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Press Release - August 25, 2018

Titanic Timepiece Collector Casts $57,500 Winning Bid for Victim’s Pocket Watch at Heritage Auctions

Watch owned by Jewish Russian immigrant who managed to get his wife on one of liner’s few lifeboats

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RMS Titanic Pocket Watch from Victim Russian Jew
DALLAS, Texas (Aug. 25, 2018) — A pocket watch recovered from R.M.S. Titanic passenger Sinai Kantor, a Russian immigrant who got his wife to one of the liner’s few lifeboats before perishing in icy waters, sold for $57,500 on a winning bid cast by John Miottel, a collector of timepieces relating to the famous disaster. Heritage Auctions offered the pocket watch on Saturday, Aug. 25, in a public auction of important Americana memorabilia.

Miottel operates the Miottel Museum and already owns timepieces from Titanic victims Col. John Jacob Astor, the liner’s richest passenger and the era’s richest person in the world, as well as a watch formerly owned by Oscar Woody, the Titanic's U.S. Postal Clerk. Miottel also holds the timepiece once owned by the first person to receive the distress call from the doomed Titanic, Harold Thomas Cottam, who served as a wireless operator on the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.

"It will take one of the primary spots in our collection,” Miottel said, where it will be added to the San Francisco Bay Area museum’s Ocean Liner Section, which is comprised of thousands of historic maritime artifacts and memorabilia. "I’ll be looking for the fifth (timepiece).”

The pocket watch was sold by a direct descendant of Miriam and Sinai Kantor. Both from Vitebsk, Russia, he was just 34 years old, and she just 24, when he paid £26 (roughly $3,666 today) for ticket No. 244367. The two were among 285 Second Class passengers and boarded the ship together in Southampton, England.

The couple were university graduates; Sinai Kantor was a furrier and intended to sell trunks of furs to fund the couple’s goal to each study dentistry and medicine when they arrived and settled in the Bronx, New York. That was until their lives were shattered in the early hours of April 15, 1912. After the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, Miriam was ushered onto lifeboat 12, one in which men were prohibited from entering because of a "women and children first" protocol for loading lifeboats.

Roughly 30 passengers were in the lifeboat when it was lowered off the port side, but survivors made room for about 30 more. According to official reports, it was the last boat to reach the rescue ship R.M.S. Carpathia after 8 a.m.

A cable repair ship named the C.S. Mackay-Bennett arrived eight days later to recover as many victims as possible. Sinai Kantor’s body was pulled from the icy water during the grueling, seven-day operation. He was labeled "Body No. 283” and embalmed on the ship. He is buried at Mount Zion Cemetery, Queens, New York.

The Swiss-made open-face silver-on-brass watch, with its original movement and a diameter of three inches, includes numerals that are Hebrew letters. The back cover has an embossed design that shows Moses holding the Ten Commandments. The watch’s movement is rusted, the result of immersion in salt water, and the hands are nearly all deteriorated and the dial is stained.

The watch was sold with a letter of provenance from the descendant, who does not wish to be identified, along with copies of letters issued in the aftermath of the tragedy, sent to Miriam Kantor. The papers show it was not easy for Miriam to recover her husband’s belongings. Only after extensive legal effort did she receive the rest of his effects, which included clothing, Sinai’s Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a "silver watch,” a telescope and corkscrew, five weeks after the disaster.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

The Internet’s most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has over one million registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of four million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.


Eric Bradley, Director, Public Relations
214-409-1871; EricB@HA.com

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