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Titanic pocket watch sells in Wiltshire for £900000

29-04-2024

LONDON: A gold watch found on the body of the richest passenger on the Titanic has been auctioned in the United Kingdom for 1.17 million British pounds ($1.46m), a record sum paid for an object linked to the infamous 1912 shipping disaster.

The watch, engraved with the initials JJA after the United States-based business magnate John Jacob Astor, was sold on Saturday by the auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son.

A US buyer won the bidding war, exceeding by more than 10 times, the auctioneers’ presale estimate of between 100,000-150,000 pounds ($126,000-189,500).

The watch and the brown leather violin bag belonged to two people who became enshrined in Titanic folklore.

Astor was 47 when he died as the Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, one of 1,500 people on board who died. He was reputed to be one of the richest men in the world at the time.

He died after having helped his wife, Madeleine, board one of the lifeboats. She survived the disaster.

Astor’s body was found a week after the disaster, with the watch among his personal belongings. A statement from the auction house said the watch was completely restored after being returned to Astor’s family and worn by his son.

In November 2023, a pocket watch recovered from the body of passenger Sinai Kantor, 34, a Russian immigrant who died in the catastrophe, was also sold by the same auction house in the UK for 97,000 pounds ($118,700).

A rare menu from the ill-fated liner’s first-class restaurant that showed what the most well-to-do passengers ate for dinner on April 11, 1912, three days before the ship struck the iceberg that caused it to sink in the Atlantic Ocean sold for 83,000 pounds ($101,600).

Titanic was sailing from Southampton to New York when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic on the night of 14 April 1912. It sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

The disaster is one of the most infamous in maritime history, inspiring books, plays, songs and Hollywood films.

Astor, 47, went down with the ship, after putting his young wife Madeleine into a lifeboat and smoking a last cigarette.

While Wallace Hartley, from Colne in Lancashire, and his eight-piece band famously “played on” to calm passengers as the disaster unfolded around them.

Both items were retrieved when the bodies of their owners were recovered from the water. “Unlike many timepieces from the Titanic, which are frozen in time on the fateful night, the watch was restored and worn by Astor’s son, Vincent,” said David Beddard, chairman of the British Titanic Society.

“To be able to see J.J. Astor’s watch, knowing it was in his pocket as he put his young, pregnant bride in a lifeboat and stepped back, knowing he wasn’t going to survive, is remarkable,” he added.

Aldridge, managing director at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, said; “You’ve got over 2,200 people on that ship, so you have over 2,200 subplots and 2,200 chapters to the story.

“Each one of those people had an individual tale to tell.

“We are fascinated in her because of who was on board.

“You could argue that Titanic is the most famous ship that’s ever sailed.”

The violin, considered to be the “rarest and most iconic piece” of Titanic memorabilia, according to Aldridge, was auctioned separately in 2013 and sold for a then record price of £900,000.

The bag and watch were auctioned alongside a rare order of service for Hartley’s funeral that was held on 18 May 1912 in Colne, Lancashire. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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