Now and then NWC mag likes to read the latest court cases relating to Rolex watch thefts. Not only is Rolex the best selling brand (over 3K) in the UK by a long way, but it is the most targeted by thieves. Why? Simple really, they can offload stolen Rolex watches quicker than any other make. Even without paperwork.
Here are some recent cases;
A woman approached a pensioner guy in Poole, a wealthy town in Dorset. She chatted for a bit, probably clocked the watch was a Sub with a green bezel and grabbed his arm. She escaped in a grey car, probably driven by her crime partner. It’s possible they saw the watch in a shop, or have seen the guy locally before.
Verdict; be careful not to wear your Rolex while out for a casual walk, especially in summer when you might have a short sleeve shirt on. Save it for special occasions.
EAST GRINSTEAD HEIST
Another female thief, this time in East Grinstead. Again a fairly affluent area, so always be wary of people watching you, or asking about your watch in such areas. Notice the thief chose Waitrose, targeting wealthier customers.
She approached the woman as she was distracted by packing shopping. Young woman, plder victim, so helpless as regards defending herself. She chatted, went for the charity hug, and stole her Rolex. Note the thief using the charity worker disguise with clipboard and hooded anorak, which helps them hide their faces on CCTV.
Verdict; never speak to or engage with so-called charity workers in public. Don’t wear your Rolex to go supermarket shopping, there are too many chancers walking the aisles looking for older, vulnerable people.
Probably the most scary type of thief is the semi-pro Rolex or luxury watch gang. They are usually violent drug dealers, and like to scope out people’s houses, drive around wealthy areas and love to follow older victims home.
This Manchester gang broke into a house in Hale, which is the wealthiest part of Greater Manchester. Yep, richer than Wilmslow. They separated the wife from her husband, hit the man, located a rare Rolex and left rapidly. They ambushed another guy as he arrived home by car from the supermarket. Stole a valuable Rolex.
In both cases, the victims believed they were targeted and followed, possibly for some time. That is highly likely.
What’s also likely is that inside info has been passed onto the gang by someone working in a Manchester watch dealership, which is very difficult to prove, but the most likely explanation of how the gang were able to plan a breakfast time raid on someone. Not only did they know the address, who lived at the address etc. but they knew the Rolex was upstairs – how do you acquire information like that? Not at Waitrose most likely.
Verdict: Think carefully about who you are buying a watch from and how much data you trade to make the purchase. You can’t avoid giving your address, but avoid younger staff members, or flash git shop workers who seem to live a luxury lifestyle on car wash wages. They might well trade your data for a cash bribe, it doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
Updated with some auction values at the end of the article 23.06.21
These are good questions, and for those who don’t know Sicura let me summarise by saying they are the watch company that bought Breitling and rescued the brand name from oblivion when the quartz crisis wreaked havoc in Switzerland during the 1970s. Here’s a brief history lesson;
Sicura in the mid-70s were sitting pretty, selling about 1 million units a year and still mainly using mechanical movements. They offered basic pin-pallet watches for the everyday person, plus some fancier looking divers watches, again with fairly average Swiss movements inside, and then some top of the range items with Valjoux/Venus movements in their cases.
Sicura got on the quartz train in the late 70s, with a `something for everyone’ approach, that saw basic battery powered quartz watches, alongside things like the solar powered VIP2000 model, which promised eternal power from the sun! As any Eco-Drive owner knows only too well, the power cells cannot defeat physics and they don’t last forever. Nothing does, except Remainer tears.
When Breitling hit financial hard times in the late 70s and finally closed their factory in 1979, Sicura’s boss Mr Ernest Schneider bought the brand. Schneider was a pilot and admired Breitling models like the Navitimer, and he wanted to keep that Swiss name alive. It says a great deal about Schneider that he stopped selling Sicra watches and switched to Breitling a short time after striking the deal – he could see that Breitling had a greater long term profit potential. In fact Ernest’s son, Teddy Schneider sold Breitling to CVO venture capital for $790 million in 2018.
SO, ARE SICURA WATCHES WORTH COLLECTING?
The best models featuring movements like the Valjoux 7734 definitely are. These are just as well built as a Cauny, Gruen, Oriosa, GHC, Atlantic, Tressa, Lip, Wakmann and dare we say it, Breitling too? Maybe a Breitling or a Heuer had an build quality edge on a Sicura 7734 back in the 70s, but after 45 years of wear n tear, it comes down to servicing, owner care and luck as regards condition and accuracy.
Consider this though; you can’t go far wrong with any Valjoux 7734 powered wristwatch, as there still plenty of spare movements around, which means that repairing a vintage model on a reasonable budget of say under £250 is a possibility. Pushers and crowns are the things that need checking above all else – that’s where cack-handed owners do the damage, and water can get in too of course.
The budget independent watchmaker repairs that you can spend on a Sicura cannot be carried out a vintage Breitling – not if you want to retain its auction value. So in that regard, a Sicura is arguably a cheaper way to collect a watch with the same Valjoux 7733 movement as a Breitling Top Time.
There’s also a bullhead variant Sicura Pilot style model, plus a four crown model, which has a bezel release crown set on the left side of the case, so you can click-stop the tachymetre around. All the Sicura chrono watches are pretty looking, not too big, but still have visual impact even today. Good examples are fetching £500-£950 depending on condition, dial colour, original box etc. Tropical dials seem very in demand right now – that could change in a year or two.
Things get trickier when it comes to models like the Sicura Submarine 400. This homage to the Rolex Submariner certainly looks the part, but inside the case there is a fairly budget movement. It proudly states that it’s been vacuum tested and can dive up to 400 metres, which was pretty unlikely, even when the thing was brand new, given the overall build quality of the watch.
Inside the Sicura Submarine there’s a 23 jewel movement, which has a basic pin pallet fork, rather than a jewelled type of pallet lever clipping the escapement wheel. Even the balance wheel itself looks like something from a Josmar, a real flat lump of metal – unpolished and unloved.
That bit of cost-cutting by Sicura shows how the company stayed afloat when many rivals went bust in the 70s. It also makes the Submarine 400 something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing. A nice looking example can fetch £170-£220 online and for that money you could buy a mint Tissot Seastar Seven, which is arguably a much better watch. It just doesn’t look as chunky and James Bond-ish.
When you get down to models like the Sicura jump hour watches from the late 60s and early 70s, these are really on par with an entry level 17 jewel Rotary, Montine, Hudson, Lucerne, Omax etc model. Perfectly durable movements, but nothing special inside that funky 70s chunky case, so don’t pay more than £50 for a mint example, as it’s never really going to be worth a fortune. Buy one because you love the New Avengers styling of it, not the technology inside.
The solar powered Sicura is arguably as collectible as many other early Swiss – or Japanese – quartz watches. The sheer rarity of working examples makes them true museum pieces.
The big problem is of course that any quartz movement eventually packs in, the crystal stops vibrating, condensation works its way inside, and the result is a dead movement. Where do you get NOS spare movements for such watches? All the independent jewellers who took these hi-tech quartz watches on as brands back in the 1970s are either retired, or long since closed up shop.
The best advice is if you find a working example of a VIP2000, then hide it away in a cool, dry, dark place – and remove the solar cell just in case it starts to oxidise inside the case.
We came back to this article and added some recent auction prices just FYI;
A Sicura Submarine Tritium, looking a bit battered but working made 440 euros on Catwiki recently, which is fairly impressive. A nicely preserved Jump Hour mpdel from teh 70s was at 113 euros with justa few hours to go – higher than we thought.
Over on Chrono24 we found the cheapest Sicura was a Submarine model at £425 asking price. Next up was a Chrono Computer at £719, plus £95 shipping and import duties from the USA. So you are looking at over a grand in total.
Fact is, you could buy a really nice Swiss watch for that sort of money – new!
On eBay we found a 17 jewel Sicura auto, with a blue dial, in fairly decent nick at £155 – that was in Kiev, Ukraine, so form your own view on the guarantee on that one. The other model we thought was interesting on eBay was a digital Melody Alarm model, which a UK antiques dealer had on offer at £185. Fully working, vgc.
That has got investment potential and we think it’s worth an offer, as you only have to look at Bulova Accutron prices over the last two or three years to see how they have rocketed upwards.