Luxury watch theft rises in the UK

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Luxury watch thefts in the UK have surged past £1 billion ($1.3 billion) within a year, marking a concerning trend, according to research by pre-owned luxury watch specialist Watchfinder & Co. The study reveals that despite thousands of watches being stolen, only one in five is recovered, prompting wearers to become more vigilant. The fear of watch theft has led two-thirds of watch owners to be more cautious, with 36% expressing a desire to take additional measures to deter thieves. Of those whose watches were stolen, 68% believe their timepieces have already been sold.

The findings also indicate that only one in five stolen watches is ever recovered, leaving 80,000 watches out of 100,000 stolen across the UK yet to be returned to their rightful owners. Watchfinder CEO Arjen van de Vall notes that the crime wave is having a significant impact on luxury watch owners, with one robbery occurring approximately every 30 minutes.

Former Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilkins commented on the surge in watch crime, emphasising the need for Britons to take more precautions to protect their possessions against thieves. Data obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveals that 33 of the UK’s 45 police forces recorded a total of 11,035 thefts in 2022, a 41% increase from 7,821 in 2021. The annual total, if all forces provided data, could be around 15,000, equivalent to one theft every 30 minutes.

Watchfinders like Art Recovery International and The Watch Register have seen increased demand for recovering stolen timepieces. The Watch Register’s database currently holds about 80,000 watches registered as stolen or missing, with a total value exceeding £1 billion ($1.3 billion). Rolex tops the list of most stolen or lost watches, accounting for 44%, followed by Omega (7%), Breitling (6%), and Tag Heuer (5%).

The Watch Register advises luxury watch owners to insure their watches, keep pictures, paperwork, and serial numbers for reporting theft, and stay vigilant. Security measures include keeping car windows shut, wearing watches under sleeves, avoiding discussing watch prices in public, refraining from posting locations on social media, and posting updates only after leaving a location.