China’s last emperor’s watch sold for $5 million

HONG KONG: A Patek Philippe wristwatch that once belonged to China’s last emperor sold for more than $5 million at auction in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The Ref 96 Quantieme Lune watch, featuring a crown-shaped moon phase, originally belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last monarch of China’s Qing dynasty.
Emperor at the age of two in 1908, Puyi was immortalized in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning film but left a mixed legacy.
More than 20 years later, he was installed as a puppet leader of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, before being captured in 1945 after the fall of Japan and taken to a Soviet prison camp.
British auction house Phillips said it had documents showing Puyi brought the watch with him to the camp.
It was expected to fetch around $3 million but, after around five minutes of heated bidding, it was sold for HK$40 million ($5.1 million). With commission fees, the total price was approximately $6.2 million.
Thomas Perazzihead of watches for Phillips in Asia, said he was “delighted with this groundbreaking sale” as it set records.
These records included “the highest result of any Patek Philippe 96 reference ever sold,” according to a press release.
The Ref 96 – austere compared to the usual luxury pieces for sale at auction houses – was the first mass-produced complication wristwatch by Patek Philippe, Perazzi claiming that there are currently only ” three known copies” in the world.
According to the memoirs of Puyi’s nephew, Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch was a “personal item” of the deposed emperor, who passed it on to his Russian interpreter Georgy Permyakov for safekeeping when he left the prison camp.
Russell Working, a journalist who interviewed Permyakov more than 20 years ago, told AFP the elderly performer had no idea of ​​his worth when he pulled the watch from his drawer.
“To have this one surface all of a sudden after all these years was like a treasure chest washed up on the beach,” said Working, who was part of the auction house’s research team at the auction.
Another auction item was a red paper fan, bearing a poem by Puyi “dedicated to my comrade Permyakov”. It grossed over $77,800, six times its pre-sale estimate.
Puyi’s watch, while historically significant, is far from the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
A Patek Philippe “Grandmaster Chime” sold for $31 million in 2019. It is said to be the most complex watch ever created by the luxury watchmaker, with 20 complications.


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