John Jacob Astor IV's Engraved Watch Auctioned for Record £1.2M

John Jacob Astor IV's gold pocket watch, recovered from his body after the Titanic sank, sold at auction for £1.2 million to a US collector. The 14-carat gold Waltham watch, engraved with Astor's initials, is a rare artifact from the 1912 disaster.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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John Jacob Astor IV's Engraved Watch Auctioned for Record £1.2M

John Jacob Astor IV's Engraved Watch Auctioned for Record £1.2M

A gold pocket watch belonging to John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard the ill-fated Titanic, has been auctioned for a record-breaking £1.2 million (RM7.2 million) to a private collector in the United States. The sale, which took place at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, has set a new high for Titanic memorabilia, surpassing the previous record of £1.1 million (RM6.6 million) paid for a violin played as the ship sank in 1912.

Why this matters: The auction of Astor's watch highlights the enduring public fascination with the Titanic's tragic story and its wealthy passengers, serving as a reminder of the human cost of the disaster. The sale also underscores the significance of preserving historical artifacts, which can provide valuable insights into the past and its most significant events.

The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved with Astor's initials "JJA," was found on his body after it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean on April 22, 1912, just days after the Titanic sank. Astor, a prominent member of the wealthy Astor family, drowned at the age of 47 after ensuring his pregnant wife Madeleine safely boarded a lifeboat. "Astor was well known as the richest passenger aboard the Titanic and was thought to be among the richest people in the world at that time..." noted auctioneer Andrew Aldridge.

Eyewitness accounts describe Astor's final moments, with the millionaire last seen smoking a cigarette and conversing with a fellow passenger on the ship's deck. Rather than attempting to board another lifeboat, Astor appeared resigned to his fate. His net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be approximately $87 million, equivalent to several billion dollars in today's currency.

The historic pocket watch was passed down to Astor's son Vincent before being given to the son of Astor's executive secretary, William Dobbyn. The timepiece's sale has reignited interest in the Titanic's tragic story and the lives of its wealthy passengers. The record-breaking auction underscores the enduring fascination with artifacts connected to the disaster, which claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people when the ship struck an iceberg and sank on April 14, 1912.

Key Takeaways

  • John Jacob Astor IV's gold pocket watch sold for £1.2 million at auction.
  • The watch is a record-breaking sale for Titanic memorabilia.
  • Astor was the richest man on the Titanic, worth $87 million in 1912.
  • The watch was found on Astor's body after the ship sank on April 14, 1912.
  • The sale highlights the enduring public fascination with the Titanic's story.