GUEST COLUMN – The Rising Threat of Jewellery and Watch Theft: A Call for Immediate Insurance Solutions


By Robert McCarthy, Non-Executive Chair of Embri

The escalating prices of gold and silver in recent years have not only driven up the value of luxury jewellery and watches but also heightened the risk of theft associated with these coveted items. This alarming trend is evident globally, with major cities like Los Angeles, London, and Paris reporting significant increases in thefts targeting high-value watches. Such crimes underscore a critical gap in consumer protection, necessitating urgent reforms in insurance practices.

A total of 6,109 watches were reported as stolen to the Metropolitan Police in 2022, data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) by Watchfinder & Co revealed. Almost 600 watches were recorded stolen in December alone, with these watches having an average value of £5,188.88 each.

GUEST COLUMN – The Rising Threat of Jewellery and Watch Theft: A Call for Immediate Insurance Solutions

In addition, reports have suggested that jewellery theft is becoming more prevalent across Europe: once the work of sophisticated experts, it is now being carried out by common criminals.

On the island of Ibiza, criminals recently broke the record by stealing a watch worth €1.2 million, although thankfully a private security company managed to recover it. Now, that crime is even more rampant: watches account for more than 4% of violent robberies in Barcelona, in the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. Whilst luxury watch thefts in Paris have increased by 31% since the beginning of 2022, according to figures published by the Journal du dimanche.

Here are some more alarming examples from this year alone:

  1. April 2024 – Birmingham: Ranked sixth highest city in the UK for personal theft, with a rate of 2.44 crimes per 1,000 residents.
  2. Manchester: Identified as the city most at risk for watch theft, with a rate of 9.24 crimes per 1,000 residents.
  3. London: Second highest in the top ten cities for watch theft.
  4. Other Cities: Oxford, Liverpool, and Leeds also featured in the top 10 for watch theft risk.
  5. March 2024 – UK Watch Theft: The value of stolen luxury watches in the UK reached £1.5 billion. The number of stolen or lost watches reported on The Watch Register tripled in the past year, surpassing 100,000 incidents.
  6. February 2024 – Aviva Data: Aviva reported a 43% increase in high-value claims for jewellery theft.
  7. January 2024 – London: It was reported that undercover tactics led to the arrest of over 20 robbers in the capital. These measures were implemented following the theft of 300 watches valued at nearly £4 million in London’s affluent West End in the six months leading up to October 2022.

The dreaded “see the small print” exclusions

The complexity surrounding insurance for luxury items often leaves consumers vulnerable at the point of policy purchase, with many unaware of the limitations or exclusions buried in the fine print of their policies. This lack of transparency can lead to a false sense of security, where individuals believe they are adequately covered only to discover otherwise when they try to make a claim. The resulting protection gap exposes consumers to significant financial risk, especially in cases of theft or loss of high-value jewellery and watches. Certainty in insurance coverage is crucial for consumers to confidently protect their investments, highlighting the need for clearer and more comprehensive policies that align with their expectations and provide genuine peace of mind.

Traditionally, insuring high-value jewellery and watches has been a cumbersome process, often requiring customers to navigate complex procedures after their purchase. This outdated approach not only discourages consumers from obtaining necessary coverage but also fails to address immediate security concerns at the point of item purchase.

GUEST COLUMN – The Rising Threat of Jewellery and Watch Theft: A Call for Immediate Insurance Solutions

Meeting consumers at the point of sale with bespoke protection

In response to these challenges, there is a pressing need for more accessible and efficient insurance solutions. Embedded insurance is promising innovation that integrates seamlessly into the purchasing process (be that online or in store), providing immediate coverage to customers as soon as they acquire their luxury items. This approach leverages existing transaction data to generate bespoke insurance quotes automatically, offering simplicity and convenience without the need for additional paperwork or delays.

For instance, by utilising modern day Point of Sale (POS) systems in store and/or via a simple QR code displayed at the point of sale, customers can access all pertinent insurance details directly on their smartphones. This digital-first strategy not only enhances user experience, but also aligns with evolving consumer preferences; particularly as online and digital sales channels continue to gain prominence.

The protection gap will grow unless action is taken

Looking ahead, the protection gap in the jewellery and watch market is poised to widen unless proactive measures are implemented. The prevalence of thefts, driven by surging precious metal prices, demands a comprehensive response from retailers and insurers alike. Embedding insurance into the retail experience not only safeguards consumer investments from the outset but also reinforces trust and loyalty among clientele.

Addressing the rising threat of jewellery and watch theft requires immediate adoption of embedded insurance solutions at the point of sale. This approach not only meets consumer needs for security and convenience but also ensures that retailers stay competitive in a dynamic market environment. As the value of luxury items continues to rise, proactive steps such as embedded insurance are essential to protect consumers and sustain industry integrity in the face of escalating risks.

GUEST COLUMN – The Rising Threat of Jewellery and Watch Theft: A Call for Immediate Insurance Solutions

Robert McCarthy

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