Gold pocket watch owned by the richest man on the Titanic, who died when the ship sank, fetches record $1.5 million

  • A gold pocket watch owned by Titanic's richest passenger sold at auction for around $1.5 million.

  • The sale is the highest price ever paid for an item of Titanic memorabilia.

  • The watch was owned by John Jacob Astor IV, a businessman who died when the ship sank in 1912.

A gold pocket watch that belonged to the richest man on the Titanic has sold at auction for a record-breaking £1.175 million, which is roughly $1.5 million.

The watch was sold on Saturday to a private collector in the US by Henry Aldridge & Son, an auction house in Devizes, Wiltshire, South West England.

"Thank you to all of our customers today in the room, online and on the telephone," a post on Henry Aldridge & Son's Instagram read, adding that the sale of the watch had fetched a "new house record."

The watch had belonged to John Jacob Astor IV, a businessman and real estate developer who went down with the ship when it sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

"Astor is well known as the richest passenger aboard the R.M.S. Titanic and was thought to be among the richest people in the world at that time, with a net worth of roughly $87 million," Henry Aldridge & Son says on its website.

Astor IV, who was 47 at the time the Titanic sank, helped his wife, Madeleine, onto a lifeboat and then smoked a last cigarette as the ship went down.

The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved JJA, was found on his body when it was recovered a week later.

The highest amount previously paid for a Titanic artifact had been £1.1 million, or roughly $1.4 million, for a violin that band member Wallace Hartley apparently played to try to calm passengers as the ship went under.

The case for the violin was sold at the same auction on Saturday for £360,000, which is about $455,000.

The RMS Titanic.
The RMS Titanic.Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The RMS Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. Around 1,500 people are believed to have died as a result of the incident.

The ship was built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was launched on 31 May 1911.

Last year, a submersible operated by the expedition company OceanGate imploded as it descended to view the wreck of the Titanic. All five passengers on board were killed.

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