A Patek Philippe watch that belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of China’s Qing dynasty, will soon be up for grabs.
According to a Bloomberg report, the watch was worn by Puyi through his five years as a captive of the Soviets in Siberia. Puyibecame the emperor in 1908, when he wasn’t yet 3years old. He had to abdicate the throne in 1912 during the Chinese Revolution. “He was allowed to retain his title and continuedlive lavishly in the palace until 1924, when he was forced to leave during a coup. It’s not known when or how Puyi obtained the watch, which was finished by Patek Philippe in 1937, but it was sometime during the period that he was Japan’s puppet emperor of the state of Manchuria, or Manchukuo, from 1934 to 1945. At the end of World War II, the Soviets took himcaptiveas he tried to flee Manchuriaand kept him incaptivity for five years. He managed to keep his watch throughout his turbulent life after abdication, even while he was imprisoned,” states the Bloomberg report.
Aurel Bacs, the auctioneer who’sbehind the sale at Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, says that even without the royal history, the wristwatch, Reference 96Quantieme Lune, is a masterpiece. It features a moon-phase and triple-date calendar: Two windowsshow the day of the week and the month, and a long central hand givesthe date.
According to Bacs, in the 1930s when Patek Philippe made the Ref 96, shrinking components to fit complications in slim timepiece cases was a novelty only skilled artisans could achieve, states the Bloomberg report.
“Any auction house, if they didn’t know the story, if it didn’t have any of this extraordinary ephemera coming with it, would already say, ‘Wow, this is the highlight of the season,’” Bacstold Bloomberg.
The watch, along with other belongings of Puyi, like an inscribed paper fan, a manuscript notebook, watercolour paintings and a leather-bound printed edition of Confucius’ Analects, are showcased at Phillips Hong Kong till 31 March. They will later travel to New York, Singapore, London, Taipeiand Geneva. The sale will take place later in 2023.