Lost art of cutaway drawings: Anatomy of a Leica

Posted on by Mike Evans

Fifty years ago technical magazines, whether covering photography, cars, motorcycles or any other subject, were full of technical drawings of equipment. Cutaways were the norm whenever a new product was announced. Sadly, that has all disappeared. This superb Anatomy of a Leica drawing is just one example of what was once weekly fodder in Amateur Photographer and other similar publications.

This drawing gives you a precise insight into the workings of what probably a Leica IIIa prior to 1940. The detail is outstanding.

Back in the day, I worked as a reporter and feature writer for a motorcycle weekly magazine, appropriately styled The Motor Cycle. It was in its sixtieth year when I joined and we had a complete set of archives going back to 1903, complete with photographs. Not a week went by without the publication of an engine or bike cutaway executed by one of the 20th century's absolute maestros, Lawrie Watts.

Lawrie was a lifeline friend who sadly died a few years ago. His work was not restricted to motorcycles: He drew for many publications published by Associated Ilifee Press, including The Motor Cycle, Amateur Photographer, Flight, Autocar and others. He was also keenly involved in the agricultural world and produced intricate drawings of the most amazing industrial-scale farm equipment. He also designed  agricultural equipment of the most esoteric nature.  If you want to know more about Lawrie Watts' remarkable career you can find his biography, written by another old friend of mine, David Dixon, at the link below. 

The Leica anatomy drawing, almost certainly dating from before the second world war, was not the work of Lawrie (as far as I know) but it is typical of his meticulous style. Where can we see drawings of this excellence these days? Nowhere, I suppose, because the innards of modern cameras are a jumble of chips, cables and electronic gizmos. The art of mechanical excellence has passed us by and we have all ended up in the Cloud.