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Gold Watch on the Titanic’s Richest Passenger Is up for Auction; Here’s How Much It Could Sell For

The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch auction begins Saturday, with a starting bid of 60,000 pounds.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Bettmann | (R) Wikimedia Commons
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Bettmann | (R) Wikimedia Commons

John Jacob Astor IV was the richest passenger onboard the infamous RMS Titanic which sank on April 14, 1912. A pocket watch that belonged to him is now up for auction and could sell for as much as 150,000 pounds, or nearly $190,000, via CBS News. "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 (equivalent to several billion dollars today)," the auction house wrote. The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch auction begins Saturday (April 27), with a starting bid of 60,000 pounds, as per the auction house Henry Aldridge & Son. The watch, which is engraved with the initials JJA. was originally found with Astor's body when his remains were recovered a few days after the Titanic sank. Some other finds are a diamond ring, a gold and diamond cufflink, and 225 pounds in English notes as well as $2,440. The pocket watch found there was later claimed by Astor's son Vincent who kept and wore it for the rest of his life. 

George Rinhart | Getty Images | John Jacob Astor IV and Madeline Force
George Rinhart | Getty Images | John Jacob Astor IV and Madeline Force

On April 22, 1912, the steamer CS McKay-Bennet recovered Astor's body and watch. "The watch itself was completely restored after being returned to Colonel Astor's family and worn by his son making it a unique part of the Titanic story and one of the most important pieces of horological history relating to the most famous ship in the world," the auction house said.

The watch was given as a christening gift to the infant son of William Dobbyn IV John Jacob Astor’s executive secretary. The watch was later kept in the Dobbyn family until the late 1990s when it went to auction. The watch was later bought by an unnamed collector in the United States who is the current seller. Since then, the watch has been displayed in many museums.


"So, you know, throughout its time, quite literally millions of people have viewed it, which is fabulous," Aldridge of the Auction house told CNN. Apart from the watch, John Jacob Astor IV’s cufflinks and plan of the Titanic’s first-class accommodation are also on offer at Saturday’s auction. The cufflinks are expected to sell for around £5,000 ($46,244) and £8,000 ($9,990.40) while the accommodation plan may sell between £20,000 ($24,976) and £30,000 ($37,464).

Over the years, several items recovered from the infamous shipwreck have gone up for auction. The most recent one is the photo of the iceberg taken on April 16, 1912, by somebody on board the rescue ships sent to the location.


Astor belonged to the famous Astor family and was a business tycoon, a real estate developer, an investor, a writer, and a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish–American War. Astor is also often credited for inventing a form of air conditioning by blowing cold air over the hotel's wall vents. Astor was later buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan, New York City, and four months after the tragedy his wife gave birth to his second son, John Jacob "Jakey" Astor VI.