A Patek Philippe wristwatch once owned by Puyi sold for more than US$5 million on the auction block in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The Ref 96 Quantieme Lune timepiece, which boasts a crown-like moon phase, originally belonged to the final monarch of the Qing dynasty.
It was expected to fetch about US$3 million but, after about five minutes of spirited bidding, it was sold for US$5.1 million. With the commission fee, the total price came to about US$6.2 million.
Thomas Perazzi, British auction house Phillips' head of watches in Asia, said he was "thrilled with this groundbreaking sale" because it set records. Those records included "the highest result of any Patek Philippe reference 96 ever sold", according to a news release.
The Ref 96 was the first complication wristwatch serially produced by Patek Philippe, with Perazzi saying there are currently only "three examples known" in the world.
According to the memoir of Puyi's nephew Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch was a "personal item" of the deposed emperor, who gifted it to his Russian interpreter and friend Georgy Permyakov when he left a Soviet prison camp.
Russell Working, a journalist who interviewed Permyakov more than 20 years ago, said the elderly interpreter had no idea of its value when he pulled the timepiece from his drawer.
"To have this one surface all of a sudden after all these years, it was like a treasure chest washing up on the beach," said Working, who was part of the auction house's research team.
Another item on auction was a red paper fan, inscribed with a poem by Puyi "dedicated to my comrade Permyakov". That fetched more than US$77,800 – six times its pre-sale estimate.
Puyi's watch, while historically significant, is far from the most expensive timepiece ever sold on the auction block.
A Patek Philippe "Grandmaster Chime" sold for US$31 million in 2019. It is said to be the most complex timepiece the luxury watchmaker has ever created, with 20 complications. (AFP)