The ‘Imperial’ Patek Philippe Owned By China’s Last Emperor Just Hammered For $9.4 Million
— 24 May 2023

The ‘Imperial’ Patek Philippe Owned By China’s Last Emperor Just Hammered For $9.4 Million

— 24 May 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

Move over ‘Bao Dai’ – there’s a new son of heaven in town.

As part of a broader, dedicated sale that took place in Hong Kong yesterday evening, Phillips has just auctioned off a rare Patek Philippe wristwatch once belonging to Aisin-Gioro Puyi – better known to Western historians as the final emperor of China and last monarch of the Qing dynasty.

A rare Ref. 96QL that Puyi reportedly inherited sometime prior to his imprisonment in Soviet Russia, the winning bid made by an as-yet-unidentified collector came in at an eyewatering HK$48,850,000 (approx. AU$9.4 million).

Well in excess of most auction watchers’ projected US$3 million valuation, it’s already the most expensive wristwatch to sell publicly in 2023 – and the 8th most expensive watch sold at auction of all time.

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Speaking to international press late yesterday, Thomas Perazzi, Phillips’ regional Head of Watches, stated that he was “thrilled” with the result; with the Imperial Patek Philippe now representing “the most valuable lot ever sold by Phillips Watches in Asia”.

Imperial Patek Philippe
Pictured: Thomas Perazzi at Phillips’ Hong Kong headquarters yesterday, in the lead-up to calling the winning bid for the Imperial Patek Philippe.

A divisive figure in modern Chinese history – whose life was famously depicted in Bernando Bertolucci’s 1987 epic The Last Emperor – Puyi was known to have owned and collected a number of watches during his lifetime – likely in the era when he was still China’s nominal head of state, and later, figurehead of the Japanese puppet regime in Manchukuo.

This Ref. 96 – one of only 8 recorded examples that Patek manufactured with a complete calendar complication – was given by Puyi to Georgy Permyakov – a Russian translator who accompanied the ousted monarch during his years in Soviet captivity. Despite the condition – and depending who you ask, somewhat problematic – tinkering with the dial, there is a history of these Ref. 96 complete calendars fetching such high prices at auction.

One example, also cased in platinum with a roulette-style dial, sold at Sotheby’s in 2003 for US$2 million.

In conjunction with a number of Puyi’s other personal effects – including annotated sketches and a notebook of manuscripts dated circa 1950 – the ‘Imperial Patek Philippe’ sale managed to realise a total value of around $10,040,000 (HK$51,898,000).

An encouraging sign that, when it comes to collecting watches with celebrity provenance, the conversation is now about more than just Paul Newman.

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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