Watch Crime in London: The Surge of Luxury Watch Thefts

Watch Crime in London: The Surge of Luxury Watch Thefts
Photo by Nikita Pavlov on Unsplash

The glint of a Rolex or a Patek Philippe on the wrist, once a symbol of accomplishment and luxury in London's cosmopolitan streets, has now become a potential magnet for criminal gangs.

Wearing a Rolex in London once symbolized status and wealth; now, it might attract unwanted attention. With over 11,035 stolen watches recorded in England and Wales last year, and a whopping value of millions of pounds snatched annually, London streets are echoing with stories of violent robberies.

The Allure of Luxury Watches

London's thriving market for luxury watches, combined with their compact size and ease of transport, has made them the preferred target for criminals. Paul Thorpe, a former watch dealer, points out the stark reality, "It's an industry all in itself." For thieves, a week's plundering in London's posh boroughs could equate to "more money than some people would earn in a lifetime."

Several high-profile individuals have been victims of such thefts. Welsh singer Aled Jones was stripped of his £17,000 Rolex, while former World Champion boxer Amir Khan was divested of a watch worth £70,000. Furthermore, an individual watch's value can be astronomical: Danny Shahid, owner of Diamond Watches London, sports a timepiece that pre-pandemic was £100,000 and would now fetch £185,000. Another in his collection carries a staggering price tag of £275,000.

Rising Tide of Watch Thefts

Data from Watchfinder & Co, shared with Sky News, illuminates the alarming trend: the number of stolen watches in England and Wales almost doubled from 6,696 in 2015 to 11,035 last year. London stands out as the epicenter of this surge, with over 6,000 reported thefts. Reports of violent robberies, with victims not only losing their prized possessions but also suffering grievous injuries, have left the city's residents and visitors in trepidation.

Modus Operandi

The ways criminals go about these thefts range from the covert to the brutally violent. One chilling account comes from Nick Triggs, who recalls a traumatic incident in South Kensington: a sudden ambush by a gang that brandished a 15-inch machete and a knuckleduster. Triggs was left with not just physical scars, but emotional trauma that lingers, "All for the sake of a couple of watches."

Another strategy involves tracking individuals post-purchase, either ambushing them on the street or following them home. Sophisticated gangs even stalk victims' social media profiles, pinpointing those who flaunt their luxury timepieces with identifiable locations.

In a particular case, a thief made off with a timepiece valued at £145,000 by luring his target into a social setting. Lindell Angell struck up a conversation with the unsuspecting individual on the Strand and persuaded him to join him at a nearby watering hole. There, they consumed drinks and swapped contact information.

As they headed home, Angell guided the man into a dimly lit passage near Embankment station. Security footage captured the moment when he brutally assaulted his victim with a series of punches and kicks.

Identifying Hot spots: Where in London Are Watches Being Stolen?

London's affluent regions, especially places like South Kensington, are increasingly becoming hot spots for watch theft. Organized criminals employ sophisticated methods: spotters stationed outside high-end bars, restaurants, or watch shops; and scouts on social media who pinpoint potential targets flaunting their luxury watches. One doesn't need to look far for examples: Paul Thorpe, a former watch dealer, was forced into retirement after being violently robbed three times.

The Aftermath: Where Do Stolen Rolexes End Up?

Post-theft, these watches quickly find their way to the black market. Easily concealed and with a high resale value, they are rapidly circulated in the black market. The demand for second-hand watches has skyrocketed, with some pieces, like the sapphire-encrusted Daytona at Diamond Watches London, now priced at £275,000, up from £200,000 just last year.

Source - Rolex Magazine

Protective Measures Amid Rising Threat

The luxury watch community isn't remaining passive amidst this escalating threat. Watch vendors, like Diamond Watches London, are implementing protective measures such as offering chauffeur services for their clients. Some watch owners, realising the gravity of the situation, have even resorted to hiring private security and bodyguards.

The Independent highlights that if you are someone of substantial financial means, taking active steps to ensure your security is vital. You might think about getting a thorough security assessment, which could result in the installation of state-of-the-art security cameras and more reliable alarm systems. Family members should also have a plan in place for safely answering the door. Additionally, when wearing high-end watches or jewelry, being aware of your environment is essential, especially when you're out for a meal. Keep in mind that the character of streets can change significantly when night falls. If you're scheduling a ride to pick you up, it's safer to have it arrive directly at your front door rather than walking through the streets at night time.

Sources

6,000 luxury watches stolen in London last year
£139 million worth of watches have been stolen in London since 2018
More than £30m worth of luxury watches stolen every year in London, crime figures reveal
More than £30 million worth of luxury watches are stolen in London every year, new research shows.
The rise of luxury watch robberies as owners warned ‘Rolex Rippers’ are watching them
Singer Aled Jones was the most recent celebrity to be targeted for his expensive watch
Selling stolen watches ‘now more lucrative than drugs’ - as thefts soar and victims fear for their lives
The number of stolen watches recorded in England and Wales has nearly doubled to more than 11,000 in the past eight years. It comes as the value of premium timepieces has skyrocketed.

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