A visitor's Rolex watch was stolen in London on Tuesday in a violent robbery captured by a BBC reporter who was broadcasting live.
The attack on the Australian businessman, which happened just before 11am, comes amid fears that the theft of luxury watches in the UK capital is “out of control”.
The victim was attacked outside the Royal Gifts Gallery in Oxford Street, with shop staff coming to his aid as thieves tried to steal his watch and phone.
One of the thieves was caught, but according to BBC reporter Anna O’Neill, the other thief began slashing himself with a large knife until his accomplice was released.
Christopher Marinello, who recovers stolen luxury watches, many of them taken in street robberies, told The National that police in London are struggling to contain the problem, with 6,000 stolen last year.
“It’s become obvious that watch theft in London is out of control,” said Mr Marinello, the founder of Art Recovery International, who says the total value of watches he has recovered runs into the “tens of millions of pounds”.
“If authorities don’t start taking this crime seriously, they are going to see a reduction in people visiting this city. Perhaps then, and only then, will we see more police officers on patrol.”
The victim, named only as Phil, told the BBC how he had heard the robbers behind him “and I moved around as I was walking down the street, just to see if they were following me or not, because I’m aware of these sorts of things”.
“They tackled me and they were trying to get my watch off me and get my phone,” he said.
“I was able to hold on to the small guy who was trying to take my watch and I wouldn't let him go. These guys were around him and pulling them off, and then he got up and he ran without getting my watch.
“And they retained the other fellow but the other guy came back, the small fellow who tackled me, and he was starting to cut himself with a knife.”
A Metropolitan Police representative said officers and paramedics were called at 10.51am reports of a man with a knife in Oxford Street.
“The man was detained nearby, inside Marble Arch Underground station. The man was Tasered to prevent him causing further harm to himself or the public,” police said.
“He was taken to hospital for treatment to self-inflicted injuries. No other injuries were reported.”
The Watch Register database says the value of timepieces reported as stolen or missing has now reached £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
The register receives 600 reports of stolen watches every month. Last year, there was a 60 per cent increase compared with the year before, while it locates between three and five a day.
The average value of the watches on its database is about £10,000, and 45 per cent of them are Rolexes.
Mr Marinello said many stolen watches land up in the Middle East, where the legal export of Swiss watches made up 9.6 per cent of the total market in 2022, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Almost half of these legal exports went to the UAE, making it the ninth-biggest market for Swiss watches that year.