There are auctions that are decidedly out of the ordinary and watches that are equally so for their historical value and their rarity. This is the case of the Patek Philippe 96 Quantieme Lune in platinum, which once belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, which was sold by Phillips in association with “Bacs & Russo” for HK$49 million / US$6.2 million
Held at the new Phillips Asian Headquarters in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District, this historic soiree featured a global attendance of collectors from 56 countries and an auction room packed with collectors, journalists and watch enthusiasts from all over the world. Asia who attended this memorable auction.
The story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi and his Patek Philippe 96QL
Aisin-Gioro Puyi, was the last emperor of China and the last ruler of the Qing dynasty. However, his leadership was short-lived due to the historical events that unfolded in China. In 1912, the Xinhai Revolution led to the fall of the Qing dynasty and Puyi was forced to abdicate. Thereafter, Puyi lived a rather tumultuous life.
After his abdication, Puyi was allowed to remain in the Forbidden City in Beijing as the "Retired Emperor" for a few years, until he was forced to leave in 1924. Subsequently, he lived in different locations in China, until, in 1931, was made emperor of the state of Manchukuo by the Japanese.
This specimen of the Patek Philippe Ref. 96 Quantieme Lune it was sold in 1937. Phillips experts traced the watch to a sale at Guillermin, a Parisian luxury store then located on Place Vendome, home to some of the world's top jewelers.
During Puyi's time as emperor of Manchukuo, he ruled over a Japanese-controlled region in northeast China. However, his suzerainty was largely dependent on the Japanese government, and his role as emperor was more symbolic than actual. After Japan's defeat in World War II, Puyi was arrested by the Soviets and spent several years in a prison camp in Khabarovsk. Here he was accused, along with other officers, of being a war criminal.
In addition to the emperor's personal items, records show that Puyi took this watch to the prison camp, which was later registered as special item No. 45.
According to the memoir of Puyi's nephew Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch was a "personal item" of the deposed emperor, who passed it on to his Russian interpreter Georgy Permyakov to keep it when he left the prison camp.
The watch remained with Permyakov until his death.
Il Patek Philippe Ref. 96QL with triple date and moon phase is recognized as the essence of the round wristwatch and one of the finest symbols of Patek Philippe, the Calatrava. Extremely elegant yet simply cased in platinum, its silhouette and large unsigned crown express Bauhaus aesthetics and understated functionality. The watch measures 30mm in diameter and has an ébauche created by Victorin Piguet, the movement supplier best known for developing highly sophisticated pieces and intricate astronomical complications.
It was produced during the global economic downturn in 1929, the onset of the Great Depression, and thus never grossed. With the introduction of the reference 96 as a novelty in 1932, the movement was further updated by the manufacturer and housed in this current modernist platinum case with Bauhaus influences.
Apart from this Emperor Puyi example, only seven Reference 96s with complete calendars were known to date, five of which were in platinum and two in yellow gold. Underscoring the rarity of this piece, only two examples have ever emerged with the exact dial configuration – which includes an arbaic enamel “Roulette” configuration: one was purchased by Patek Phillipe for $2 million in 2002 at Sotheby's; another was sold in 1996 to a private collector.
For more information on Emperor Puyi's Patek Philippe 96 "Quantieme Lune", please visit the website of Phillips.