Street robberies have seen a dramatic fall in the demand for luxury watches.
People wearing watches by Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Philippe Patek are being routinely targeted in London’s West End.
In 2022 more than 6,000 high-end watches were stolen in London.
Gangs spot people wearing expensive time pieces in bars and restaurants and then mug them on their way back to cars and hotels.
Industry experts admit street robberies are a growing problem.
The share price of Watches of Switzerland has plummeted 50 per cent since the turn of the year.
It now expects turnover to be up to 10 per cent lower than previously forecast.
And Richemont, owner of Cartier, reported half-year sales were down by about 17 per cent.
Meanwhile, the value of second-hand watches has been dropping for more than a year.
Paul Thorpe, a former watch dealer, told The Times:
“People are just worried right now.
“They see their luxury watches as a potential mugging waiting to happen.
“Why would you put your life on the line in the big cities?
“Theft is not the biggest factor to falling demand but it’s a contributing factor.”
He added: “Watchmakers should take some blame for the rise in this crime particularly after Rolex shut its lost and stolen register in 2011.
“Prior to that dreadful decision, buyers of any used Rolex — dealers or members of the public — could simply call or fax Rolex with a request for a quick and definitive lost-and-stolen check.
“It was brilliant and hugely successful.
“It kept watch crime in check.
“What’s the point in stealing or trying to sell stolen watches that were so easily traceable?”
He added: “Rolex and other watch manufacturers have been treating safety with contempt for a long time now; closing their eyes and ears to a worldwide problem.”
Danny Pizzigoni, owner of The Watch Club in Old Bond Street, says frightened watch owners are selling daily.
He said: “People come in and they say, ‘I want to sell this gold Day-Date [Rolex] or this yellow gold [Philippe Patek] Nautilus because I’m too scared to wear it.
“But by the same token, people are still buying them.”
Theft numbers have dropped since the Metropolitan Police launched specialist operations and stings against thieves.
However, London has a reputation as a dangerous place to wear luxury watches.
Social media influencers have warned their followers about the risks in the capital city.
Iman Gadzhi, with more than four million YouTube followers, has posted videos warning people about the dangers.
In one, he says:
“You can’t run away.
“You have two guys on a moped, fully masked-up, they are both going to have machetes.
“Obviously in London I wear no watch, or sometimes I wear an old vintage 1972 speed master and if they want it, they can take it.”
The video has had 2.4 million views.