Keeping watch for the watch thieves

3 minutes

I recently had the pleasure of attending a seminar, hosted by Simon Giddins and Tom Tahaney of Blackstone Consultancy. They really opened the audience’s eyes to the growing issue of watch theft in our cities. Can you believe that the Metropolitan Police reported 3,190 watches as stolen in the first half of 2023? And in 2022, over £50 million worth of watches were reported stolen in London alone*.

They pointed out that gangs tend to target watches because these items are relatively small, easy to handle, conceal, and then sell on. These gangs often have spotters, who are usually females, looking for easy targets wearing visible watches – those with rolled-up sleeves for example. The spotters then signal the potential victim to a group of three or more men who then forcefully take the watch. It's unfortunate that the victims are left with few options once this happens.

As brokers, we want to make sure that our clients are aware of the rising trend in watch thefts, so they can take necessary precautions. However, how can we best advise our clients on being more cautious without taking away the joy of owning and wearing a watch? One way is to ensure they have the right level of insurance cover. Although money from an insurance payout can’t fully compensate for the theft of a valuable watch – especially if it’s a family heirloom – having the right insurance cover in place will at least help with the financial loss.

Considerations when insuring a watch

Quality cover

When it comes to more expensive valuables, a standard home insurance policy is unlikely to be suitable. Typically, there are low monetary limits on items such as jewellery and watches, so if the worst happens and a watch is stolen, in the event of a claim you may not be fully covered. A good broker can help find policies with fewer restrictions and higher limits.


An up-to-date valuation makes the claims process more straightforward and prevents underinsurance, which is more common than you might think.

A client of ours recently found that his Patek Phillipe watch, insured for £15,000, would cost £27,000 to replace.” Steve Moores, Client Director, Howden

We recently valued a Cartier watch for a client, who had not had it valued since the early 2000s. Cartier had valued it at £6,500 then, but now it’s currently worth… £50,000!”
Rachel Doerr, Managing Director of Doerr Dallas Valuations

Some of the insurers we work with will give a 25 per cent or even 50 per cent uplift for three years following a valuation, to protect policyholders from rising prices. We also have a panel of recommended valuation companies that assist by not only valuing pieces now but also giving up-to-date valuations going forward.

Watch-wearing habits

We often speak to clients who have their watches insured on a worldwide basis, all the time. This is often inappropriate and can result in a higher premium. Whilst clients may not want their watch insured when kept in a safe only, which is restrictive, we talk to them about “floating limits”. This works well if a client has a collection of watches or jewellery as it operates on the basis that not all the jewellery and watches will be worn at the same time. You can read more about floating limits here.

The Watch Register

Time is of the essence when it comes to the recovery of stolen watches and Katya Hills, Managing Director of The Watch Register, says:

“The difference between art and watch theft is speed. Watches are stolen, bought and sold from one day to the next, unlike artwork where it can be 20 years or more before being put up for sale. In one year, a watch can have 20 different owners and because of their portability, watches can easily be taken across borders. So, The Watch Register team works closely with law enforcement agencies in the UK and across the globe.”

The Watch Register database is designed to ensure anyone around the world can run a search within minutes to see if a watch has been lost or stolen and they recover three or four stolen watches per day. To find out more about The Watch Register and the watches they’ve recovered, read our article: Calling time on watch thieves

As insurance specialists, we don’t want to make clients feel like they can't enjoy wearing their watches. We do however want to provide our clients with the right advice, and should the worst happen, be confident that they have the correct and robust insurance in place.

Source.* Blackstone Security

To speak to us about insuring your watch call 020 8256 4901 or email

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