Titanic Watch Sells for Record

Gold timepiece belonged to John Jacob Astor, who died in the sinking
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2024 1:40 PM CDT
Watch of Titanic's Richest Passenger Brings $1.5M
The Waltham watch belonged to John Jacob Astor IV.   (Henry Aldridge & Son)

A 14-carat gold pocket watch owned by the Titanic's wealthiest passenger has sold for a record-breaking amount. Expected to bring about one-tenth of the winning bid, the watch went for $1.485 million at auction Saturday, CNN reports. That's a "world record for Titanic memorabilia," said Andrew Aldridge of the English auction house Henry Aldridge & Son. The Waltham watch was found with the body of John Jacob Astor IV, who was returning to the US with his wife, Madeleine, from an extended honeymoon in Europe when the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. Madeleine Astor, who was pregnant, survived the sinking.

Also found with the tycoon's body were a diamond ring, gold and diamond cufflinks, 225 pounds in English notes, and $2,440, according to the auction house. Astor's remains and effects were recovered by the steamer CS McKay-Bennett on April 22, per CBS News. "The watch itself was completely restored after being returned to Colonel Astor's family and worn by his son," a statement from the auction house said. Astor's son Vincent made a christening gift of the watch in 1935 to the son of William Dobbyn IV, who was his father's executive secretary.

That family put the watch on auction in the late 1990s, Aldridge said. It was bought by an American collector who allowed it to be displayed in museums. "So, you know, over the course of its time, quite literally millions of people have viewed it, which is fabulous," Aldridge said Sunday. More than 1,500 people were killed when the Titanic sank. (A pocket watch from a second-class Titanic passenger brought much less at auction last fall.)

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