An ultra-rare Patek Philippe Ref. 96 Quantieme Lune just sold for a price befitting its imperial provenance.
The watch, which once belonged to Aisin-Giro Puyi, the last emperor of China, sold for over $6.2 million to an unnamed collector at a sale overseen by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo on Tuesday in Hong Kong. That’s a noteworthy sum for any watch, but it’s also more than twice what it was expected to sell for.
It’s unclear when Puyi, who ruled over China from 1908 to 1912, acquired this particular example, but it is known that he wore it throughout a five-year stint in a Siberian prison following World War II. During the war, he had served as the leader of the Japanese puppet state of Manchuko and was captured by the Soviets after Japanese forces surrendered in 1945. He is said to have gifted the watch, along with a number of other personal effects, to a translator he befriended during his time as a captive.
There’s much more to this Patek than who owned it, though. This Ref. 96 Quantieme Lune is also a horological masterpiece. The watch is one of just eight examples known to exist. It has a Bauhaus-inspired platinum case that houses a silvered dial (shared by only two other examples) with a rose-gold chapter ring and enamel hour markers. The timepiece also has a moon-phase indicator and a triple-date calendar. Those features may be commonplace today, but they weren’t 86 years ago, especially in a watch so thin.
Phillips had high hopes for the imperial Ref. 96 Quantieme Lune. There was good reason for this, because one of the other two silvered-dial examples sold for $2 million in 2002. Still, we imagine the auction house was surprised to see the final gavel price come in at more than double the watch’s $3 million pre-sale estimate.
The timepiece wasn’t the only related item that beat expectations during the auction. A red fan (which went for $77,800) and notebook ($121,600) owned by Puyi sold for well over their estimates as well. The auction as a whole realized $6.6 million.