China's last emperor's rare Patek Philippe sells for record $6.2m
Updated 00:15, 25-May-2023
Asia;Hong Kong

A watch that was once owned by the last emperor of China's Qing Dynasty, whose life formed the basis of Oscar-winning film The Last Emperor, sold for a record HK$48.85 million ($6.2 million) at a Hong Kong auction.

An anonymous buyer bought the rare Patek Philippe watch that had belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi. The price did not include the auction house fee.

Thomas Perazzi, head of watches at auction house Phillips Asia, told Reuters that it is "the highest result" for any wristwatch that once belonged to an emperor.


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The high seven-figure fee can be attributed not only to the watch's rarity as one of only eight known Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune timepieces, but also to the captivating backstory associated with it, according to Thomas Perazzi, Head of Watches at Phillips Asia.

Noteworthy features of the 1.2-inch-diameter platinum timepiece include a moon phase and triple-date calendar, with two windows showing the day of the week and the month, and a long central hand that gives the date.


'The most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch'

The auction house Phillips spent three years collaborating with watch specialists, historians, journalists, and scientists to research the watch's history and carry out a thorough verification of its provenance.

"The 96 Quantieme Lune was the most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch available in the Patek Philippe catalogs in the 1930s," explains Thomas Perazzi. 

"The 96 reference is extremely important for not only watch collectors, but for Patek Philippe itself, because it was the first reference that was launched when the Stern family bought the company in the 1930s."

The Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune. /Tyrone Siu/Reuters
The Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune. /Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune. /Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Born in 1906, Aisin-Gioro Puyi was the last Emperor of China's Qing dynasty. His extraordinary life began when he ascended the throne when he was not quite three years old in 1908. 

It is not known how Puyi acquired the wristwatch, though records show it was initially sold via a luxury store in Paris. 

After Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Puyi was captured at Shenyang Airport by the Soviet Red Army and detained as a prisoner of war and later incarcerated in a Khabarovsk detention camp for five years. 


'Great historical significance'

According to Phillips, Puyi gave this Patek Philippe to his interpreter, Georgy Permyakov, during his imprisonment in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). 

"His watch fully witnesses the historical life of Puyi, the last emperor, especially during his time in the Soviet era of Russia," says Wang Wenfeng, author and former researcher for the Palace Museum of the Manchurian regime.

"Since there is very little documentation available, as this watch was given to Permyakov by Puyi during his time in the Soviet Union, it holds even greater historical significance as a testimony to that period."

Journalist Russell Working, who interviewed Permyakov in 2001, revealed that it was on Puyi's last day in the USSR, shortly before his extradition back to China, that he gave the watch to Permyakov.

Wristwatches previously owned by emperors that have been put up for auction include a Patek Philippe timepiece that belonged to the last Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, which was sold for $2.9 million in 2017. 

Similarly, in the same year, a Rolex watch that belonged to the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, fetched $5 million at an auction.

In addition to the Patek Philippe watch, other items gifted by Puyi to Permyakov, such as a red paper fan inscribed with Chinese characters and a manuscript notebook containing Puyi's writings, were included in the auction.

China's last emperor's rare Patek Philippe sells for record $6.2m

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Source(s): Reuters

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