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Auction watches

Gold watch worn by richest passenger aboard Titanic sells for record-breaking $1.5 million

HighLifeChannel May 8, 2024

A gold watch worn by John Jacob Astor IV, a member of the wealthy Astor family and the richest man aboard the Titanic, sold for a record-breaking £1.175 million ($1.485 million) at auction on Saturday.

John Jacob Astor IV's pocket watch fetched $1.485 million at auction.

The timepiece sold for ten times its expected auction price of between £100,000 and £150,000.

Its high selling point has set a “new world record for Titanic memorabilia,” Andrew Aldridge, the managing director of auction house Henry Aldridge and Son, told CNN on Sunday.

Astor was one of around 1,500 people who died when the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after hitting an iceberg. His pregnant wife, Madeleine, survived.

The watch was among a number of notable items on offer at Henry Aldridge and Son in Wiltshire, England, on Saturday, including the valise that held the violin famously played by the band leader as the ship sank, and a pocketbook that documents the Titanic’s scheduled voyages.

The valise was sold for £360,000, while the violin itself was sold for £1.1 million (nearly $1.7 million at the time) via the same auction house in 2013. It was, until Astor’s pocket watch claimed the title, the highest-selling item from the Titanic.

“These prices for these unique pieces of history reflect not only their importance but also the ongoing interest into the Titanic story and the memory of her passengers and crew,” Aldridge told CNN.

The watch was among the personal effects found with Astor’s body after the Titanic sank, according to the auction house. He also had gold cufflinks, a diamond ring, money and a pocketbook on him, among other items.

After the recovery of Astor’s body, those possessions were sent to his son, Vincent Astor, who completely restored the watch so that it worked.

In 1935, Vincent gave the watch as a christening gift to the infant son of William Dobbyn IV, John Jacob Astor’s executive secretary, according to the auction house.

Aldridge told CNN that the Dobbyn family kept the item until the late 1990s, when it went to auction.

An unnamed collector in the United States bought the watch at that time. Since then, it has been displayed in several museums.

“So, you know, over the course of its time, quite literally millions of people have viewed it, which is fabulous,” Aldridge said.


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