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Titanic's wealthiest passenger's gold pocket watch sells for record-breaking €1.4 million

Historic Titanic pocket watch sells for record £1.2m
Historic Titanic pocket watch sells for record £1.2m Copyright Credit: Henry Aldridge & Son
Copyright Credit: Henry Aldridge & Son
By Theo Farrant
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Other notable items in the auction included the valise holding the band leader's violin and a pocketbook documenting the Titanic’s voyages.

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A gold pocket watch retrieved from the body of the Titanic's wealthiest passenger has been sold for a record-breaking £1.2 million (€1.4m) to a private collector in the US. 

The auction took place on Saturday at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, marking the highest amount ever paid for Titanic memorabilia, according to the auctioneers.

The timepiece, belonging to John Jacob Astor IV of the affluent Astor family, fetched ten times its expected auction price of £100,000 to £150,000 (€117,000 to €175,000). 

At the time of the sinking, the 47-year-old Astor was one of the richest people on Earth and owned properties including the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He took the journey on the Titanic with his 18-year-old newlywed wife Madeleine Astor and the socialite Molly Brown.

As his wife and Brown were ferried onto lifeboats, Astor was told he had to wait until all women and children were safe before joining. He stepped aside and smoked a cigarette as they were taken to safety. 

Wallace Hartley's violin case
Wallace Hartley's violin caseCredit: Henry Aldridge & Son

Alongside Astor's watch, other notable items up for auction included the valise that held the violin famously played by the band leader, Wallace Hartley, as the ship sank, and a pocketbook detailing the Titanic’s voyages.  

The valise sold for £360,000 (€421,000), and the violin itself was auctioned for £1.1 million (€1.28m) by the same auction house in 2013. Until Astor’s pocket watch was sold, the violin held the record as the highest-selling item from the Titanic.

“Wallace Hartley's violin is the most iconic piece of Titanic memorabilia ever sold at auction,” said auctioneer Andrew Aldridge. “However, it would not have survived if it were not for this valise case made of English coach hide. The long straps would have been used by Wallace to strap the bag to himself as the Titanic was sinking. It served to protect the instrument against the salt seawater.”

Just last month the famous Titanic floating door that kept Rose (Kate Winslet) afloat but left Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) in a fatefully chilly predicament inJames Cameron's 1997 film sold for a a whopping $718,750 (€663,000) during a Heritage Auctions' Treasures from Planet Hollywood event.

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