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China’s Last Emperor’s Watch Expected to Fetch $3M

Last Chinese Emperor's Luxury Watch
Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, China’s last emperor’s luxury watch. Credit: Phillips

A wristwatch that belonged to the last emperor of China, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, is going up for auction in Hong Kong this month. The watch is expected to sell for more than $3 million due to its rarity and history.

The Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune is a very rare watch, with only eight known to exist. The watch is made of platinum and is 1.2 inches in diameter.

It has an Arabic numeral dial, pink gold hands, and a “moon phase” function that shows how visible the moon is from Earth at any given time. Some of its internal mechanisms date back to 1929, although it was not sold by Patek Philippe until 1937.

It is not known how Puyi obtained the watch; records show that it was initially sold through a luxury store in Paris.

The watch’s value is not only due to its rarity but also because of its remarkable history. During the former emperor’s five-year imprisonment in the USSR, the watch went with him to Siberia, according to Phillips auction house.

The historical documents prove that the former emperor took the watch with him to a Soviet prison camp in Khabarovsk, Phillips further explained.

Gift to ‘Georgy Permyakov’

Phillips has revealed that Puyi gave the watch to Georgy Permyakov, who served as his tutor and Russian translator during his detention and was a fluent Mandarin speaker, in 1950, just before he returned to China to face trial for war crimes.

Phillips conducted an unprecedented three-year research project involving a worldwide team of watch specialists, historians, journalists, and scientists, to confirm the watch’s provenance and history, according to Thomas Perazzi, the auction house’s head of watches for Asia.

The catalog listing for the watch also includes an account from Puyi’s nephew Yuyan, who was imprisoned with him. Yuyan remembered that his uncle wore the watch “day to day” while in Manchukuo. The catalog also states that Puyi had previously given the watch to his nephew but later asked for it back to give it to Permyakov.

Puyi returned to China almost a decade after he gave the watch to Permyakov. He was later pardoned and lived as a civilian in Beijing until his death in 1967. Permyakov, on the other hand, kept the watch until his death in 2005. After that, the watch was passed down to his heirs. The current owner of the watch consigned it to Phillips in 2019.

The watch has been displayed in New York, Singapore, London, and Taipei. It will also be exhibited in Geneva before being returned to Hong Kong for sale. The sale will take place at Phillips’ new Asia headquarters on May 23.

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