Last Chinese emperor’s wristwatch — with Oak Park connection — sells for $6.2 million

Oak Park-based journalist Russell Working played a vital role in helping to authenticate the Patek Philippe watch.

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A Patek Philippe wristwatch at one time owned by the last emperor of China, Aisingyoro Puyi, has sold at auction in Hong Kong for about $6.2 million.

A Patek Philippe wristwatch at one time owned by the last emperor of China, Aisingyoro Puyi, has sold at auction in Hong Kong for about $6.2 million.

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A wristwatch previously owned by the last emperor of China — one that an Oak Park-based journalist helped authenticate — has sold at auction in Hong Kong for about $6.2 million.

An Asian collector living in Hong Kong and calling on the phone bought the extremely rare Patek Philippe, Reuters said, citing the auctioneers, Phillips Auction House.

Journalist Russell Working, along with his wife Nonna Working, was in Hong Kong for Tuesday’s auction.

Russell Working, right, and his wife, Nonna Working, in Hong Kong for the auction of the Imperial Patek Philippe wristwatch.

Oak Park journalist Russell Working and his wife, Nonna Working, were in Hong Kong for the auction of the Imperial Patek Philippe wristwatch.

Provided

Russell Working first saw the watch in 2001, when he was in far eastern Russia, interviewing a man who’d at one time worked as a translator for Aisingyoro Puyi, China’s last emperor, his story told in the 1987 Academy Award-winning movie “The Last Emperor.”

In 1950, just before he was to be sent back from the Soviet Union to China, Puyi gave Georgy Permyakov, the translator, several gifts, including the watch. During Working’s interview, Permyakov pulled the gifts out of a drawer to show them to the Workings. That interview proved to be a vital part in the journey to authenticate the watch, according to the auction house.

Puyi died in Beijing in 1967. Permyakov died a few years after his interview with Russell Working.

The watch isn’t in working condition, and half of the paint has been scraped off the dial. Research revealed that a servant of Puyi had scraped away the paint — at his master’s request — to see if the dial, like the case, was made of platinum. The servant found only brass beneath.

“Currently, it’s not working, but it can be easily serviced to bring it back to working condition,” Thomas Perazzi, Phillips’ head of watches in Asia, told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this month.

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