The last emperor of China’s Patek Philippe watch to be auctioned

By Hoang Nguyen   March 17, 2023 | 02:03 am PT
The last emperor of China’s Patek Philippe watch to be auctioned
China’s last Qing emperor’s watch is going up for auction. Photo by Phillips
A Patek Philippe watch owned by the last emperor of China’s Qing dynasty will come to auction later this year.

Based on similar sales in the past, it could very easily gavel for a price in the seven figures, according to The South China Morning Post.

Aisin-Gioro Puyi, crowned in 1908 when he wasn’t quite 3 years old, had to abdicate the throne in 1912 during the Chinese Revolution. He was allowed to retain his title and continued to live lavishly in the palace until 1924, when he was forced to leave during a coup.

It’s not known when or how Puyi obtained the watch, which was finished by Patek Philippe in 1937.

At the end of World War II, the Soviets took him captive as he tried to flee Manchuria and kept him in captivity for five years. He managed to keep his watch throughout his turbulent life after abdication, even while he was imprisoned.

To make things more interesting, the auctioneer who’s behind the sale, Aurel Bacs, at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, notes that even without all this royal history, the wristwatch would be incredibly rare and sought after.

The model, known as the Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, features a moon phase and triple-date calendar: two windows show the day of the week and the month, and a long central hand gives the date, Bloomberg reported.

When Patek Philippe created eight models of Ref 96, Bacs says, it would have been one of the most expensive watches – if not the most expensive – the brand made at the time. Of the eight models of Ref 96, only three exist with this particular silvered dial, rose-gold chapter ring and enamel hour markers.

Patek Philippe bought one of the three for about US$2 million at a 2002 Sotheby’s auction, to showcase in its Geneva museum.

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