Gold Watch of Titanic's Richest Passenger Auctioned for Record £1.17 Million

A gold watch belonging to the wealthiest Titanic passenger, John Jacob Astor, was auctioned for a record-breaking $1.46 million, highlighting the enduring fascination with the Titanic tragedy over a century later.

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Salman Akhtar
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Gold Watch of Titanic's Richest Passenger Auctioned for Record £1.17 Million

Gold Watch of Titanic's Richest Passenger Auctioned for Record £1.17 Million

A gold watch belonging to John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest passenger aboard the Titanic, was auctioned off for a record-breaking £1.17 million ($1.46 million) in England on April 28, 2024. The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved with Astor's initials 'JJA', was recovered from his body after the tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

The auction, conducted by Henry Aldridge & Son, saw the historic timepiece surpass the previous record of £1.1 million paid for the violin played by the Titanic's bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, in 2013. The winning bid came from a US buyer, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £100,000 to £150,000.

John Jacob Astor IV, who was 47 years old at the time of the disaster, was one of the richest men in the world. He died after helping his wife, Madeleine, board one of the lifeboats. The watch, along with Astor's $55 million estate (equivalent to $7 billion today), was left to his 20-year-old son, Vincent, who later had the watch restored and wore it until 1935, when he gifted it to his godson, William Dobbyn.

The watch has been displayed in various museums over the years and was recently part of a private collector's Titanic memorabilia collection before being put up for auction. The auction house noted that the sale price reflects the importance and rarity of Titanic artifacts, as well as the enduring fascination with the Titanic story more than a century after the ship's sinking.

Why this matters: The record-breaking auction of John Jacob Astor's gold watch highlights the ongoing public interest in the Titanic and its passengers, even 112 years after the disaster. The sale also underscores the historical significance and value placed on artifacts associated with the ill-fated ocean liner.

The auction results demonstrate the lasting impact of the Titanic's story and the enduring fascination with the lives of those aboard the ship. "The prices reflect the continuing interest in the Titanic and her passengers and crew," said Andrew Aldridge of Henry Aldridge & Son. The sale of Astor's watch serves as a poignant reminder of the tragedy that claimed the lives of 1,522 people and the enduring legacy of the Titanic in popular culture.

Key Takeaways

  • John Jacob Astor's gold watch sold for a record £1.17M ($1.46M) at auction.
  • The watch was recovered from Astor's body after the Titanic sank in 1912.
  • Astor was the wealthiest passenger on the Titanic, with a $55M estate.
  • The auction price reflects the enduring fascination with the Titanic story.
  • The watch was previously owned by Astor's son and a godson before being auctioned.