Thieves turn to violence to steal luxury watches with almost 50,000 stolen in the UK since 2019

Scotland Yard revealed CCTV footage earlier this month of criminal gangs attempting to steal a luxury watch from an undercover police officer. Credit: Met Police

There is an "alarming" increase in the use of violence when it comes to the theft of luxury watches, according to new figures.

Information obtained by crime prevention database The Watch Register, shows there have been a total of 49,854 watches reported as stolen since 2019, around one in eight, or 13%, of which involved some sort of violence.

The data encompassed information from 21 police forces across the UK following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The percentage of violent thefts was higher in London, where 28,999 watches were reported as stolen, and as many as a fifth, or 20%, of the incidents involved some kind of violence.

Scotland Yard revealed CCTV footage of criminal gangs attempting to steal a luxury watch from an undercover police officer

Outside London far fewer thefts involved violence, but the numbers were increasing each year.

In 2019, 2.17% of thefts involved violence, jumping year on year to reach 4.09% in 2023.

There have been a series of high-profile celebrity watch thefts in recent years.

World boxing champion Amir Khan was robbed of a £72,000 watch at gunpoint in east London in April 2022, while singer Aled Jones was threatened with a machete and forced to hand over his £17,000 Rolex in south-west London.

Formula One driver Lando Norris had his Richard Mille watch stolen at Wembley in north London after England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.

Trading in luxury watches is lucrative and safer for criminals than dealing in drugs, Managing Director at The Watch Register Katya Hills said.

A watch worth £70,000 was stolen from boxer Amir Khan in 2022. Credit: PA

"With a soaring demand for second-hand luxury watches, the use of violence by criminals to get their hands on prized timepieces is terrifying – with some extreme cases seeing watch owners lose their life," Ms Hills said.

She recommended that luxury watch owners keep their timepieces under their sleeves when they are out and about in public spaces.

"Our advice for anyone confronted by a thief willing to use violence to steal their watch is to just hand it over and rely on the police and The Watch Register's expert recovery services to help them get their watch back.”

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