Gold watch recovered from body of richest man on the Titanic sells for £1.2m

28th April 2024

John Jacob Astor was last seen smoking a cigarette and chatting with a fellow passenger as the Titanic went down. His body was recovered from the Atlantic a week later - along with the pocket watch.

A gold pocket watch that was recovered from the body of the richest man on the Titanic has been sold for a record-breaking £1.175m.

The watch was sold to a private collector in the US at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, for the highest amount ever for Titanic memorabilia, the auctioneers said.

The timepiece was expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000.

Its original owner, John Jacob Astor, 47, went down with the ship on 15 April 1912 after helping his wife on to a lifeboat.

Rather than try his luck with another lifeboat, the impeccably dressed businessman, a prominent member of the wealthy Astor family, was last seen smoking a cigarette and chatting with a fellow passenger.

His body was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean seven days after the sinking of the ship, which hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York, and his 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved with the initials JJA, was found.

The watch was passed by Mr Astor's son Vincent to the son of his father's executive secretary, William Dobbyn.


Astor Watch
The watch was sold to a private collector in the US.

Mr Astor was thought to be one of the richest people in the world at the time of the Titanic's sinking, with a net worth of about $87m - equivalent to several billion dollars today, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said.

"At first, Astor did not believe the ship was in any serious danger but later it was apparent she was sinking and the captain had started an evacuation after midnight, so he helped his wife into lifeboat four," Mr Aldridge said.

Mrs Astor survived. Her husband's body was recovered not far from the sinking.

The previous highest price paid for Titanic artefacts was £1.1 million at the same auction house in 2013 for a violin that was played as the ship sank.

The case for the violin was sold in the same auction as the pocket watch at Henry Aldridge & Son for £360,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said that the prices fetched by the Titanic memorabilia at the sale were "absolutely incredible".

He said: "They reflect not only the importance of the artefacts themselves and their rarity, but they also show the enduring appeal and fascination with the Titanic story.

"112 years later, we are still talking about the ship and the passengers and the crew.

"The thing with the Titanic story, it's effectively a large ship hits an iceberg with a tragic loss of life, but more importantly is 2,200 stories.

"2,200 subplots, every man, woman and child had a story to tell and then the memorabilia tells those stories today."

Sky News

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