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Gold watch worn by richest passenger aboard Titanic to be sold at auction

In World
April 26, 2024

A gold watch worn by John Jacob Astor IV, a member of the wealthy Astor family and the richest man aboard the Titanic, will go up for sale at an auction of memorabilia from the doomed ship.

Astor was one of around 1,500 people who died when the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after hitting an iceberg. His pregnant wife, Madeleine, survived.

The watch is among a number of notable items on offer at auction house Henry Aldridge & Son in Wiltshire, England, on Saturday, including the valise that held the violin famously played by the band leader as the ship sank, and a pocketbook that documents the Titanic’s scheduled voyages. The violin itself was sold for $1.7 million via the same auction house in 2013 and is the highest-selling item from the ship ever.

The valise belonging to Titanic bandmember and orchestra leader Wallace Hartley, which held the violin he played as the Titanic sank, is also for sale. - Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd

The valise belonging to Titanic bandmember and orchestra leader Wallace Hartley, which held the violin he played as the Titanic sank, is also for sale. – Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd

The watch is expected to sell for between £100,000 and £150,000 ($125,000-$188,000) and the valise for between £100,000-£120,000 ($125,000-$150,000), according to Andrew Aldridge, the managing director of auction house Henry Aldridge & Son. Bidding begins on April 27 at midday local time (7 a.m. ET), Aldridge told CNN.

The watch was among the personal effects found with Astor’s body after the Titanic sank, according to the auction house. He also had gold cufflinks, a diamond ring, money and a pocketbook on him, among other items.

After the recovery of Astor’s body, those possessions were sent to his son, Vincent Astor, who completely restored the watch so that it worked. In 1935, Vincent gave the watch as a christening gift to the infant son of William Dobbyn IV, John Jacob Astor’s executive secretary, according to the auction house.

Aldridge told CNN that the Dobbyn family kept the watch until the late 1990s, when it went to auction.

An unnamed collector in the United States bought the watch at this auction and is the current seller. Since then, it has been displayed in several museums.

“So, you know, over the course of its time, quite literally millions of people have viewed it, which is fabulous,” Aldridge said.

John Jacob Astor IV’s cufflinks and plan of the Titanic’s first-class accommodation are also on offer at Saturday’s auction. The cufflinks are expected to sell for between £5,000 and £8,000 ($6,250-$10,000) and the accommodation plan for between £20,000 and £30,000 ($25,000-$37,500).

CNN’s Taylor Nicioli contributed reporting. Per Nyberg and Chelsea J. Carter contributed reporting.

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