Sold at auction: Hebrew pocket watch, frozen in time by Titanic wreck

Sold at auction: Hebrew pocket watch, frozen in time by Titanic wreck

A pocket watch, frozen in time when the Titanic went underwater, sold for £97,000 (about $118,700) on Saturday, in an auction held by the British firm Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd.

That’s nearly 40 times the value of the ticket that Sinai Kantor, a Russian Jew on his way to New York City, spent for his ticket on the “unsinkable” ship.

The numbers on the Swiss-made, silver-on-brass watch are written in Hebrew numerals and its hands are almost completely deteriorated because of their exposure to saltwater — but dried watermarks indicate that time stopped at 2:25 a.m., about five minutes after the Titanic sank. Its back features an embossed, solemn, muscular Moses holding the Ten Commandments on a background of date palms.

The silver pocket watch once belonged to Kantor, 34, a second-class passenger traveling with his wife Miriam, 24. The pair were recently married university graduates on their way to New York, where Kantor planned to sell furs while they studied dentistry and medicine, as part of the flood of Jewish immigration underway at the time.

Kantor paid £26 — worth about $3,100 today — for ticket No. 244367 on the Titanic, which they boarded on April 10, 1912, in Southampton, England.

“On the night of the disaster, like so many couples, they were forced to separate because of the ‘women and children only’ rule,” Michael Findlay, former president of the Titanic International Society, told the Washington Post. “Mr. Kantor had to remain behind.”

Miriam was saved in lifeboat 12, according to information provided by the auction house. According to records collected by Titanic enthusiasts, she later became a U.S. citizen, taking the name Mary, and worked as a pharmacist in Brooklyn before being institutionalized at the psychiatric hospital where she spent the rest of her life. She died in 1950, at 63.

Kantor’s body was recovered eight days after the accident. The White Star Line returned his pocket watch and some of his other possessions, including his Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a telescope, and a corkscrew, to his widow in May 1912. Kantor was buried at Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens.

Of the timepieces that survived the shipwreck, most are stopped between 2:20 and 2:30, Findlay said. “It all depends when the individual went into the water,” he said. “It’s haunting.”

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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