Industry database to curb resale of stolen watches

Jewellers are keen to embrace new security measures after a spate of high-profile robberies. Picture: Alamy

Jewellers are keen to embrace new security measures after a spate of high-profile robberies. Picture: Alamy

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A NEW security initiative has been launched by the jewellery industry in a bid to curb watch crime, which costs Scottish ­retailers £2 million a year.

The Watch Register will help jewellers and pawnbrokers identify stolen watches by checking their serial numbers against a central database held by SaferGems, a joint initiative established by the British ­Security Industry Association, TH March Insurance Brokers and the National Association of Goldsmiths.

Some high-end brands are said to have operated a service which allowed dealers to identify second-hand watches directly with the maker, although this is the first time an industry-wide ­database has been set up.

The service will benefit both retailers who have had new watches stolen and second-hand dealers who want to ensure watches they are buying to sell on have not been stolen. Watch crime in Scotland accounts for a quarter of all retail watch thefts in the UK.

SaferGems’ Intelligence Officer, Simon Gardner, said: “Demand for the Watch Register service was highlighted to us by the jewellery industry and police, in light of the growing number of stolen pieces now unknowingly being offered to jewellers and pawnbrokers.

“Storing serial numbers on a central database enables those working in the jewellery industry to make informed decisions about buying second-hand watches, by enabling them to check whether the item has been reported stolen. In the long-term, the Watch Register will help reduce crimes against the jewellery industry by making it more difficult for thieves to resell stolen watches without getting caught.”

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Michael Rawlinson, chief executive of the National Association of Goldsmiths, said: “The Watch Register will provide a really valuable resource for jewellers to protect themselves from fraud and business losses through trading in stolen or counterfeit watches.”

Scottish jewellers have suffered a spate of robberies in the past year.

Figures compiled by Safer Gems from information provided by the jewellery industry and police forces found watch thefts north of the Border accounted for a quarter of the value of all UK watch crime.

In June, Hamilton & Inches on Edinburgh’s George Street was targeted in broad daylight, with masked thieves making off with a haul worth more than £800,000 from window displays alone and the total value of the jewellery and watches is believed to more than £2 million.

In 2013, Rox jewellers, which is part of the city’s Assembly Rooms on the same shopping street, was robbed of jewellery and watches worth £730,000. The store invested £50,000 in enhanced security following the raid, including employing a full-time security guard and installing a smoke cloud system as a deterrent.

Joe Goodwin, managing director of Goodwins jeweller on Queensferry Street, said: “Anything that is set up to stop fraud and make it easier to identify stolen watches is welcomed by the industry. It would be particularly useful for pawnbrokers who deal in a lot of second hand watches.”

Jeweller Haywood Milton, also a Council Member of the National Pawnbrokers Association, said: “A readily-accessible database that collates data from primary sources is an invaluable tool for anyone trading in watches.

“This was dramatically proven during Miltons’ early trial of the SaferGems Watch Register when it allowed us to identify as stolen a Rolex Submariner – for which I was about to pay £4,750 – which had been taken in an armed robbery two years ago.”

Police Scotland said: “We support any initiative which aims to reduce crime and keep people safe.”

The register launches on New Year’s Day.

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