HONG KONG: A Patek Philippe wristwatch once owned by China's last emperor sold for more than $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 Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the final monarch of the Chinese Qing dynasty.

Emperor at the age of two in 1908, Puyi was immortalised by Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning film but left a mixed legacy.

More than 20 years later, he was installed as the puppet leader of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, before he was captured in 1945 after the fall of Japan and taken to a Soviet prison camp.

British auction house Phillips said it had documentation that showed Puyi had brought the watch with him to the camp.

It was expected to fetch about $3 million but, after about five minutes of bidding, it was sold for HK$40 million ($5.1 million).

According to the memoir of Puyi’s nephew Aisin-Gioro Yuyuan, the watch was a “personal item” of the deposed emperor, who passed it to his Russian interpreter for safekeeping when he left the prison camp.

While historically significant, Puyi's watch is far from the most expensive timepiece sold on the auction block.

A Patek Philippe “Grandmaster Chime” sold for $31 million in 2019. It is said to be the most complex timepiece the luxury watchmaker has ever created, with 20 complications. - AFP