Auction Results

Astor gold watch breaks Titanic auction record price 


A gold watch owned by John Jacob Astor IV Titanic victim
Image courtesy of Henry Aldridge & Son Limited.

A gold watch owned by John Astor, the richest man to die on the Titanic, has been sold for over £1 million. It is now the most valuable item from the disaster, displacing the violin played by bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the luxury liner went down. 

The pocket watch was sold at auction to an American private collector for £1.175 million in Wiltshire, UK last Saturday, April 27, 2024. 

John Jacob Astor IV was one of around 1,500 victims of the sinking on April 15, 1912. 

John Jacob Astor IV, who was said to have met his fate with great courage.

He is believed to be the wealthiest man to die in the disaster.

His family, originally from Germany, was among the richest in the world in the 19th century. They had considerable power and influence in the UK and USA. 

Their money came from, among other things, the fur trade, exporting opium to China, and property development in New York. 

By the time John Jacob Astor IV inherited his fortune the family were probably best known for their hotels and property holdings, including the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. 

Astor had a net worth of around £7 billion in 2024 figures. A substantial amount of cash – over £200 and $2,000 – was recovered with his body. 

His story showed insoucient courage. A former soldier, Astor was reportedly last seen smoking and chatting as the ship went down. He saw his pregnant wife safely into a lifeboat. 

This watch was recovered with his body.

The 14-carat Waltham watch soared past a low-looking estimate to realise £1.175 million, six times the guide price of £150,000 to £200,000.

In  2013, a violin played as the ship went down raised £900,000 ($1.46 million) at auction. The case that carried that violin was sold at the April 27 sale, realising £290,000. 

The watch remained in the Astor family until the 1930s, when it was given by John Jacob IV’s son William to his secretary’s son, William Dobbyn. 

It was sold in the 1990s, and was sold with an affidavit from the Dobbyn family attesting to its legitimacy. 

The Titanic continues to exercise a strong hold on collectors. 

The tragic story of the unsinkable ship that sank is full of human interest – courage, hubris, fear – and items with strong personal connections are the most valuable. 

The story has been a constant in popular culture since it was an early mass-media sensation in 1912. Now, the 1997 movie Titanic is another focus for collectors, with a balsa-wood prop from the film recently realising over $700,000 at auction. 

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