In March, Richemont — the luxury powerhouse behind Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Jaeger LeCoultre, among other brands — announced the launch of a digital platform to help the industry address watch and jewelry theft worldwide.
The move came in response to increasingly worrying statistics, particularly for timepieces. In the first six months of 2022, the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department noted 112 thefts involving at least one watch worth $5,000 or more. As of 2019, some 72,000 watches were being stolen annually in Europe, according to estimates by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Police.
Richemont developed a proof of concept for what is now Enquirus just under two years ago and launched its current website in December 2022. By the time it unveiled the platform to the public, more than 190 luxury watch brands — including those within the group itself — were on board; thousands of customers had uploaded a record of their private collections, revealing some 28,000 items registered as lost or stolen; and various international police forces, insurance companies and auction houses had joined as official partners.
Enquirus is essentially an internationally recognized database for recording lost and stolen pieces. This central, unified hub of information is accessible for free; collectors and other consumers can search for pieces by serial number to make sure the items they’re about to buy aren’t stolen goods, while law-enforcement agencies and insurance companies can use the platform as a resource in their cases.
While this “intelligent ecosystem,” as Richemont calls it, encompasses both jewelry and watches, it is geared more toward the latter, which are more likely to have serial numbers.
The hope is that Enquirus will make the purchase and resale of lost and stolen items more difficult, “with the ultimate objective of reducing the incentive to steal watches in the first place,” says Richemont CEO Jérôme Lambert.
Simple yet sophisticated
“Enquirus is not a complex new technical or digital innovation,” remarks Frank Vivier, Richemont’s chief transformation officer. “The digital vault allows for watch and jewelry data to be securely uploaded, searched and shared by multiple parties while protecting customers’ identities.”
While the concept is simple, it is unlikely that an entity without Richemont’s size and influence could “facilitate borderless cooperation between police forces and insurance partners” — as Lambert describes it — in quite the same way. As such, the feat of building Enquirus is less about pushing technological boundaries and more about Richemont pushing itself to take the international lead on tackling theft.
“Before Enquirus, there was no clear process or unique, reliable solution for declaring or searching for stolen watches,” says Vivier. “Several registers do exist, but none are backed by manufacturers.”
Looking ahead, Richemont aims to make it a standardized industry best practice to register and check for lost and stolen pieces on Enquirus. If the platform can achieve this goal, perhaps the statistics we read about in the future will be a little less startling.
Image: The Enquirus app. (Enquirus)