23rd May 2023 – (Hong Kong) A Patek Philippe watch once owned by the last emperor of China’s Qing Dynasty has sold for a record-breaking US$6.2million (HK$49m) (inclusive of premium) at a Hong Kong auction today. The watch, which was gifted by Aisin-Gioro Puyi to his Russian interpreter while he was imprisoned by the Soviet Union, was purchased by an anonymous buyer. The timepiece was one of only eight known Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune watches and beat the pre-sale estimate of US$3 million.
Thomas Perazzi, head of watches at auction house Phillips Asia, stated that it was the highest result ever achieved for any wristwatch that once belonged to an emperor. Other watches owned by emperors and sold at auction include a Patek Philippe watch that belonged to the last Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, which sold for US$2.9 million in 2017, and a Rolex watch that belonged to the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, which fetched $5 million at an auction in the same year.
Aisin-Gioro Puyi was the last Emperor of China’s Qing dynasty, ascending to the throne at the age of two. After Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army at China’s Shenyang Airport and detained as a war prisoner. He was incarcerated in a detention camp in Khabarovsk, Russia, for five years. The watch that was sold at the auction was one of several items that the emperor gifted to his Russian interpreter, Georgy Permyakov, on his last day in the Soviet Union before he was extradited back to China. Permyakov had kept the watch for more than 70 years before deciding to sell it.
The auction house spent three years collaborating with watch specialists, historians, journalists, and scientists to research the watch’s history and verify its provenance. According to Perazzi, the watch was the finest that Patek Philippe made at the time, making it a rare and highly sought-after timepiece for collectors.