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Pocket watch of business magnate who died in Titanic sinking to be auctioned


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A gold pocket watch recovered from the body of the wealthy business magnate John Jacob Astor, who went down with the Titanic, is expected to fetch up to £150,000 at auction.

The 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved “JJA”, was found when Astor’s body was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean seven days after the sinking of the liner, which hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York in 1912.

Astor, reputedly the richest man onboard the ship and a prominent member of the Astor family, had safely seen his pregnant second wife Madeleine into a lifeboat. He was last seen smoking a cigarette and chatting with a fellow passenger.

The watch is tipped to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000 when it goes under the hammer at auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, on Saturday.

“Astor is well known as the richest passenger aboard the RMS Titanic and was thought to be among the richest people in the world at that time, with a net worth of roughly $87m – equivalent to several billion dollars today,” said the auctioneer Andrew Aldridge.

“At 11.40pm on April 14 1912 the Titanic hit an iceberg and started to take on water. At first, Astor did not believe the ship was in any serious danger but later it was apparent she was sinking and the captain had started an evacuation after midnight, so he helped his wife into lifeboat 4.”

Astor’s wife survived.

John Jacob Astor was reportedly the richest passenger aboard the RMS Titanic, which sank in 1912. Photograph: AP

Astor was a great-grandson of the German-American fur-trader John Jacob Astor and Sarah Cox Todd, whose fortune made the family one of the wealthiest in the US.

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A businessman, real estate developer, investor and writer, he was identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. His son, Vincent, claimed the pocket watch and passed it to the son of his father’s executive secretary, William Dobbyn.

“The watch itself was completely restored after being returned to Mr 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,” Aldridge added.

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