A Patek Philippe Reference 96, once worn by Aisin-Gioro Puyi who is the last Emperor of the Qing dynasty, is currently on display at Phillips auction house. From the movement to the dial, the Reference 96 is a true rare Patek Philippe.
Born in 1906, Aisin-Giro Puyi was the last Emperor of the Qing dynasty, enthroned in 1908 at the age of three and deposed in 1912 following the Chinese Revolution. After the revolution, Puyi lived in Beijing for a while, but in 1934 he was proclaimed the Emperor of the Greater Manchurian Empire under the name Gangde. The unlucky emperor was captured by the Russians after the Second World War and spent five years in a Siberian prison. In those years, he was wearing a Patek Philippe, which makes the story much more enthusing for us.
Throughout five years Puyi spent in prison, he was wearing the Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, which Phillips unveiled in Hong Kong. The Reference 96 96 Quantieme Lune is a rare timepiece with the exact dial configuration with three date windows and a moon phase indicator.
The platinum Calatrava case made by watchmaker Antoine Gerlach. The pink gold enamel surrounding dial features an Arabic numeral dial paired with pink gold ring and Feuille hands. The watch also features a moon phase indicator at the top of dial and three date windows, which is a rare complication for the early 1900s. On the other hand, the watch housed Victorin Piguet ébauche movement produced during the downfall of the global economy in 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression, and therefore was never cased.
It is known that Puyi bought the watch in 1937 and he wore it as a prisoner in Soviet Union between 1945-50. According to his nephew, Puyi gifted the watch to his translator friend he met in the Soviet Union.
The Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune, which witnessed Asia’s most turbulent years, when an empire fell and the Chinese Revolution was declared, will be on display at Phillips Hong Kong from March 18 to 31. It will then embark on an international tour that will take it to New York, Singapore, London, Taipei and Geneva. Later in the year, the watch is expected to be auctioned.
According to Phillips, there are only 8 Reference 96 watches in the world today (only 7 were known before the recent discovery of Puyi’s watch). Only two of these watches, like Puyi’s, have rose gold enamel and Arabic numerals. One of these Reference 96s was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2002 and sold to Patek Philippe for $2 million. The Patek Philippe Reference Quantieme Lune, which once adorned the wrist of the last Chinese Emperor, is also expected to reach seven figures.