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Over £1 billion worth of luxury watches are registered as stolen or missing

A new analysis of The Watch Register, a global crime prevention database, has revealed that it currently has 80,000 luxury watches registered as stolen or missing, totalling over £1 billion in value. 

The number of luxury watches registered on The Watch Register, which holds the world’s largest and most established international database of lost and stolen watches, has been increasing year on year.  Last year (2022), The Watch Register saw 6,815 watches newly recorded as missing or stolen, representing a 60% increase in the number of watches added to its global database during 2021. 

The Watch Register estimates that the total value of missing or stolen watches currently on its global database is over £1 billion.  This value includes several high-value luxury watches that individually retail between £50,000 to £100,000 or more.  Around 90% of the database’s high-status timepieces are men’s models, whose higher retail value makes them an attractive target for thieves. From the models of watches commonly targeted in street robberies and smash-and-grabs, it is clear that thieves are increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable about the watches that will re-sell for the highest values.

Luxury watches targeted

In terms of the most popular brand of high-end watches registered on The Watch Register’s database, Rolex accounts for 44% of all stolen or lost watches.  Next are Omega (7%), Breitling (6%) and Tag Heuer (5%).

BrandPercentage of overall watches listed missing / stolen
Tag Heuer5%
Patek Philippe3%
Table of top 6 luxury watch brands listed as stolen/missing on The Watch Register database

The trade in stolen luxury watches spans across continents. The Watch Register’s database has stolen and missing timepieces registered by owners worldwide, with thefts of watches recorded in over 90 different countries. The ability to record stolen watches on a database to enable a recovery is obviously dependent on keeping a record of the serial number. In some countries, such as the USA, it is less common for insurers and the police to record serial numbers than in the UK, which limits recovery potential.

CountryPercentage of overall watches listed missing/stolen by country
Hong Kong5%
Table of top 6 countries listed as “country of theft” on The Watch Register database

“Recent records show a concerning surge in the registration of luxury watches that have been stolen or lost.  The considerable value and prestige of these high-end timepieces continue to attract the attention of sophisticated and international criminal networks, making them a prime target for theft.”

“The increasing number of stolen luxury watches also serves as a stark reminder of the risks faced in safeguarding such high-value possessions and we advise owners to make sure that they have adequate insurance for their watch, to keep photographs of their watch and to make a note of their watch’s unique serial number, which will aid its recovery in the event of it being lost or stolen.”

Said Katya Hills, Managing Director at The Watch Register.

Register your watches

Victims of luxury watch theft can register their stolen or lost watch on THE WATCH REGISTER database, which dealers, jewellers, pawnbrokers and auction houses also use to identify stolen watches. Of course, the company actively monitors the global pre-owned watch market in search of stolen watches. 35% of recovered watches found by The Watch Register have been located within six months of the theft and 50% within a year.

Owners need their unique serial number and proof of loss, such as a crime reference number, in order to register their watch on The Watch Register.  It charges a non-refundable fee of £15 + VAT per watch to review the registration and, if it is recovered, a 5% location fee. 

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