Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Back in time.

I recently attended a photo exhibition by an online colleague of mine Roger Albani. the event was held on the premises of a former watch making factory in Welschenrohr.

Sharing some of  the exhibition space on another part of the factory floor was an elderly gentleman surrounded by old blueprints, measuring devices and LOTS of watches in varying states of dismantlement.

After viewing Roger's images, I walked over to the other stand and began to inspect some of the very interesting and fully functioning devices there.

The owner of the stand turned out to be on Herr Alois Zäch who was responsible for development of the "Tourist" which was first illuminated wrist watch back in 1957 manufactured by the Tourist-Everlight Watch Company, Ad. Allemann Son, Welschenrohr, Switzerland.

 1957 advert for the 1st illuminated watch.

Herr Zäch had lots of stories to tell and was a mine of information about the "Tourist". He worked at the factory in Welschenrohr until it shut it's door in the late eighties and still has lots of memorabilia.

Some of the memorabilia includes the props used at the 1957 Basel fair to display the watches' illumination capabilities.

The advertising blurb says "illuminates the watch
 face and the surrounding area" The watch on this
 image (top left) is the one illuminated.

So. I hear you ask. "What has this to do with photography?" Well back in the day (as they say) I was always on the lookout for interesting articles to cover in order to hone my skills at reportage and also as a way of making money by sending said articles to magazines such as "Weekend", "Titbits" or maybe "Woman's Own".

I still have the urge, as a photographer to discover more about the world and the people around me and am not averse to asking questions. I decided there and then to do a little reportage on this interesting time in the Swiss watch making industry. Not to sell, but just to record and take some pictures.

Mr Zäch interested me because he represents a bygone era when electronics began to get smaller and smaller and be integrated into everyday items.

I took all the images that day with my 5D MkII and a 50 mm f1.4 lens.

(Left) original press release for the Tourist debut at
 the Basel fair in 1957. (Right) blueprints and watches.
Also on display was the battery charger. At that time, the watch didn't use small button cells as is the norm today. Instead, you had to hook it up to a charging device.

   Two images showing the charger open and closed.

And last but not least. The reportage would not be complete without a  photo of the man himself.

Herr Alois Zäch

Here's an excerpt from "WATCH. History of the modern wrist watch. By Pieter Doensen"
The first watch with a display illuminated by a small lamp of 1.2 mm, is the 'Tourist Everlight' of Ad. Allemann Fils S.A. of Welschenrohr, Switzerland. Three models were shown at the 1957 Basle Fair: a steel, goldplated and 18 K gold version. A small lead battery, the 'DEAC Dry-Accumulator' had to be recharged by a normal 1.5 V battery. In the United States, the 'Robot Everlight' was distributed by Robot Time New York.

So all in all, a very interesting day. I got to see some interesting images by Roger and learnt a little bit about Swiss watch making innovation. Oh! On another note. On the way home I spotted a lovely little shrine beside the road and made a mental note to return and photograph it. More later.

Thanks for reading.

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