More Than $1 Million of Timepieces Stolen From Geneva Watchmaker

Montres DeWitt SA, a Swiss watchmaker founded by a descendant of Napoleon’s brother, said more than 1 million francs ($1.1 million) of timepieces were stolen from its museum near Geneva last weekend.

The break-in, which lasted 2 minutes, occurred after 11 p.m. on March 22 at the site in Meyrin, near the Geneva airport, Chief Executive Officer Viviane de Witt said by phone. Security cameras filmed two people breaking the glass mirror entrance to the museum with metal bars and grabbing 26 watches.

“It’s unbelievable,” the CEO said Thursday. “It’s like a bad film.”

The burglary occurred one day before the canton of Geneva announced a 24 percent drop in crime between 2011 and 2014. The thieves spread nails on the road nearby, which delayed the arrival of private security guards, de Witt said.

The robbers got most of the museum’s collection, leaving two timepieces in a broken display and dropping another. The company is asking dealers or individuals who are offered DeWitt watches for purchase to check the serial numbers with the manufacturer.

DeWitt’s watches can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the brand has unveiled a limited edition of timepieces containing pieces of hair that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. Viviane de Witt purchased two lots of the emperor’s hair last year in an auction as Monaco’s royal family sold heirlooms to fund palace renovations. Owner Jerome de Witt, who founded the company in 2003, is the great-great-grandson of the French emperor’s brother.

When the theft occurred, the company’s owners were in Basel at the Baselworld trade fair. Thefts during the fair, where more than 1,500 watch and jewelry brands exposed their wares this year, have happened before. Millions of dollars worth of diamonds were stolen at the show in 2011, and thieves made off with jewelry being transported to the event in 2007, according to press reports at the time.

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