HomeWorld NewsRare watch owned by China's last Emperor sets auction record

Rare watch owned by China’s last Emperor sets auction record

The Patek Philippe Ref 96 Quantieme Lune timepiece once owned by Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the Chinese Qing dynasty’s last emperor (R), is seen on display in Hong Kong on May 23, 2023, ahead of its auction in the territory on the same day.—AFP

A luxury watch that was once owned by Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty and the inspiration for the film “The Last Emperor,” has been sold for a staggering $6.2 million at a live auction in Hong Kong. 

The exclusive Patek Philippe timepiece was purchased by an Asian collector over the phone after a six-minute bidding session. The London-based auction house Phillips, which managed the sale, revealed that this price is a new record for both a wristwatch previously owned by an emperor and the Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, of which only eight are known to exist.

Thomas Perazzi, the head of watches for Asia at Phillips, expressed his delight with the result, highlighting the extensive three-year research process that confirmed the watch’s authenticity. The auction outcome further solidifies Hong Kong’s reputation as a prominent hub for fine watches and highly collectable timepieces.

The 86-year-old watch’s provenance was meticulously verified by a global team of researchers, revealing that Puyi had given it to his Russian interpreter, Georgy Permyakov, during his imprisonment in the Soviet Union after World War II. The circumstances of how the watch came into Puyi’s possession remain unclear.

Patek Philippe watches have long been sought after by collectors, with a one-of-a-kind Grandmaster Chime from the Swiss manufacturer achieving the status of the world’s most expensive watch at auction in 2019, selling for $31.2 million.

The sale of the emperor’s watch may lead to a new trend, according to John Ng, a renowned independent watchmaker in Hong Kong. He believes that smaller and more intricate timepieces will gain increased attention in light of the current popularity of larger, simpler watches.

In addition to the watch, the Hong Kong auction featured other items belonging to Puyi, including a manuscript notebook, a leather-bound edition of Confucius’ “Analects,” and a red paper fan inscribed and gifted by Puyi to Permyakov in Tokyo. These items fetched significant prices at the auction, with the fan selling for $77,846 and the other two items achieving a combined total of $121,634, well above their pre-sale estimates.

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