A watch of the last emperor of China sold for more than $5 million at auction

A watch of China's last emperor sold for more than $5M at auction


A Patek Philippe watch that once belonged to China's last emperor Puyi sold for more than $5 million at auction in Hong Kong on Tuesday. 

Estimated at 3 million dollars, this exceptional model was sold for 40 million Hong Kong dollars (5.1 million dollars) after five minutes of bidding, during this sale organized by the British house Phillips. With commission fees, the total price reached $6.2 million.

This reference 96 Quantième Lune watch from the prestigious Geneva watchmaker, adorned with a symbol representing a phase of the moon, belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi, last emperor of the Qing dynasty, the last of the Chinese Empire, whose life inspired Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning film “The Last Emperor”.

Enthroned emperor in 1908, Puyi was placed more than twenty years later by the Japanese at the head of the puppet state they had created in Manchuria after conquering it in the early 1930s.

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Taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1945 after the defeat of Japan, Puyi found himself in detention in a Soviet camp. British auction house Phillips claimed to have documents proving that Puyi took the watch with him to his place of detention.

According to the memoirs of Puyi's nephew Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch was a “personal item” of the deposed emperor, who had given it to his Soviet interpreter Georgy Permyakov when leaving the camp.

Russell Working, a journalist who interviewed Permyakov more than twenty years ago, said the aging man had no idea the value of the watch when he pulled it out of his drawer.

“Seeing it suddenly resurface after all these years is like a treasure chest washing up on a beach,” said Mr Working, who was part of the auction house's research team. .

Thomas Perazzi, head of Phillips' Asia watch department, said he was excited about the sale, saying it was the highest price ever for a Patek Philippe Reference 96 during of a sale.

Currently, there are only “three known copies” of this series left in the world, according to him.

A red paper fan, on which was written a poem by Puyi “dedicated to my comrade Permiakov”, was sold for more than 77,800 dollars, six times the price at which it had been estimated.

Although steeped in history, Puyi's watch is far from having reached the prodigious sums at which luxury timepieces have been sold.

A Patek Philippe “Grandmaster Chime” watch has was sold for $31 million in 2019. It is the most complicated wristwatch ever made by Patek Philippe, as it unites twenty complications.