Most of the luxury watches that got stolen or lost end up back in the market, but can you always recover your watch? What happens if you are the buyer of one of these watches? Do you have to return it to the original owner if he would show up or do you get to keep it?
Buyer in good faith
Most countries have a legal principle of “buyer in good faith” in their laws. This means that when the acquisition is free of any defect, the buyer can keep the goods in certain circumstances. Good faith is, therefore, a “psychological state” that which the acquirer believes that his acquisition is valid. On the contrary, the acquirer in bad faith is the one who knows that his acquisition title is flawed.
On top of this principle, there is the legal presumption of the good-faith possessor. This precept establishes the presumption that the possessor is always in good faith. Whoever affirms the contrary, will have to prove such circumstance. For instance that the buyer knew or had to know that the watch he bought was previously stolen.
Can the initial owner always recover his stolen watch?
Depending on the specific laws in the competent jurisdiction, the initial owner can not always reclaim his stolen watch when it is found.It is very important to always look for competent jurisdiction and the applicable laws to the issue. Some countries have laws that favor the good faith buyer where others, like the U.S. and UK favor the original theft victim.
For instance, following the law in Belgium, a buyer in good faith becomes the rightful possessor of a good, even if the seller did not have the power to legally sell it. The initial owner and victim of the larceny only have 3 years to reclaim his watch in front of a Court, counting from the moment the watch got stolen. (Art. 3:28 NBW)
In Belgium, when you don’t locate your watch within 3 years after it got stolen, you later can not reclaim the watch from a third party, if you can not prove that this party obtained possession in bad faith.
It is very important to always look for competent jurisdiction and the applicable laws to the issue. After all, this will indicate if there is still a possibility to reclaim the watch.
Report the watch as fast as possible
Regarding the above, it becomes again clear that locating your stolen watch as fast as possible is important to improve the chances of recovering it. That’s why it is key to create as much awareness as possible around the watch (Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Richard Mills, …) by reporting it to as many organizations as possible. Report it to the police, your insurer, and the manufacturer of the watch, and list it on online watch registers as Stolen-Watches.com.
Do you need a lawyer to recover your stolen watch?
Because of the rights of a buyer in good faith, it is possible you will need a lawyer to recover your stolen watch. The lawyer will verify which laws are applicable and support you in the process of recovery.
For instance it is possible that a stolen Rolex watch turns up after a service with the manufacturer. If the watch was reported stolen, Rolex will contact the initial owner, but will not automatically return the watch. It is possible that legal action will be needed to sort out the rights of the new owner and the original owner.