Titanic pocket watch sells for record $1.48 million

The 14-carat gold watch belonged to ship's wealthiest passenger, John Jacob Astor IV

Cover Image for Titanic pocket watch sells for record $1.48 million
The gold pocket watch has had five owners in more than a century. (Credit: Henry Aldridge & Sons)

A gold pocket watch found on the body of the wealthiest Titanic passenger, John Jacob Astor IV, sold Saturday in England for $1.48 million, setting a record for the highest amount ever paid for an item associated with the doomed ship.

The winner's name was not disclosed, but auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Sons said the watch's new home will be in the United States.

The 14-carat gold watch narrowly beat out the $1.46 million paid in 2013 for the violin of Wallace Hartley, the Titanic bandleader who, according to lore, had his musicians play as the ship went down.

Hartley's violin case, found on his body in the water, sold in Saturday's auction for $457,000.

The new owner of the watch will be only its fifth owner in more than a century.

Astor's effects were returned to his wife, Madeleine, who escaped death in a lifeboat that night. His son Vincent restored the watch, and it eventually was given to Astor's executive secretary William Dobbyn. The watch stayed in his family until his widow sold it.

Titanic buff W. John Miottel bought it for an undisclosed price and was the consignor in the sale.

Although its 1912 sinkage was more than a century ago, Titanic collectibles continue to sell well. Even items used in James Cameron's 1997 movie, starting Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, have sold for incredible numbers.

Last month, the floating wooden panel that held the two actors in the water, sold for $718,500. The dress worn by Winslet for the first scene when the two illicit lovers meet sold in 2012 for $330,000. The ship's helm wheel from the film sold for $200,000 this year.

Darren Rovell is the founder of cllct.com and one of the country's leading reporters on the collectible market. He previously worked for ESPN, CNBC and The Action Network.