John Jacob Astor's Gold Pocket Watch Sells for Record £1.175 Million at Titanic Auction

A gold pocket watch belonging to the Titanic's wealthiest passenger, John Jacob Astor IV, sold for a record-breaking $1.485 million, highlighting the enduring fascination with the Titanic's tragic story and the demand for rare historical artifacts.

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Hadeel Hashem
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John Jacob Astor's Gold Pocket Watch Sells for Record £1.175 Million at Titanic Auction

John Jacob Astor's Gold Pocket Watch Sells for Record £1.175 Million at Titanic Auction

A gold pocket watch that belonged to John Jacob Astor IV, the richest passenger aboard the Titanic, has sold for a record-breaking £1.175 million ($1.485 million) at an auction by Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire. The sale, which took place on April 28, 2024, has set a new world record for Titanic memorabilia.

The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved with Astor's initials 'JJA', was recovered from his body after the Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Astor, who was among the wealthiest people in the world at the time with a net worth of around $87 million (equivalent to several billion dollars today), went down with the ship after helping his pregnant wife Madeleine onto a lifeboat.

The watch was later returned to Astor's family and worn by his son Vincent. It was then given as a christening gift in 1935 to the son of Astor's executive secretary, William Dobbyn, before being sold to a collector in the late 1990s.

The auction also featured other notable Titanic artifacts, including a violin bag belonging to Wallace Hartley, the ship's bandmaster who famously led the band to play on as the vessel sank. Hartley's bag sold for £290,000 ($366,000).

Why this matters: The record-breaking sale of John Jacob Astor IV's pocket watch highlights the enduring fascination with the Titanic and its tragic story. The auction's success also demonstrates the continued demand for rare historical artifacts associated with significant events.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge described the prices achieved for the Titanic memorabilia as "absolutely incredible," reflecting the importance and rarity of the artifacts, as well as the lasting appeal of the Titanic story. The previous record for a Titanic artifact was £1.1 million, set in 2013 for a violin played by Wallace Hartley as the ship sank.

Key Takeaways

  • Astor's gold pocket watch sold for a record $1.485M at a Titanic artifact auction.
  • The watch was recovered from Astor's body after the Titanic sank in 1912.
  • Astor was the richest passenger on the Titanic, with a net worth of $87M.
  • The auction also featured a violin bag belonging to the Titanic's bandmaster, sold for $366K.
  • The record-breaking sales demonstrate the enduring fascination with the Titanic tragedy.