Gold watch recovered from body of richest man on the Titanic to be auctioned | UK News

A gold pocket watch that was recovered from the body of the richest man on the Titanic will be auctioned on Saturday. 

John Jacob Astor, 47, went down with the ship in 1912 after helping his wife on to a lifeboat.

Rather than try his luck with another lifeboat, the impeccably dressed businessman, a prominent member of the wealthy Astor family, was last seen smoking a cigarette and chatting with a fellow passenger.

His body was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean seven days after the sinking of the ship, which hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York, and his 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, engraved with the initials JJA, was found.

The Titanic leaves Southampton on her maiden voyage. Pic: AP
The Titanic leaves Southampton on her maiden voyage. Pic: AP

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

Mr Astor was thought to be one of the richest people in the world at the time of the Titanic‘s sinking, with a net worth of about $87m – equivalent to several billion dollars today, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said.

“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 four,” Mr Aldridge said.

Mrs Astor survived. Her husband’s body was recovered not far from the sinking.

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The watch was passed by Mr Astor’s son Vincent 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,” Mr Aldridge added.

He called 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”.