Richemont aims to curb viewing theft

About five years ago, executives at Compagnie Financière Richemont, the Swiss luxury conglomerate that owns 11 high-end watch brands including Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Vacheron Constantin, began noticing a disturbing trend.

“Watch and jewelry theft has been increasing at an alarming rate,” Richemont chief turnover officer Frank Vivier said in a recent video call. “People in broad daylight in affluent areas began reporting that they had ripped watches.” For example, newscast He said more than 6,100 Stolen watches were reported to the Metropolitan Police in London last year.

Mr Vivier attributed the sudden rise in watch thefts around the world to the proliferation of resale sites, which he said made it easier to fence off stolen goods.

In March, at the Watches and Wonders exhibition in Geneva, Richemont announced a free online platform called Enquirus, designed to address the problem by encouraging watch and jewelry owners to register their pieces on the app or website, using brand names and serial numbers. They will then be able to report them online as lost or stolen, if the items are lost. Anyone considering a purchase who suspects that the watch or jewel has been stolen can check the database.

The company hopes the platform will reduce the incentive for criminals to steal items in the first place, since identifying lost and stolen items makes resale more difficult. “We decided we needed to make it difficult for criminals,” said Mr Vivier.

Enquirus was conceived two years ago and tested until December, when the current platform launched. It now has more than 6,000 accounts in more than 100 countries, Mr. Vivier said, and nearly 30,000 items have been registered as lost or stolen. All of its brands are promoting the site, Richemont said, and it has also alerted police and insurance companies.

“It is a one place for key partners, including law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, pre-owned market, collectors and individuals to use and search quickly for free,” Mr. Vivier wrote in a follow-up email. “It is open to all luxury brands, and currently has over 190 luxury watch brands and many major jewelry brands pre-loaded.”

Enquirus isn’t the first record of stolen luxury items. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Crime Information Center And the freelancer Leads Widely used by members of law enforcement, instead Watch the recording In London it serves merchants trying to determine if a watch has been stolen.

John F. Kennedy, president of the New York-based company, said Enquirus is the first such service freely available to consumers, backed by a deep-pocketed organization like Richemont. Aman Jewelers Alliancea non-profit organization committed to protecting the industry from crime.

Mr. Kennedy said the increase in watch theft was part of an overall increase in crime affecting the entire industry. “We committed more crimes against jewelers in the United States last year than ever before,” he said. It was a 30 percent increase over any previous year.

“It fell through during covid when things were closed and travel was restricted,” Kennedy added. “It was down in ’20 and ’21, and in ’22 it really exploded. We see it continue today.”

Mr. Vivier said Richemont was intent on creating a “level of emotional reassurance” for potential watch buyers who may have been deterred by recent media reports of brazen burglaries in cities like London And Los Angeles.

Kennedy said whether Enquirus will help reduce theft will depend on how many people use it. “To get a database working,” he said, “you have to have enough critical mass of people entering data on stolen property, and enough critical mass of the public familiar with it to conduct investigations.” They need to know it’s there, and that’s a lot of effort. But Richemont has the resources.”

Kennedy said that recovering stolen goods “is a whole other can of worms”. “Suppose I’m a cop with a victim in Los Angeles and I get this notice that the stolen watch has turned up in Geneva. What am I supposed to do about it?”