Watch theft is becoming increasingly severe and watch companies like Richemont and Audemars Piguet are launching industry-first initiatives to combat it. AP is providing insurance in case of theft, while Richemont is providing a platform to make stolen watches harder to sell thus reducing the incentive to steal them.
“We listen to our clients, and we have to look also at what’s going on in the world right now. We have important cities in Europe and in the US that are not as safe anymore,” said the chief executive at AP, François-Henry Bennahmias.
In London between January and July 2021, there were 377 reported watch thefts, according to the Metropolitan Police. That number increased to 621 in the same period during 2022.
One recent attack in London saw a couple held at knifepoint by a moped rider and forced to hand over their Aps and Patek Philippe watches when leaving a boutique. Similarly, another man was knocked down by two people on a scooter, held at knifepoint, and forced to hand over his £20,000 Rolex and a Bulgari wedding ring.
Audemars Piguet's Theft Service Programme
AP is taking an approach that helps victims directly after the incident by guaranteeing to replace, refund, or repair any stolen or damaged watch bought in 2022 or 2023 for two years from the time of purchase. You will have to register with the program and provide proof of purchase plus evidence that the watch is still in your possession by providing the serial number and a photo of the watch. Watches that have been resold are not eligible.
Mr Bennahmias expects that around 75% of eligible customers will sign up for the program. There are fears that people will “abuse the system” by registering a watch that they don’t own or submitting a fake police report, but these are hoped to be in the minority.
“We get two or three or five, which are absolute frauds. That’s a part of doing it,” said Bennahmias. “You cannot develop and offer these types of things thinking that everybody’s gonna abuse the system.”
This programme will run as a trial that will continue if client participation reaches satisfactory levels.
Richemont’s Enquirus Initiative
Cartier and Vacheron Constantin owner Richemont has announced the launch of Enquirus, a global digital platform to help police fight the theft of luxury items. It allows users to register their luxury items, like watches, using serial numbers. The idea is that owners can then report their items as stolen so should they appear again for sale elsewhere, police can track them. This will hopefully make it harder for criminals to sell stolen goods disincentivising them.
Enquirus is holistic in its approach being open to all luxury brands a developed in collaboration with watch and jewellery manufacturers, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and the pre-owned market.
“This reliable solution brings together multiple stakeholders to serve customers and the entire industry, by facilitating borderless cooperation between police forces and insurance partners,” said Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Richemont.
“By providing free access for customers and industry partners,” he continued, “the opportunity to sell stolen watches becomes more prohibitive, with the ultimate objective of reducing the incentive to steal watches in the first place.”
The process of Enquirus requires a user to:
- Create an account and register their items via brand and serial numbers
- Upload documentation
- Report lost or stolen pieces
User identities remain anonymous.
The use of Enquirus provides a database for both users and organisations around the world to refer to when buying and selling potentially stolen goods. With this central point of reference, Richemont hopes that collaboration will increase the chances of recovering the stolen item.
At the time of writing, Enquirus has over 175 luxury watch brands and several top jewellery brands already represented, including all of Richemont’s brands and several large watchmakers.
Police services registered with Enquirus include the Départment de Sûreté Territoriale in Paris, the Geneva Police Service des Bijoux department, as well as several other European police services.
Current insurance partners include LMG Jewellery and Zurich Insurance Group, both some of the largest insurance companies in the UK and Switzerland respectively.