1 Aug 2016

Stolen Patek Philippe watch recovered across the Atlantic


In June 2016, the Art Loss Register (ALR) identified a Patek Philippe watch in a sale in New York, only two years after its theft in Naples. The watch had been registered by the insurer on the Watch Register: the ALR’s database dedicated to stolen watches.

The watch belonged to a Swiss collector from whom it was stolen whilst he was holidaying in Naples in July 2014. The owner described the theft ‘like a scene from a movie.’ The watch was ripped off his arm as he walked through the town centre one evening and the thief ran off amidst clamouring passers-by.

The owner immediately informed the Italian Carabinieri, as well as his Swiss insurer and the manufacturer. The insurer then registered the watch on the ALR’s Watch Register.

The ALR had since been searching for the watch on the international market, and spotted it two years later in the sale of a U.S. auction house. Stolen in Naples, the watch had made its way to New York soon after the theft and ended up with an unsuspecting American buyer. Upon receiving news of the theft, he swiftly relinquished his rights to the watch and sought reimbursement from his seller.

As a result, the watch could remain in the auction. It exceeded its estimate of $20,000 – 25,000, and sold for $27,500. Full proceeds went to the insurer.

Following the recovery, the insurer said, “We were amazed that the watch turned up in the U.S., and we are glad that we registered it on the Watch Register as this allowed us to recover the watch as soon as it appeared for sale on the market.”

Information on the Watch Register:

  1. The Watch Register (www.thewatchregister.com) is the database of lost and stolen watches held by the Art Loss Register.
  2. The Watch Register currently includes 50,000 watches, and is growing rapidly.
  3. Insurance companies, police forces and theft victims can register items on the Watch Register in order to maximise their chances of recovery.
  4. The Watch Register provides a specialist due diligence service to auction houses, dealers, pawnbrokers and jewellers, who can request searches of the database to verify whether a watch has been reported stolen. This process allows watches on the database to be identified, and further steps to be taken to secure their recovery.
  5. Registration is free for law enforcement and under contract for insurers. For all others the cost of registering is £10/€15/$15.
  6. Searching the database is free for law enforcement, and members of the trade can subscribe to search from as little as £2 per item. One-off searches cost £10.