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7 bizarre watch heists that happened in Asia

By Annie Darling 1 February 2023

Header image courtesy of Amin Hasani (via Unsplash)

Whether you have a handful of watches or a collection of 100, the idea of losing just one treasured timepiece to a burglary is enough to send seismic shockwaves through any collector. Sure, protecting your hoard with insurance keeps you from staring into the mirror and questioning the reasons behind your watch obsession, but it doesn’t make it any less likely that somewhere, someday, one of your tickers will get nicked by an eagle-eyed thief. Join us as we take a look at some of Asia’s most audacious watch thefts.

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Photo: Atul Vinayak (via Unsplash)

Japan, 2021

Tokyo police arrested a 19-year-old university student for stealing a US$100,000 (HK$784,000) watch from a company executive she met on a papa-katsu date, which is when older men pay women to go out with them. Police said at least 10 unlucky gents had reported thefts of high-end timepieces by the same woman, who they had all met on a dating app.

Photo: Irina Iriser (via Unsplash)

Hong Kong, 2020

In the months preceding the pandemic, a video circulated online showing two men attacking a chap who had his US$35,000 (HK$275,000) Rolex stolen at knifepoint. The robbers, wearing black caps and jumpers, stabbed the poor bloke in front of horrified passengers near turnstiles at Exit D of Tai Wai MTR Station.

hoto: Joel Fulgencio (via Unsplash)

Hong Kong, 2020

A watch store owner was mugged of his limited-edition Richard Mille worth about US$180,000 (HK$1,412,000) as he walked to a business meeting in Tsim Sha Tsui. One of two street robberies in just nine hours, the 32-year-old was hospitalised after being pushed and kicked by the thieves who fled on foot before police could arrive on the scene.

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Photo: Ryan Tang (via Unsplash)

Hong Kong, 2019

A Taiwanese gambler drowning in debt snatched watches worth almost US$130,000 (HK$1,020,000) from a Nathan Road boutique. Suspected of committing similar crimes in Japan and Singapore, the offender was eventually sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison when a Taiwanese court found him guilty of aggravated robbery in 2020.

hoto: Joyce Romero (via Unsplash)

Bali, 2019

Sometimes, even the tightest security is not enough to stop determined shoplifters, which staff at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali discovered when an Indonesian pilot was caught stealing a black Seiko from a duty-free shop in the domestic departure terminal.

Photo: Ryan Tang (via Unsplash)

Thailand, 2018

A Kuwaiti man’s one-night stand in Thailand took a bad turn when he woke up the following morning to discover his three luxury watches—one from Rolex and two from Audemars Piguet— missing. The woman was found by officers not long after, with the missing timepieces, worth about US$16,000 (HK$125,000), in her possession.

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Photo: zhang kaiyv (via Unsplash)

China, 2015

Criminals have long been lured by wristwatches, which are easily transported and sold on the black market. Nicknamed the “Silly Thief” by internet users, a Malaysian fellow robbed a Cartier boutique with a model gun in Beijing’s busy Wangfujing shopping district. He ran off with 11 pieces worth more than US$470,000 (HK$3,685,000) before taking a taxi home. Unsurprisingly, he was quickly nabbed by the police.

Annie Darling

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