Watch Theft Prevention – Three Rules

Rolex Hulk - watch theft prevention

A friend recently decided to buy a Rolex Hulk from a local seller. They agreed to meet in a public place. The seller was a no-show. My friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) returned to his house to discover he’d been burgled. The thieves stole his entire watch collection – multiple Rolex, a Royal Oak, two Jaegers and more. “They knew exactly how to get in, where to go and what to take” he reported. How? “Instagram.” In his lack of situational awareness for watch theft prevention he was not alone. bbc.co.uk:

Italian TV host Dietta Liotta - watch theft prevention

A group of robbers in Milan known as the “acrobat thieves” monitored the Instagram pages of the city’s rich and famous in order to ransack their homes, prosecutors have revealed.

The group examined celebrities’ photos to find entry points, using tagged locations to find out where they lived and when they would be out . . .

The first robbery took place on 6 June last year, when the group stole about €150,000 (£132,000) worth of belongings from [Italian TV host Diletta] Leotta – including jewellery, designer handbags and Rolex watches.

The police eventually caught the bad guys – dubbed “acrobats” for scaling walls. So now you know one rule for watch theft prevention: it pays not to advertise. (Note to Ms. Liotta: it’s time to take the image off your Instagram account.)

There are [at least] three other rules for watch theft prevention. Ignore them at your peril, knowing that finding your home address on the internet is child’s play (one of the Italian thieves was 17).

1. Use Your Alarm System, Lock Up Your Watches

Home security is like ogres (and parfaits); good systems have layers. The first and most important layer: an alarm system. You have one, right? It doesn’t have to be connected to the cops, but you do have one, correct?

Opportunists and amateur criminals avoid alarmed houses, condos and apartments. Even if they don’t, they’re likely to scarper if an alarm goes off. True professionals will disconnect your alarm. Crazies don’t give a sh*t (they pose a much larger problem than watch theft).

The trick here: use your alarm system. Yes, when even when you’re popping down to the shops. If you keep getting false alarms, disconnect your interior sensors and get on with it.

Locking up your watches is your second layer. A good jewelry safe is a must for watch theft prevention, and not just as a second security layer (see: tip number three). The BlumSafe 301504 Luxury Watch Winder Wall Safe is an ace product (no commission on link) but any good safe will do. At the least it will slow down the pros.

The final layer is you. Anyone who breaks into your house while you and/or your family are in situ – what’s called a “hot burglary” – is a serious threat. You’ve got more important things to worry about than your watches, and no watch is worth your life. If you return to a burglarized abode, call the police and let them clear the house.

2. Avoid Wearing Your Nice Watch in Stupid Places at Stupid Times, Stay Alert Even AFTER You Get Home

We’ve posted on the life-threatening dangers of wearing an obviously expensive watch in public. Of course, not all public places are the same. Not all countries are the same. And an otherwise perfectly safe place – such as an upmarket bar in downtown Dallas – can become unsafe at 2am on a Saturday morning. Even if the bar remains cool, what about the parking lot where you left your car?

This is one reason I’m careful where I wear my XXXX or XXXX (see what I didn’t do there?) or travel with them abroad (when such things were done). I’m also wary when I get home, making sure I wasn’t followed and that the area is clear before disarming the house (remotely) and leaving the car. Paranoid? Gang of Rolex robbers tailed wealthy victims’ cars for miles after spotting valuable watches the sun.co.uk reports.

3. Do not assume the kindness (i.e., honesty and integrity) of strangers

We also reported about the “inside job” Rolex robbery suffered by a mono-monikered American expat model called Caprice. Common sense tells us that the work-people we invite into our homes are potential watch thieves – who probably aren’t professional safe crackers. It also suggests that the aforementioned watch safe lock-up strategy is an excellent way to eliminate horological temptation for a light-fingered friend-of-a-friend who left the dinner party to use the bathroom.

As my friend’s experience proves, they’re are some extremely clever scammers out there. Watch theft can also arrive – make that depart – via the mail, should you trust a seller to honor his or her pledge to pay cash-on-delivery. In general, trust no one and verify. After all, you worked hard to pay for your watches. And an ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of lost timepieces.

16 comments

  1. 1. Don’t use your real name on social media.
    2. Set your privacy settings on social media like Facebook to “Friends Only.”
    3. Turn the geo-tag feature of your phone camera OFF.
    4. Don’t post where you live on watch (or other public) forums or groups.
    5. Carry a gun (where legal).
    6. Don’t go to stupid places (See RF’s #2 in article).

  2. I wouldn’t even use a safe as they can easily be broken into and as the lock picking lawyer has shown, not much protection and the place where people target first. I’d have someone build you a slip of some kind to store your valuables, my mom has one in her house that’s impossible to find and hard to open. Unless the thief worked on the slip, everything will remain safe. (If you can afford multiple Rolexes, you can afford a slip).

        1. I see. I just had not heard that term, “slip,” before. Thanks!

          I guess you’re using a slip to give burglars the slip! 😉

  3. Getting robbed at home because of Instagram is reason 1,000,001 that I do not use Instagram.

    When considering being out in public it is important to realize that a Submariner or GMT-Master in their 1950s-1960s heyday cost about $1,000 – $1,500 adjusted for inflation (the low hundreds in real money). Now that the retail prices are kissing $10k, and the street prices much higher, wearing them in public involves a different calculation.

    The dive watches that cost $1,000 today make much better vacation watches than a Submariner, and for people that actually travel for business the traveller GMTs from Omega and GS are going to get a lot less wrong attention than a GMT-Master II, while still conveying a grown man that wears a proper mechanical watch at the right times.

    1. Getting robbed at home because of Instagram is reason 1,000,001 that I do not use Instagram.

      Or perhaps because you’re older than 20 years old? 😀

      1. That is reason 456,789. Actually my limited understanding is that Instagram has an older demographic at this point and the “kids” use the PRC Oracle mashup TikTok.

  4. Great article.
    You either need to invest in adequate protection (as said above) or not wear or buy anything so precious to you that you can’t afford to lose it. If getting burgled would have a material impact on your net worth, you can’t afford what was stolen. These are just consumable things; these are not balance sheet assets. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

    1. If getting burgled would have a material impact on your net worth, you can’t afford what was stolen.

      I don’t think that’s the issue… deleterious net worth issues. Seriously? Who is thinking about “net worth” when they are robbed or burgled??

      The issue of being burgled goes far deeper than that. First, there is the psychological impact of a STRANGER being in and violating YOUR SPACE. We were burgled years ago. It was likely kids, because they took stupid nearly worthless shit. But, it was OUR SHIT. And, they broke into OUR HOME. I don’t care about the video games and other minor items. I care a LOT that they were IN MY HOUSE. It happened several years ago, and it affects us to this day.

      As for more valuable items like my watches. It’s not the value so much that I care about. It’s the EFFORT it took in creating my collection… the emotional value. The STORIES attached to such items over time are worth more than the material value.

      And, then there are the things that simply cannot be replaced.

      It wasn’t burglary, but my family’s home burned to the ground when I was younger. There were so many things (with attached memories) that could not be replaced, regardless of insurance or the money to buy them. They could not be re-bought. They could not be re-experienced. My most valuable possession lost in the fire? My hundreds of photos taken during my childhood (with my own camera). Hundreds and hundreds of them. Gone. Forever. My father had collected souvenirs and art from around the world. There’s no way to get those back.

      1. Good point. Yeah, having a break-in is incredibly violating.

        But since this is a watch blog and a post on watch safes, I still maintain my point that if losing a (non-sentimental) object would cause you extreme anxiety, then it owns you.

        I don’t suggest that supercedes the emotional impact of a burglary, which is far more harmful – even if nothing of value were stolen.

  5. I don’t have Hodinkee watch insurance so that burglars can steal my watches and leave me empty-handed!

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