Originally estimated to exceed $3 million, this Patek 96 Quantieme Lune watch held immense historical significance and a strong connection to Puyi, the former emperor. Apart from its notable past, the watch is exceptionally rare and holds a significant place in Patek Philippe's history as the eighth complete calendar moonphase ref. 96 and the third known Quantieme Lune crafted in platinum. The remaining two examples are presently housed in the prestigious Patek Philippe Museum.
Previous auctions have witnessed similar platinum versions of the 96 Quantieme Lune achieving remarkable prices. One of them was sold for $1.1 million at Antiquorum in 1990, while another, featuring a roulette dial similar to the Imperial Patek, fetched $2 million in 2003.
The Imperial Patek Philippe 96 retains its original platinum case, which remains sharp and unaltered. The dial, although bearing scraping on its bottom half due to the curiosity of Puyi and his aide, exhibits an intriguing symmetrical pattern. This unique feature adds to the watch's rarity and enhances its provenance. The timepiece is accompanied by its original strap and Patek buckle.
The Extract from the Archives confirms its sale by the French retailer Guillermin in 1937. While it remains unclear how a watch sold by a French retailer made its way to a Chinese emperor, Phillips has put forth a theory based on Guillermin's practice of supplying luxury products to international dealers in addition to its operations in Paris. One of these dealers could potentially have been Sennet Frères, a Hong Kong distributor of watches and jewelry. Supporting this theory, Phillips highlights that Puyi owned a few items from Sennet Frères, making it plausible that his Patek Philippe could have come from there.
The anticipation surrounding the Imperial Patek was immense, making it the most eagerly awaited lot of the auction season. Consequently, the starting estimate of $3 million seemed conservative. A writer for SJX, a Chinese-language watch publication, described the Imperial Patek as "the ultimate example of a historically important timepiece," even asserting that it outshines iconic watches like Paul Newman's Paul Newman, John Lennon's 2499, or Buzz Aldrin's missing Omega Speedmaster.
This sale exemplifies the globalization of watch collecting, and it may be challenging for a Western audience to fully grasp the appeal of this watch, despite Puyi's complex legacy.The allure of the Imperial Patek extended beyond watch-focused museums, captivating the interest of various institutions. Numerous artifacts associated with Puyi can be found in museums throughout China. While the Patek Philippe Museum already possesses a couple of platinum 96 Quantieme Lune examples, the provenance of this particular timepiece sets it apart.
Regardless of its final destination, the watch has already made an invaluable contribution by illuminating the story of a complex figure, spanning from his ascension to the throne at the tender age of two, enduring five years of Soviet imprisonment, and finally acknowledging the consequences of his past.