and even had accessories. The lens was a fixed-focus 10mm with a variable shutter of B, 1/30 - 1/500. It takes special 25mm diameter discs of film and produces six 4.5x6mm images.
via Lionel Hughes Photographica
The Sub Club
Be sure to read my previous post on the 1950s Minifon Spy Watch/Audio Recorder (pictured above)-->Link And the history of James Bond gadget watches-->Link
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