Watch-stealing thief demonstrates
A Rolex thief demonstrates how a watch is grabbed, twisted, and broken during a steal.

Wristwatches are a classic subject of seizure. The problem is not widespread, but concentrated largely in specific locales. Naples, Italy, is only one of them.

José, a day visitor there, stopped on Via Toledo to photograph a colorful produce stand. As he walked away with his wife, his Rolex was snatched from his wrist. He turned in time to see a teenage boy running up into the narrow alleys of Quartieri Spagnoli, bystanders watching with no apparent concern.

A cruise ship captain had his Rolex ripped off from the perceived safety of a taxi stopped in traffic, as he rested his arm on the open window. And a grocer we met, a Napolitano, said the motorcycle bandits, scippatori, had tried to grab his Rolex four times, and finally succeeded. He had a new one now, but showed us the cheap watch he switched to before leaving his store every day with the Rolex in his pocket.

In Caracas, 17 members of an organized tour paused in a square to view a statue of Bolivar. While the tour guide lectured, a pair of men in business suits jumped a Japanese couple who stood at the back of the group. They were wrestled to the ground, their Rolexes pried off their wrists, and the well-dressed thieves on their escape before anyone could spring into action.

Watch-stealing: Bob Arno's multi-step steal is just as fast as a thief's, but doesn't break the watch.
Bob Arno’s multi-step steal is just as fast as a thief’s, but doesn’t break the watch.Bob Arno’s multi-step steal is just as fast as a thief’s, but doesn’t break the watch.

After watching my husband, Bob Arno, demonstrate watch steals in his show, people come up to us with wrists outstretched. “But they couldn’t get this one, could they? It’s even hard for me to unclasp.”


Bob’s theatrical techniques are totally unlike the street thieves’ methods. Bob’s stage steals are designed to climax with the surprise return of an intact watch. The thief, on the other hand, cares not if the victim notices or if the watch breaks. In the street, a watch thief gets his quick fingers under the face of the watch and pulls with a twist, snapping the tiny pins that connect the watch to its strap.

The readily recognizable Rolex is a universal symbol of wealth. Its instant ID factor makes it not only a conspicuous target, but highly desirable on the second-hand market. Even a fraction of its “hot” price brings big bucks to the thief and the fence.

Outside of Naples, in South Africa, Brazil, and England for example, seizure of Rolex watches is big business often perpetrated by Nigerian gangs, who send shipments of these status symbols to eager dealers in the Middle East. Who would guess that watch-snatching was so organized, so global?

Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter Five: Rip-Offs: Introducing…the Opportunist

© Copyright 2008-present Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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