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Thefts of Rolexes, Pateks and Other Luxury Watches Are on the Rise Around the World

Some police forces have launched special task forces created to tackle the uptick.

Rolex Bob's Watches

Top cities around the globe, including London, Paris and Los Angeles, have seen a massive uptick in high-end watch robberies in the last year, many of which are violent.

In the US, the LA County Sheriff’s Department said it has seen over 200 thefts involving at least one watch valued at $5,000 or more from January to mid-November this year. This marks a nearly 30 percent increase in watch robberies compared to the same 11-month period in 2021.

Meanwhile, across the pond, members of London’s Metropolitan Police Service are seeing similar trends. Between January and September of this year, police data shows that nearly 700 Rolex watches and nearly 100 Patek Philippe watches were stolen within London city limits, up significantly from the same period in 2021, according to Bloomberg. In addition, knifepoint robberies in the English capital surged 60 percent between May and June of this year. As a result, police forces are cracking down: In both London and Paris, law enforcement has launched special task forces dedicated specifically to tackling luxury watch theft.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 59801R
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 59801R. Patek Philippe

And these incidents aren’t just happening to individuals on the streets or in public spaces. Just last week, Raheem Sterling, a forward and attacking midfielder for Chelsea Football Club and the England national team, flew back from the World Cup in Qatar after discovering his home outside London had been subject to an armed robbery. It appears the burglars targeted his timepiece collection, valued at nearly $400,000.

Law enforcement has noted that athletes and other public figures have become a greater target for such thefts thanks to their widespread media presence and visibility. They site social-media platforms, which have both provided a backdrop for celebrities to flaunt their collections and made prominent watch models instantly recognizable to formerly untrained eyes. Outside of the traditional entertainment industry, social-media influencers in the watch space, from YouTube stars to podcasters, have now become more weary of flashing their collections online out of fear of being targeted.

Companies can also become subject to these robberies. Earlier this month, $10 million in luxury watches were stolen from a Berlin storage facility owned by Watchmaster, one of Europe’s largest pre-owned retailers.

With the holidays and the New Year upon us, we’ll continue to see an increase in travel domestically and internationally through the end of 2022. Authorities recommend you take extra precautions to keep your watches safe and secure, whether you take them with you or leave them at home.

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