A vintage watch store in London has been raided by a masked thief who escaped with over £200,000 worth of antique pocket watches.
The Vintage Watch Store, based in Hampstead, specialises in rare pocket watches dating back to the 19th century, but also trades in Rolex, Omega and other classic wristwatches.
Simon Drachman, the business’s owner, told WatchPro that the thief stole 125 watches, and appeared to specifically target the rare pocket watches.
Among the items taken was an 18ct gold Goliath 8-Day Swedish royal presentation wedding pocket watch from 1910 worth £12,500 and an 18ct gold Verge Fusee watch made by Thomas Earnshaw of London worth £9000.
Leaving behind the wristwatches, which are less distinctive and easier to sell was unexpected, Drachman said. “There is a much smaller community of dealers for pocket watches. We all know each other. It would be almost impossible to sell these watches in this country,” he suggested.
“The Rolexes and Omegas would have been lost forever if they had been taken. They are much less traceable.”
The raid, which took place on Saturday, removed around 25% of the stock from The Vintage Watch Store. None of the pieces was insured, Drachman admitted, but he vowed to battle on with the business. “It has hit us pretty hard, but we will keep working,” he promised.
It could have been far worse. The thief and an accomplice returned for a second raid on Sunday evening, by which time all the remaining stock had been removed from the store. This time they were scared off when residents in the flat above the shop raised the alarm, and in the rush they left behind a balaclava and screwdriver that police hope will yield DNA evidence.
Newspaper reports have sensationalised the original robbery as a Mission Impossible-style raid as the burglar entered the premises through a small vent on the roof, shimmied through a duct and then picked several locks on the way into the store. He then crawled across the floor to avoid a sophisticated infrared beam security system on his way to the cabinets, leading to the tabloid media labelling him the snake.
Drachman, whose business could have been destroyed, is frustrated by the depiction, but understands that the more publicity the raid receives, the more likely it is that police will catch the thief.