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Emperor of China’s Patek Philippe Sells for £5 Million

Phillips Auction Patek Philippe Ref. 96QL Moonphase Calendar

Luxury auction house Phillips have sold the personal watch of China’s last Emperor Aisin-Gioro Puyi for an incredible HKD 48,850,000 – which works out to be approximately £5,018,000. The watch, which is a Ref. 96QL Moonphase Calendar, was sold as part of The Imperial Patek Philippe Sale on May 23rd, 2023, alongside a handful of artworks with notes written on them by Puyi.

When we say that a watch can tell the story of its owner and become an important cultural object in its own right, this is exactly what we mean. It’s well documented that Puyi took the watch with him to the Soviet prison camp where he was held after being arrested as a war criminal in 1945. During the period of his incarceration Puyi asked his servant to disassemble the watch and learn its mechanisms, which he did, removing some of the paint to reveal that the dial was made of brass, after which he was instructed to stop his investigations. It’s this alteration that has resulted in the half white, half brass dial seen on the watch to this day.

After five years in prison, news came that Puyi was to be released and allowed to return to China. Upon receiving the news, Emperor Puyi immediately gifted the watch to Permyakov, the Russian translator who had served as his interpreter throughout the five years and the man who told him he was going home. Following that, the watch became an heirloom in Permyakov’s family.

Phillips Auction Patek Philippe Ref. 96QL Moonphase Calendar

Jumping forward from what was a turbulent period of history when Russian and Chinese politics were at the forefront of the world’s psyche to the modern turbulent period where Russian and Chinese politics are at the forefront of the world’s psyche, we come to the auction itself. The watch was given an estimate of £3 million due to the rarity of its manufacture (one of eight known Ref. 96QLs and one of only three known enamel “roulette” dials produced by Patek Philippe) and the incredible story it carries. However, as is ever the case with auction estimates, the final price exceeded expectations by a large margin..

More details at Phillips.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Junior Content Producer for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. While a relative newcomer to the magazine, he's nonetheless a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better.

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