Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last monarch of the Chinese Qing dynasty, clung to the clock for years.
A watch once owned by China’s last emperor, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, fetched more than $5 million at auction in Hong Kong earlier this week.
The Ref 96 Quantieme Lune watch, which features a crown-shaped moon phase, originally belonged to the last monarch of China’s Qing dynasty, reports AFP.
Emperor at the age of two in 1908, Puyi was immortalized by Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning film, but left a mixed legacy. More than 20 years later, he was installed as the puppet leader of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, before being captured in 1945 after the fall of Japan and taken to a Soviet prison camp, the AFP report states.
The watch was expected to fetch around $3 million, but it eventually sold for HK$40 million ($5.1 million). With the commission fee, the total price came to about $6.2 million.
Thomas Perazzi, Phillips’ head of watches in Asia, said he was “delighted by this groundbreaking sale” because it set records, the AFP report claims. Those records included “the highest result of any Patek Philippe Reference 96 ever sold,” according to a press release.
“The Ref 96 was Patek Philippe’s first mass-produced complicated wristwatch, and Perazzi said there are currently only “three known examples” in the world. According to the memoirs of Puyi’s nephew Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch it was a “personal object” “of the deposed emperor, who passed it to his Russian interpreter Georgy Permyakov for safekeeping when he left the prison camp,” the AFP report added.
Russell Working, a journalist who interviewed Permyakov more than 20 years ago, told AFP that the elderly interpreter had no idea of its value when he took the watch out of his drawer. “To suddenly have this surface after all these years, it was like a treasure chest washed up on the beach,” said Working, who was part of the auction house’s research team.