Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

Patek Philippe Watch Once Owned by Last Emperor of China to be Auctioned Later This Year

A rare Patek Philippe watch that once belonged to the last emperor of China’s Qing dynasty, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, is set to be auctioned later this year. The watch, known as the Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, features a moon-phase and triple-date calendar, with two windows showing the day of the week and month, and a long central hand giving the date. The timepiece is incredibly rare and sought after, even without its royal history.

Puyi was crowned emperor in 1908 at the age of just three but was forced to abdicate in 1912 during the Chinese Revolution. He was allowed to keep his title and continued to live in luxury in the palace until 1924, when he was forced to leave during a coup.

It is not clear when or how Puyi obtained the watch, which was finished by Patek Philippe in 1937. However, it was likely acquired during the period in which he was Japan’s puppet emperor of the state of Manchuria, or Manchukuo, from 1934 to 1945. At the end of World War II, the Soviets captured him as he tried to flee Manchuria, and he spent five years in captivity. Remarkably, he managed to keep his watch throughout his turbulent life after abdication, even while he was imprisoned.

The watch’s unique history is sure to attract interest from collectors, as it is one of only three models of the Reference 96 Quantieme Lune with this particular silvered dial, rose-gold chapter ring, and enamel hour markers. The model would have been one of the most expensive watches made by Patek Philippe at the time it was created, and it has a platinum case and a base movement created by Victorin Piguet, a company that created movements for Patek Philippe. Patek Philippe bought one of the three for around $2 million at a 2003 Sotheby’s auction to showcase in its Geneva museum.

The Patek Philippe watch will be sold alongside one of Puyi’s personal effects, a red paper fan inscribed with a poem he wrote dedicated to his close friend and Russian translator Georgy Permyakov. The pair formed a close friendship during Puyi’s five-year captivity, during which he gave Permyakov the watch and several other personal items, including his edition of Confucius’s Analects and a notebook filled with the emperor’s musings.

Aurel Bacs, an auctioneer at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, who is behind the sale, is struggling to price the watch. The most expensive watch ever sold at auction was a one-of-a-kind Patek Philippe “Grandmaster Chime,” which sold for $31 million in 2019. However, Bacs believes that the combination of royal provenance and rare watchmaking history could see the Patek Philippe watch break records.

The collection, which has taken Bacs and his team three years to research, will debut at Phillips Hong Kong from March 18-31, followed by appearances in New York, Singapore, London, Taipei, and Geneva. The sale will take place later in the year.

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