Big Eyed Binoculars

20th November 2017

I never cease to be amazed by the unusual and interesting items I come across in my work as an auctioneer and valuer.  Recently in Dumfriesshire I came across a huge pair of Japanese binoculars on a tripod which took two strong men to move.  We sent them to Edinburgh and following detailed research by Gavin Tavendale, who heads Thomson Roddick’s collector’s department, identified them as being from the Second World War period.

 The Nikko binoculars were made by the forerunner of Nikon, the famous camera maker.  They sold for £6,800 in a recent collector’s sale after fierce competition from online and telephone bidders.  Another pair of binoculars by Carl Zeiss from a German U boat realised £1,700.

 During the 1930s and 40s while America and Britain concentrated on the development of radar the Japanese largely ignored this technology - they felt they were so far ahead in the development of binoculars that they didn’t need it.  Some binoculars can view up to 90 miles on a clear day and they were mounted high up on the ships to spot allied shipping. It seems to me that radar works all the time in 360 degrees, while binoculars need the operator to be totally alert at all times, even then he can only see what he is looking at.

 I always wondered how such a large pair of binoculars ended up in South West Scotland, but it was common for ship’s officers to return home with souvenirs and some people brought binoculars such as these instead of Samurai swords.

 It just goes to show that there is a strong market for unusual and interesting items.