High-end luxury watches have always been a target for thieves. Often they are quickly stolen or snatched in a smash-and-grab incident. Because they are easily transportable and frequently untraceable, they might be quickly converted into cash. How much are these watches worth after they got stolen?
What happens after the watch got stolen?
After the watch got stolen it is most likely to be sold right away. Depending on the sales market and the experience of the thieve this will be to:
- Other gang members
- Seedy shops or cash converters
- Big organised gangs
Sometimes the watch will be worn by the first buyer, but most of the times the ‘hot’ watch will be sold a few a times to ‘cool of’, before it ends up with a new possessor. The past has learned us that stolen watches sometimes turn up on the other side of the globe. Watches that have been sold in Europe turn up in the U.S. and the other way around.
How much is a stolen watch (Rolex) worth?
A stolen watch will almost never be sold for its true market value. Often it will be sold for a percentage of the market value (e.g., 20% or 50%) depending on:
- The brand and model of the stolen watch (real market value, demand, popularity and tradability)
- How ‘hot’ the watch is when it is sold. Was it recently stolen? Do the buyer and seller know it was stolen?
In the case of a stolen watch, the brand and model are obviously still important. A stolen Rolex or Audemars Piguet will typically fetch a higher price than a stolen Casio or Fossil. The model will also be important. A stolen Rolex Daytona will almost always be sold for a higher price than a stolen Rolex Datejust. Related to the brand and the model is the demand and tradability.
The price of a stolen watch will rise as it cools off, or as time passes after it was stolen. When thieves and early buyers are aware of the watch’s history, they are more cautious. People will become less careful and try to boost the price once the watch has traveled through a few hands.
Many countries have special regulations for “good faith owners or buyers,” making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the original victim of the theft to regain their watch. This means that a stolen watch could be sold for more than its original price.
Nonetheless these stolen watches will always be referred to as “no papa, no mama.” The papers will remain in the possession of the original owner. Even if the original owner is unable to reclaim the watch from a trustworthy buyer, the watch will never reach its full market value without these documents.
Very rare stolen luxury watches
As previously mentioned, tradability is another thing to consider when estimating the price of a stolen watch. Consider the rare Richard Mills RM67-02, which was stolen from Charles Leclercq in april 2022. Obviously, this watch will stay hot for a very long time and will be very difficult to cash in by the thief.
The majority of these uncommon luxury brands can only be serviced by the maker. The watch will be found sooner or later. If this is the case, it will be a question of whether or not the victim can retrieve his watch.
A stolen luxury watch, such as a Rolex, is worthless in my opinion. A serious watch collector does not want to be linked with, let alone wear, stolen timepieces. Unfortunately, not everyone is honest and shares this viewpoint, therefore everything comes at a cost and even stolen goods have their price.
Finally, the watch is worth the amount paid for it by the last purchaser?