The Rise of In-flight Watch Thefts

Once you’ve decided which luxury wristwatch (or wristwatches) you want to purchase, what’s the worst possible thing you can imagine happening after you strap it on for the first time?

nomos glashutte timepiece
Source: Author

You could drop it, but that’s no big deal – even though it’s expensive, any decent after-sales department can fix up a modern watch for you in a matter of weeks. Maybe the water resistance fails – yes, that’s annoying, but no doubt covered by your guarantee. In a terrifying scenario, your whole family might be kidnapped and held to ransom. Painful as it might be to part with your wrist candy, these luxuries pale into insignificance against things that actually matter in life. Also, you might be able to take some solace in the kidnapper’s obvious appreciation of haute horlogerie. A kindred, albeit criminally insane, spirit.

No, the worst thing that can happen to your beloved investment would be to have it stolen. But how could this happen? Surely anyone who has poured thousands into a decent timepiece would not just leave it lying around? As much as it begs belief, that’s exactly what’s been happening on a rash of recent flights. You might think this is pretty uncommon, but reported mid-air thefts rose by 25% in 2015, jumping from 48 cases in 2014, to 60 by year’s end.

You might roll your eyes and profess the careless owner had it coming, but it makes my blood run cold to imagine someone in 2016, boarding a flight with the intention of mid-air thievery. It is brazen beyond belief, but it’s happening. So what can you do to protect yourself?

Good Sense and Smart Storage Solutions

Firstly, unless it is absolutely necessary, do not travel with hundreds of thousands of dollars in your hand luggage (in both recent cases, the watches were nabbed along with a huge wedge of ready bank notes, stashed flippantly in an attaché case stored in an overhead locker).

Source: Pacsafe

Secondly, whatever precious cargo you are carrying should be kept with you at all times! Obviously wearing a watch is a very good way of protecting it during transit, but make sure you don’t shake hands with the Artful Dodger en route.

Sometimes, however, it is just as dangerous to wear a valuable watch. You may want to travel incognito, and avoid the prying stares of would-be thieves. In those instances, you should consider some kind of travel safe, or at the very least a secure briefcase that is small enough for you to store under your seat while flying.

Vigilance, as with all theft prevention, is key. It should never leave your attention when you are a steward of a potential heirloom. If you’re on a long haul flight and you might have to sleep, it’s probably worth quietly notifying the cabin crew that you are in possession of a valuable item(s), and even consider surreptitiously handcuffing yourself to your carry-on bag. It’s even more important if the watch has sentimental value, as that kind of problem can never be fixed, no matter how much money you throw at it.

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About the Author:

Rob Nudds is a WOSTEP qualified watchmaker, working as a consultant in the UK market. You can read more of his work on