Watch your watch: theft techniques to be aware of

As long as there have been valuables, there has been theft - and one of the oldest forms in the world is pick pocketing. Today, there are still plenty of unscrupulous characters ready to try and relieve you of your possessions, with frequently alarming levels of skill.

The theft techniques that pickpockets use are mainly designed to prevent you from noticing your watch has vanished until they have disappeared too. But the more you know about these theft techniques, as well as the warning signs and situations that tend to precede them, the better your chances of protecting yourself and your possessions.

Theft techniques

What’s at risk?

Successful thieves can make it look like your expensive item has vanished as if by magic. But thanks to the insights of real working magicians, it’s possible to gain a detailed look at the way misdirection and sleight of hand combine to create the perfect crime.

Watches, bracelets and chains are all potential targets. Rings are less vulnerable, since they are much harder to remove unnoticed, but they are still not entirely safe.

Think you would never be fooled by any kind of theft technique? Are you extremely cautious when wearing valuables out? Don’t be so sure. As much as you may keep checking the item and the clasp, thieves have rehearsed thousands of times how to divert your attention to something else without you realising. The trick you need to employ is spotting what that ‘something else’ might be.


What to look out for

The act of removing an item from your wrist, be it a bracelet that slides off easily or a watch that needs to be unbuckled, will happen in much the same way. A practised thief can remove it with one hand in a single deft motion.

To remove a watch, thieves create a C shape with the thumb and middle finger, wrapping it around your wrist, before using the finger to slide the strap loose. It’s a well-established theft technique that may sound clunky but can be executed by a professional in the blink of an eye. You won’t necessarily feel the watch leave your wrist, since they often hold it tight until they further distract you, but you should feel your wrist being held.

With a necklace, always beware hugs from strangers. Thieves have been recorded working in pairs, where one hugs the victim and loosens their necklace, while the other removes the item. Not a very subtle theft technique, but effective enough for police to release CCTV in Birmingham to try and stop it.

A hug, or a bold, wrist gripping handshake presents a physical distraction, but psychological distraction is the key ingredient. Professional pickpocket Apollo Robbins has been so successful at this aspect of the crime that neuroscientists and even the military have studied his approach to understand human attention better. His theft techniques are so highly tuned that by distracting a person for no more than a second, he can remove their watch. Not convinced? Watch the video to see for yourself.

Theft techniques

If Apollo Robbins is after your Rolex, you may not stand a chance. But the best way to avoid being the victim of general theft techniques is to be on high alert if a stranger engages you in overly friendly physical contact, especially a hug or handshake. Secure your valuables in a hotel safe if you know you will be distracted in a busy place, such as sightseeing on holiday.


And – above all – make sure you have a specialist watch insurance policy. That way you can have peace of mind at home or on holiday if you happen to be unlucky. Ripe Insurance for Valuables offers top valuables insurance to ensure you’re covered – so find the ideal policy to guard you against all kinds of theft right here.

Related Posts


Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Ring Insurance


Revealed: The 17 Most Expensive Engagement Rings Of All Time


Let's stay in touch. Sign up to receive special offers and exclusive discounts.

Your data is safe with us and you can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy policy.

We also work with a few, carefully selected retail and leisure partners. Please click below if it's ok for us to send you offers and information from these partners from time to time.

Thank you for subscribing, you’ll be hearing from us soon!