Gold Watch Worn by Richest Passenger Aboard Titanic Sells at Auction for Record-Breaking $1.5 Million

Photo Credit: Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd. and Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

While many will say that items recovered from the RMS Titanic sinking are priceless, many items have been sold at auction. Recently, a collection of items went up for auction at Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd., including a gold pocket watch previously owned by a notable passenger of the ship. Remarkably, it broke the record for the highest-selling Titanic memorabilia to date.

John Jacob Astor IV died in the sinking

John Jacob Astor IV was the richest aboard the Titanic and was a victim of its sinking. (Photo Credit: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

John Jacob Astor IV, a prominent member of the wealthy Astor family, was an American business magnate, real estate developer, investor, and writer. He was the richest man aboard the Titanic and was accompanied by his pregnant wife, Madeleine, during its only journey in April 1912. Not only was he the richest aboard the ship, he was considered to be among the richest people in the world, with a net worth of about $87 million (equivalent to $2.75 billion in 2023) at the time.

Sadly, Astor was one of the approximately 1,500 people to die after the Titanic sank on April 15 after it hit an iceberg. His wife was aboard lifeboat No. 4 and survived the tragedy. While the majority of bodies were never recovered following the sinking, Astor’s was, and several of his personal effects were retrieved, including gold cufflinks, a diamond ring, a pocketbook, and a gold pocket watch.

The watch has a unique history

The watch has been featured in museums in the past. (Photo Credit: Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd.)

Following his body’s recovery, Astor’s possessions were passed onto his son, Vincent. Vincent then restored the pocket watch so that it was back in working condition, and in 1935, he gave the watch as a christening gift to the infant son of William Dobbyn IV. Dobbyn was Astor’s executive secretary, and the family kept the watch for several decades.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the pocket watch went on auction. At this time, an unnamed US collector had purchased the watch, and the item then circulated through several museums as an artifact of the Titanic. “So, you know, over the course of its time, quite literally millions of people have viewed it, which is fabulous,” said Andrew Aldridge, the managing director of auction house Henry Aldridge and Son.

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It sold for a record-breaking $1.5 million

The pocket watch broke the record for highest-selling Titanic memorabilia. (Photo Credit: Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd.)

The pocket watch recently went on auction, along with several other pieces, and sold for a record-breaking $1.485 million. It sold for ten times more than what it was expected to sell at, which was about $189,000. This price has earned it the “new world record for Titanic memorabilia,” Aldridge explained. Up until this point, it was the violin that the band leader famously played as the ship sank that held the highest selling point, having been sold for $1.7 million back in 2013.

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Along with the pocket watch, the auction house also saw the offering of the bag that previously held the famous violin, which sold for just over $454,000. This, too, sold for higher than its expected price of $150,000. “These prices for these unique pieces of history reflect not only their importance but also the ongoing interest into the Titanic story and the memory of her passengers and crew,” Aldridge said.

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