Colonel John Jacob Astor IV (July 13th, 1864 - April 15, 1912)
The Astor family is regarded as one of the most prominent in business, society and politics in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. Born in 1864, John Jacob Astor IV was the youngest of five children and the only son of William Backhouse Astor Jr., a prominent businessman, collector and horsebreeder. Born into the Astor family of leading men, which began with his grandfather, JJ Astor as he is fondly remembered continued the well-respected family name and became one of the wealthiest men in history, making his fortunes in real estate and investments before joining the Spanish-American war. While there, he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the US volunteers. He was also an inventor, patenting a bicycle break, a road improver, and helped to develop a turbine engine. He was also an author, writing science fiction novels about life on other planets. Perhaps in one of the most tragic occurrences of the early 20th century, JJ Astor was among those who did not survive the sinking of the Titanic, fatally one of the 1,514 victims that perished on that fateful day. Although his life was cut short at the young age of 47, he was a man of many accomplishments and is often remembered as one who contributed to American society and welfare.
One of the reasons for boarding the RMS Titanic was that his wife, Madeleine, who was pregnant at the time, would have their baby boy on the shores of New York as she had wished. Remarkably Madeleine survived the tragedy along with her baby, John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI who was born four months later.
John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI (August 14, 1912 – June 26, 1992)
Known as the ‘Titanic Baby’, John Jacob Astor VI followed in his father’s footsteps and that of the Astor family to becoming a successful businessman and wealthy American socialite. The present watch, dated to 1942, was a gift from JJ Astor VI to a friend, Lieutenant Colonel H.T. Blair, suggesting that he was 30 years old at the time.
Surfacing to market from the descendants of the original owner, the provenance of this lot is nothing short of astounding, offering a window in to high society American life in the 19th and 20th centuries. To add to its strong American heritage, the movement of the watch is stamped VXN, the American import stamp for Jaeger-LeCoultre, perfectly matching the tachymeter gradation set for miles.
Furthermore, this watch seems to combine four great luxury watch names: Cartier (on the dial), LeCoultre (the American market name for Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is found on the inside of the case back as well as the movement), Universal Genève (that provided the movement caliber and may have produced the watch for LeCoultre), and Vacheron Constantin (whose VXN import code is correct as it was in partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre at that time.