If you love watches, you are probably already aware of the massive increase in watch theft around the world.
We asked one of the foremost experts in the field of art recovery, Christopher A. Marinello, CEO & Founder of Art Recovery International LLC, to give us an insight into the current situation and practical tips on how to protect our watches.
How do you explain this epidemic of stolen watches?
When the iPhone first came out, everyone was talking about how it was going to kill the high-end watch industry. The industry responded with technological advances, new materials, and more exclusive models while still adhering to traditional Swiss watchmaking standards of excellence. Prices soared for both new and vintage timepieces and thieves took notice. Criminals found high-end timepieces easy to steal from tourists around the world and easy to transport to fences and gangs who would buy the watches or use them as a form of currency. Law enforcement failed to respond to this uptick in crime due to Covid restrictions, budget and staffing cuts, or outright indifference. Today, watch owners need to be extremely vigilant about wearing expensive timepieces in most world capitals.
What can I do to protect my watches?
- Keep every receipt and manufacturer's certificate in a secure place, separate from where your watches are stored.
- Take digital photos and record all movement and case serial numbers.
- Try to avoid bringing expensive watches on vacation where they can be vulnerable to theft in the streets or hotels and nightclubs.
- Never post your collection on social media especially when posting your vacation plans.
- Consider theft-resistant clasps like Orkos' "Watchlock" which makes it harder for thieves to remove your watch from your wrist
- Insurance Insurance Insurance. Have your collection properly insured and update your scheduled values annually.
What can I do if it's too late and my watch has been stolen?
- Never chase down the thieves. They may be armed and extremely dangerous. Your watch can be replaced, your life cannot.
- Report the theft to the police immediately. Keep a copy of the report or crime reference numbers even if you don't have faith that law enforcement will investigate the crime.
- Report the theft to your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Report the theft to the manufacturers who maintain databases of stolen watches. The stolen watches may be located when they are submitted for services years later.
- Report the theft to public and private watch databases. There are many to choose from.
- If your watch is located, contact Art Recovery International (ARI) who will help you develop a strategy to recover the timepiece. Resist confronting the seller yourself who may simply disappear once they are notified of being in possession of a stolen watch. Do not allow watch databases to handle the recovery. They often represent dealers and auction houses and will have a conflict of interest.
- Consider issuing a Theft Alert with a REWARD through ARI for information leading to the recovery of your stolen timepiece.
- Be patient! It may take years before the stolen watch surfaces for sale or service somewhere in the world.