The great success of luxury mechanical watches, with their prices peaking during the past year, also has downsides, one of which is that watches are small and valuable, and there is no easy way to establish their legitimate provenance. In short, they are ideal items to be stolen!

The news increasingly tells us about thefts and robberies of luxury watches. Can anything be done to defend against these crimes? The answer is yes: it only takes a few steps to secure one's beloved timepieces and safety. So let's check together how!

Watch robbery Statistics

Unfortunately, the conjunction of several factors, such as the effect of COVID and the looming economic crisis, has impoverished the entire planet, and this has caused petty crime to return more robust than ever.

Especially in big cities, we can see that gangs of criminals specializing in the theft of luxury watches have been established. These gangs possess a network of relationships, often internationally, that allows them to launder watches from their heists in other markets, making it more difficult to identify, recover, and return them to their rightful owners.

It is an endemic problem that mainly affects larger urban areas.

luxury watch theft phenomenon

Watch robberies in Los Angeles

California's great wealth works as a magnet for luxury watch thieves: according to County Sheriff's data, 2022 saw an increase in this type of crime - where the loot included a watch worth at least $5,000 - by more than 50 percent over 2021.

Watch robberies in Paris

If the US cries, Europe does not laugh. In France, the crime spiral has been intensifying after the famous 2019 case of the Japanese tourist robbed of a valuable Richard Mille worth about $840,000 outside his hotel that made it to the news. Statistics see a 37 percent year-on-year increase in watch robberies and an expansion of gang activity as robbers have moved to the rich pastures of the French Riviera to practice their "craft."

Richard Mille Tourbillon Nadal

The Richard Mille Tourbillon 27-03, created for Rafa Nadal

Watch robberies in London

Despite Brexit, England shares the same problems as the continent, and robberies are on the rise in a big way, especially in central city neighborhoods, with spikes as high as 65 percent for Westminster and Fulham. Although city police are well organized, the problem is becoming pressing, so much so that authorities have urged people to be discreet about showing their timepieces.

Types of watch robbery and how to protect yourself

These criminal gangs primarily practice two types of crime: sleight of hand thefts and armed robbery. The former occurs when someone approaches you, either on foot or in a car, often with an excuse, bumps into you, and snatches your watch through well-rehearsed techniques that draw your attention to something else; the latter occurs when one or more criminals bar your way and intimidate you into handing over your watch, often at gunpoint. So how do we protect ourselves from these crimes?


The first countermeasure is to be discreet. Tucking the watch under the shirt's cuff helps confuse the mind and makes us less conspicuous. We must never forget that these criminals pick the easiest targets first: so making things harder for them helps to avoid becoming a prime target of their unwelcome attention. Wearing a microbrand watch, instead of a luxury and expensive one, could be an idea.

how to avoid watch robberies To avoid robbery, don't expose the watch on your wrist 

Teaming up

Walking together with someone else has the same effect: there is safety in numbers, which makes an attack less likely, and a sleight of hand robbery more complicated. In addition, being in a group makes it harder to perform the heist precisely because instead of two eyes, there are four or more, and many more arms that can move at the wrong time.

Using a daily beater

Finally, there is the last expedient: avoid exhibiting precious watches on the street. It is somewhat against the very nature of the wristwatch, but one's safety and health are well worth a few minor inconveniences. So wear your daily beater while on the street, and once you get to your formal appointment or occasion, replace it with the valuable watch you have kept safe somewhere. A homage watch could be suitable for this purpose, for example.

Best daily beater watch

A controversial remedy: the copy

Some people buy a luxury watch and immediately have a copy made identical to the original to wear without any qualms. Although, in principle, this is a smart move, we still advise against it since you never know what may happen during a robbery! Better to avoid this by carrying a watch of little value that you can afford to lose without too much fuss. It is not so easy to tell if a watch is real or not, so someone might think it is genuine and steal it. And in any case, buying a fake watch is also a crime, so it's better to avoid it altogether.


Many questions characterize this topic, and we wanted to condense them into this section for simplicity. One must always remember that cautiousness is the essential quality to avoid problems, and preparing beforehand equals not having to complain afterward!

How do you tell if a watch is stolen?

The most valuable watches typically carry a serial number. Still, there is no centralized database where we can access that tells us whether a watch is stolen or not - this information is only available to law enforcement agencies.

However, some clues can reveal to us that the watch has an illicit provenance. For example, the lack of a box and papers, especially in a valuable watch, gives one pause for thought, as does an unusually low sale price. In the case of buying a watch, favor official channels and those who issue a regular receipt accompanied by copies of identification documents - and make payments through traceable means of payment to leave an easy-to-follow trail and possibly get a refund if possible.

Can you track a stolen watch?

Unfortunately, a wristwatch is unlike a smartwatch, in which you can track its position in real-time. But you can still do something to prevent the thief from enjoying the proceeds of your heist by reporting the incident to the police. This ensures that if the watch is, by chance, recovered, it will be returned to us.

luxury watch theft

What do you do if someone steals your watch?

If you find yourself in the situation of a robbery, the best thing is not to react: the loss of a watch, even a valuable one, is nothing compared to the physical damage that a stab wound could cause. So, if someone threatens you with a weapon, remain calm, do not make excessive gestures, and hand over the watch.

Immediately after that, go to the police and make a formal report giving as much detail as possible about the watch and who stole it. If your timepiece was insured, contact the insurance company similarly. Again, it is helpful to possess as much information as possible about the watch, including photos, serial numbers, and details that will allow it to be uniquely identified. And then hope it is found: it happens more often than you think!

how to recognize a stolen watch

Main Takeaways

Knowing your "enemy" is the essential condition for moving safely in a hostile environment. And unfortunately, wearing a watch of some value makes us possible prey for urban robbery gangs.

The first rule to follow is prudence and discretion: everything else comes easier once we put this into practice. Avoiding becoming a target by not making ourselves the center of attention is the best way to preserve one's peace of mind and watches - and it is the best way to avoid problems in this regard.

The website is NOT affiliated in any way with Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller USA, Inc. Richard Mille or Richemont Companies, Seiko, or any other brand which is not Davosa Swiss. Rolex is a registered trademark of Rolex USA. Davosa-USA website is not an authorized dealer, reseller, or distributor for Rolex and is in NO WAY affiliated with Rolex SA or Rolex USA or any other brand besides Davosa Swiss.
December 15, 2022 — Davosa Editor

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

Contact us