Stolen luxury watches reach £1bn in value

3 mins read

Reports indicate that the realm of luxury watches, with an estimated value exceeding £1 billion ($1.3 billion), has fallen victim to a concerning wave of thefts and disappearances, marking a notable rise in such incidents over the past year.

The Watch Register, an entity that offers assistance in identifying pilfered timepieces to proprietors, auction houses, and dealers for a fee, has seen a substantial tally of approximately 80,000 watches being recorded as stolen or lost. In the latest report released on Monday, it was revealed that within the preceding year, the registry had welcomed an addition of 6,815 watches to its roster—a significant upsurge of 60% when contrasted with the prior annual period.

The surge in watch theft and related criminal activities appears to be correlated with the augmented demand and subsequent price escalation of sought-after models from eminent brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe during the ongoing pandemic.

In response to the escalating issue, the London Metropolitan Police Service initiated a dedicated operation aimed at tackling this concern, particularly in the wake of a startling 60% surge in knife-point robberies between the months of May and June. Similarly, in Paris, a specialised police task-force dedicated to thwarting luxury watch thefts expanded to include a team of 30 agents, according to previous reports from Bloomberg News.

The spotlight on the most targeted brands within The Watch Register’s database reveals that Rolex occupies the top position, constituting 44% of the recorded timepieces, followed in succession by Omega and Breitling. Remarkably, the compilation of this data spans over a span of more than three decades.

Katya Hills, the managing director of The Watch Register, emphasised that the alluring combination of high monetary value and distinguished reputation attached to these high-end timekeeping pieces remains an irresistible draw for sophisticated and globally-operating criminal networks, rendering them a prime target for illicit activities.

Certain watch manufacturers have opted for unconventional measures to combat this growing predicament. In April, Audemars Piguet, known for crafting the iconic Royal Oak line, unveiled a new service initiative where it pledged to replace stolen watches for clients over a period of two years—a novel approach towards addressing the escalating concern of watch thefts.