The Ticka watch – £2200 at East Bristol Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The Ticka Watch, a spy camera made by Houghtons of London from c.1905, was a camera designed to be small, easily carried and easily mistaken as a typical Edwardian timepiece. Complete with a detachable eyepiece fitment, they were popular with military officers and those working undercover or in secret in both the First and the Second World War.

This example offered in Bristol on May 22, housed in an original tin case and with reprinted instructions, came from the remarkable collection of Arthur Muggeridge (1919-2010).

Following his own military adventures, which included injuries sustained at Dunkirk and in Norway while involved in a 1941 raid called Operation Claymore, in later life he collected military items and particularly spy objects. When visiting Devon in the 1960s Muggeridge became acquainted with Charles Frazer Smith who had worked for MI6 and MI9 in the war, and designed spy items for the SOE and others. This collection of just over 50 lots was consigned by his family and raised over £17,000.

The Ticka Watch was keenly fought over by two museums – one UK based, the other in the US. The former won with an 11-times-top-estimate bid of £2200.

A Cold War spy gadget in wristwatch form sold to a private UK buyer on at a mid-estimate £340 at North Yorkshire saleroom Elstob & Elstob (22% buyer’s premium) on May 28. Developed by the Hamburg company Protona, this was state-of-the-art recording technology in the 1950s.


Cold War spy watch – £340 at Elstob & Elstob.

The case, complete with a tachymeter, dials and second hand, bears the name of the Swiss-German watchmaker Hanhart. However – instead of a movement – it contains a microphone with an attached cable to run up the side of the wearer’s arm where a tape recorder was hidden. Priced at the time at DM350, these were widely used by secret services around the world.