Number of luxury watches lost or stolen in UK triples over past year

Timepieces worth £1.5bn now registered on world's largest database for watches

The number of watches recorded as lost or stolen has more than tripled over the last 12 months, according to the world's largest watch database. PA
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The number of watches recorded as lost or stolen has more than tripled in the past 12 months amid a wave of thefts.

The Watch Register said a recent surge in crime has driven a 236 per cent increase in the number of watches registered on its platform.

The company’s latest report found more than 100,000 watches have been registered due to potential thefts. Many of the stolen watches were taken in London.

Katya Hills, managing director of The Watch Register, said the valuable items have “become a currency for criminals”.

“Luxury watch crime is rampant and habitually making front-page news," she added.

“The incidence of violent street robberies is escalating, with owners afraid to wear their timepieces in public.

“The strength of the pre-owned market means thieves and fences can easily resell stolen goods for large sums of cash.”

London police use 'undercover victims' to sting luxury watch thieves

London police use 'undercover victims' to sting luxury watch thieves

The report calls for “increased collaboration from all stakeholders, including insurers, auction houses, watch dealers, manufacturers and law enforcement agencies” to address the escalation of luxury watch crime.

Ms Hills said the industry should work to make stolen watches harder to sell, so "consumer confidence can be restored" and watches become less lucrative for criminals.

Last year, it was revealed the value of luxury watches stolen during the "Rolex Ripper" crime wave had passed £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in a year for the first time.

Thousands of watches were stolen last year but only one in five was recovered.

Last week, The National reported on how an Algerian-led gang carried out a series of lucrative robberies in London after a spate of similar thefts in Europe.

The men, who had arrived in Britain to carry out the thefts, were arrested and jailed for up to seven years after targeting wealthy people on the high-end streets of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Soho.

Police believe the gang members were able to spot luxury brands such Patek Philippe, Hublot or Audemars Piguet and knew the value of the items they stole "to the nearest euro".

The Metropolitan Police this year revealed how undercover officers wearing luxury watches were used as bait to lure robbers before moving in to make arrests.

The operations were carried out in the Soho area of London, the centre of the UK capital’s nightlife, where 40 per cent of all watch robberies in London take place.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 5:55 PM