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Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Titanic survivor's watch not sold

Harland and Wolff built the Titanic
A rare silver pocket watch which once belonged to a titled survivor of the ill-fated Titanic has failed to sell at an auction.

The watch was among more than 300 pieces of memorabilia up for sale at The British Titanic Society Annual Convention at the Hilton National Hotel in Southampton, Hampshire on Friday night.

The memorabilia came from the ship which was built at the world-famous Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

It was dubbed as the unsinkable ship, but during its maiden voyage in April 1912, it hit an iceberg and sank beneath the waves.

We are a bit disappointed because we didn't think the removal of the engraving would have affected it so much. It has effectively ruined the value of the watch

Andrew Aldridge
The Benson watch was given to a crewman on the stricken vessel by the Countess of Rothes.

It came to prominence last year when a jeweller was convicted and fined for conning the timepiece from its owner.

The jeweller removed an engraving from the watch - 'Countess Rothes, April 1912' - in a bid to disguise its history.

According to Mr Andrew Aldridge, of auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son who ran the event, the jeweller's actions may have destroyed the piece's value.

Another auction

The auction house, based in Devizes, Wiltshire, was hoping to get at least 15,000 for the watch but bids ground to a halt at 9,000.

"We are a bit disappointed because we didn't think the removal of the engraving would have affected it so much. It has effectively ruined the value of the watch," said Mr Aldridge.

The watch is now likely to be put up for sale in another maritime auction in Devizes on 26 July, he said.

The Countess of Rothes gave the watch to steward Albert Crawford, from Southampton, after he helped her escape to a lifeboat as the Titanic began to sink.

The watch was left to Mrs Hughes by a close friend who had inherited it from Mr Crawford.

He was rescued in lifeboat number eight and later testified before the United States Senate Inquiry.

The lots up for sale at the auction included furniture and fittings from White Star liners, items of crockery and silverware, prints, letters and other memorabilia.

The lot which fetched the most - 15,000 - was a silver plated business card stolen from the Titanic by a crew member who was transferred to the Olympic prior to her maiden voyage.

Wood debris from the ship fetched 2,400, while an inscribed silk-woven card featuring the ship and bearing a message from a survivor sold for 3,400.

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