New database helps jewellers identify stolen watches

A new initiative to help jewellers, pawnbrokers and police to identify and trace stolen watches is being launched in January by intelligence sharing organisation, SaferGems.

Acting as a central database of watches’ serial numbers, the SaferGems Watch Register will enable jewellers and pawnbrokers to check the provenance of second-hand items with a single phone call or email. Hosted by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Watch Register is operated by SaferGems, a joint initiative established by the BSIA in partnership with a number of prominent organisations including TH March Insurance Brokers, the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) and the British Jewellers’ Association (BJA).

In 2014 alone, over £9m worth of watches have been stolen from individuals and jewellery stores, often inadvertently being sold on through the UK’s wide network of pawnbrokers and second-hand jewellery traders. Intelligence gathered by SaferGems shows that watches are among the items of personal property most targeted by thieves, with jewellery shops also frequently targeted by ‘smash and grab’ opportunists and organised gangs.

SaferGems’ Intelligence Officer, Simon Gardner, comments: “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 past.

“In the long-term, the Watch Register will help to reduce crimes against the jewellery industry by making it more difficult for thieves to resell stolen watches without getting caught.”

During a short trial period earlier this year, the Watch Register has already resulted in success. Jeweller Haywood Milton, M.A.(Hons), R.J.Dip is a Council Member of the National Pawnbrokers Association and Director of Miltons (Liverpool) Ltd, selling around 600 second-hand Rolex watches every year. He comments:

“A readily-accessible database that collates data from primary sources of intelligence 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.

“I love the fact that the Watch Register will be run independently – and not for profit – by the respected industry body SaferGems, under the auspices of the BSIA. The Watch Register’s direct links to primary sources of data, as well as its solid backing from T.H. March and trade organisations, should fulfil our need for due diligence, reduce our potential losses and add demonstrable value to every watch we sell.”

Also according to Milton, the Watch Register enables jewellers and pawnbrokers to access reliable data. He adds: “Watch manufacturers themselves offer erratic, limited or no access to their records, so this independent initiative is long overdue and will be welcomed by all serious stakeholders.”

Michael Rawlinson, Chief Executive of the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), also welcomes the launch of the database: “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. This is a great way to protect genuine customers and support the legitimate and legal market, and I am delighted that the N.A.G. can support the work of the police in identifying lost or stolen goods.”

Neil McFarlane ACII, Managing Director of TH March Insurance Brokers, adds: “As we will all be aware, theft of high value watches has continued unabated over recent years. The work of SaferGems has undoubtedly helped to keep these losses from spiralling out of control. However working closely with the Police and UK jewellery trade to deter and catch the criminals carrying out these raids, will not on its own be enough.

“That is why T H March & Co. Limited are fully supportive of the new Watch Register initiative being started by the team at SaferGems with effect from 1st January 2015. Any pooling of information regarding stolen watches, which can be accessed both by the Police and U K Jewellery trade, will be a major first step in making it harder to dispose of stolen watches, through the trade.”

From January 1st, jewellers or pawnbrokers wishing to check the provenance of a second-hand watch can do so free of charge by contacting the SaferGems Watch Register team on 0845 389 0740 or by email at watchregister@safergems.org.uk

More information about the SaferGems initiative can be found at www.safergems.org.uk

Leave a Comment