It is rare that a manufacturer makes a list of stolen pieces publicly available. Many do, however, maintain lists for internal use, and of those, some will look up whether a timepiece is stolen at the request of a collector, and others will only check against their database when the watch is in for service. Details on various manufacturers and their policies are included below. I have received this information directly from each manufacturer. Note that those wishing to register a watch as stolen with a manufacturer will need to submit a police report.
Since many of you are wondering…
My understanding is that years ago Rolex provided a service where collectors could contact the company to confirm whether a watch was registered as stolen in their internal database prior to purchase (to be registered as stolen requires a police report). Rolex has since stopped this practice, and now will only check if a watch is stolen when it is brought to Rolex to be serviced. If the watch is not registered as stolen, the watch will of course be returned (and you will then have paperwork showing you as the owner, at least in Rolex’s eyes). If the watch is registered as stolen, it is held for the authorities. Alpha Hands has more details on how to submit a stolen watch to Rolex.
In addition to the below, always refer to the Alpha Hands stolen watch registry or other stolen watch registry to search prior to purchase, even in addition to contacting the manufacturer directly, if applicable per the below.
The following have provided a listing of their stolen timepieces upon request:
The following do maintain stolen watch databases, but do not make them available for the public to directly search. Collectors can, however, reach out to the company and the company will search to see if they have the watch recorded as stolen. The below companies do not charge a fee to search for a particular watch at a customer’s request.
MB&F, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vacheron Constantin (to register a watch as stolen, Vacheron requires a copy of the police report, date and location of theft, and reference numbers of the timepiece: case and movement serial numbers)
The following maintain an internal database of timepieces, but do not make available to search, nor do they support collectors who wish to know if a watch has been registered as stolen in their database. They will check watches that come for service against their stolen watch database.
Van Cleef and Arpels
The following maintain a database of stolen timepieces, but will only provide information on a “case by case” basis: