Compass 35 The Ultimate Tool: The iPhone of Multitools

Compass 35 The Ultimate Tool: The iPhone of Multitools

Range Govindan
Nov 21, 2008

We all know that the iPhone is ubiquitous of our modern times. You can't walk a few paces before you see one. Everyone has one or wants one. This makes you wonder. What was the iPhone of the past? What was the gadget that you couldn't live without in the 30s or 70s? One thing's for sure, the Compass 35 comes close to being the ultimate gadget of all time.

Just looking at this little gizmo makes me want to have one. The only thing that you might wonder is, what exactly is it? It's a compass, camera and a multitool. And guess what? It was launched in the '30s. Yep, the 1930s! Now, how cool is that. These objects are just so beautiful, it's almost scary. Everything has been compacted into a small size. To make things even better, it was designed by Jaeger LeCoultre in 1937.

The Compass 35 was advertised in 1938 as the ultimate embodiment of scientific systems in miniature cameras. It's built like a watch. It's also a finely-machined aluminum body camera, incorporating a large number of features in a tiny space. It was developed in part by Lord Noel Pemberton Billing, British aviator and inventor. The original sold for about £30. It's constructed out of a large number of interlocking pieces and has a fully functional camera and tools. Now, that price would translate into something like $2000.

To us it looks like a Swiss Army Knife was included into the concept, which is even more cool. Compass, camera and multitool, now that's a great combination. Naturally, this little baby doesn't take digital pictures, it takes them on 24x36mm negatives.

Pemberton-Billing began work on designing the Compass around 1930 and it was finally patented on 16th May 1936. The Swiss company Jaeger LeCoultre was chosen because of their skill in watch making. The manufacturing required setting up and the camera was finally launched in March 1937. There are two different versions of the Compass. The Compass II had the folding focusing magnifier on the ground glass back. There were only about 150 Compass I cameras made. There were probably between 1000 and less than 4000 Compass II made. A surprising number can be found on auction sites. [via NotCot]

Created with Sketch.